It. Never. Fails.
It seems I have a smooth-sailing lesson planned. We’re gliding through our song/dance/desperate-look-at-me-activity attention-grabber, and we’re finally about to put paper to pencil.
Then, inevitably, I hear, “Mrs. Stewart, I don’t have a pencil/ruler/crayon/you-name-it.”
Nothing eats up time like digging around for materials. My (current) solution: Have everything right there, ready to go.
At our school, students travel from class to class. Even though they theoretically have all their supplies in a pencil pouch, it doesn’t always work out that way. That’s OK, I was the scattered kid who was always missing something, too (My 7th Grade Science teacher, to my horror, once left class with me to clean out my locker)!
For the sake of increasing Time On Task, I “cheat” a little and have materials within arms reach. When you only have a forty-five minute block to squeeze in a lesson, you’ve gotta be crafty!
As a bonus, I can lift all the supplies at once when I go Clorox Crazy (does anyone else do that?)
One of these caddies sits on each table. I happened to find mine in a dusty corner of a cabinet in my classroom (I happily take nearly any freebie), and considered painting them. My mentor teacher encouraged me to leave them as they were (one less project). These types of containers can easily be found at the Dollar Store or any other type of discount store.
The Grand Tour:
1. Manipulative of the Day
Whatever the lesson may be, Elementary School teachers know the manipulative that goes with it. Be it blocks, tiles, linking cubes, base ten blocks, we know it’s going to enhance our lesson, engage the kids, and be a pain to distribute and collect. Having it already laid out eliminates the time crunch.
I have a strict hands-off-until-I-say-go policy with all Math manipulatives. And honestly, easy access seems to diminish the “allure” a little.
I sometimes even put the work mat or practice sheet of the day right into the basket, too. Passing out papers eats up time.
2. Extra Supplies
It’s hard to wait for a student to dig around for a pencil. It’s even harder to see a student feel worried or embarrassed as they say, “I don’t have my pencil.” On the other hand, it’s a joy to be able to smile reassuringly and say, “Please borrow mine! It’s right in front of you.” For other rooms, this might include glue sticks or markers. We keep it simple in Math. 😉
3. Flash Cards
I know, I know. They’re not the most thrilling tool, but our curriculum emphasizes really knowing addition and subtraction math facts once students have a concrete understanding of addition and subtraction. We don’t skip the hands-on stuff, we just do this, too. When students finish earlier than others, I encourage them to make use of those few minutes by practicing facts or reading A.R. Those short little moments add up! It’s easy to sub Mad Libs, brain teasers, brain quest decks, or whatever other worthwhile material you choose.
4. Classroom Set of Rulers
The teacher from whom I inherited my classroom wisely advised that the whole class could benefit from using the same type of ruler. In lower grades, little changes can cause a big commotion, so children all having different brands can be a little confusing. This also means that their own ruler can live at home for homework problems involving measurement.
And that’s the tour. So far, I love these! But who knows? What’s on the tables today could be gone tomorrow!
Do you have something like this in your classroom? What does it look like?