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There are a couple of indispensable items an English conversation teacher should always have handy in his or her all-important school bag. The items I have found essential aren’t difficult to locate, nor are they unusual, but they will definitely help you get through a class that is slowly, painfully, struggling along.

1. A small pair of scissors. You never know when you’ll need to cut up small strips of paper to hand out in class for one reason or another.

2. A USB. Those files you’ve meticulously saved on it can only be printed and used when the pin drive is at your side. Also good to pull up an old Power Point presentation you previously prepared to use for class material in a pinch.

3. A deck of cards. Any day is a good day to practice English when your beginner students play a rousing game of go fish.

4. A nerf ball or a splash bomb. Need a way to put students on the spot and get them speaking a little English? Ask a question and then toss them the ball. The pressure is on! Just make sure to take a relatively small and lightweight ball. I wouldn’t put it past ornery fifteen year boys to lob said ball at an unsuspecting classmate’s noggin. I, in fact, witnessed this very act today in class.

5. Dice. I’m sure they could be used creatively and I carry them around religiously, I just haven’t figured out the secret to using them yet. For now, they act as my good luck charm, I suppose, jingling around in the zipper pocket of my purse.

6. A two pocket folder. Keep multiple worksheets and game ideas handy for when you’re put on the spot and not sure what in the world you should do. Try to make sure that you have worksheets and games that are adaptable to most levels.

7. A spiral notebook. Take notes on what students are struggling with, jot down slang words or vocabulary that you think of randomly that might be interesting in another lesson, keep track of which lessons worked well and which ones didn’t and make sure to pretend that you are writing down comments about students’ behavior. It’s a great scare tactic.

8. Index cards. I love these perfectly sized lined cards screaming to be turned into vocabulary quiz flash cards. I’m not so sure my Spanish students like them as well as I do. Why should they though? They have a human translator standing right in front of them that is much easier to consult than a dictionary or an index card.

9. Pictures torn from a magazine. Anything from the “real world” is more appealing to a student. For example, photos of people are perfect for learning physical and personality descriptions. Need to teach location prepositions or vocabulary pertaining to the home? Tear out a bunch of pictures of rooms from magazine like Southern Living or Better Homes and Gardens and you’re ready to go (heck, even the IKEA store magazine would be an ideal option). Ads can be useful when practicing comparatives and action shots are perfect for reviewing the present progressive tense.

10. Individually wrapped candy, cookies or suckers. These are great for making friends with teachers or to hand out to students who participate well in your activities or win games.

11. A piece of fruit for when hunger hits during recreo.

And, a couple things to keep in your mind…

11. Reusable games to play during the dreaded lesson that doesn’t last as long as you expected.

12. The names of your students. Nothing catches their attention and gets them to shut up better than the English teacher who sees them once every two weeks telling them by name to sit down and be quiet.

12. Patience! (I’m still learning this one).

What do you carry in your purse or backpack that is essential to your job or day to day routine? Any suggestions for teachers?

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