Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Educators: 25 Items That We Always Bring When Tutoring Students

Recently, I've had a few people ask me what I carry around with me when I visit students in their homes. We had a new mom call us on Monday, and she asked me what kind of materials we would be bringing to her home. I had a friend from out-of-state that is going to start tutoring also ask me what I toted around. Since I just got a new work bag this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to unveil my arsenal of materials. So, here it is:


After I finished labeling all of my materials, I realized that I had 26, rather than 25, items. There are more details about that later. Below is a picture of the inside of my previous bag. It's a Steve Madden bag that I got a few years ago. The fabric on the straps has started to come off, there's not enough room in the inside for me to keep all of my supplies, and all of my materials end up getting squished because the opening of the bag in quite narrow. The straps are also very short, so it's nearly impossible to carry it on my shoulder.


One of the moms that I work with sells Thirty One merchandise, and she was kind enough to show me some of her favorite items. I looked up teacher tote bags on Pinterest, and I found sooooo many other posts about Thirty One's organizing tote bag. I ordered it, I love it, and I want to buy them for everyone I know. I'll go through it pocket by pocket.



Pockets 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 are described in detail below. I used to squish all of these things into a pencil pouch or a small side pockets, and they were difficult to get to. I use pocket 3 for my laptop cord, pocket 4 for my water bottle, and pocket 6 for my wallet. If I leave the house with an empty pocket, it means I've forgotten something important. 


Item #1: highlighters
I love showing students how to effectively use highlighters. Most students highlight every other word the minute they get one in their hand, and it's important to show them how to use them to label important information. I also use them to color code sentences for writing (Step Up to Writing) and to locate information while working on reading comprehension (main idea, details, definition, text features, etc).

Item #2: Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens
I love these pens because they are colorful and they don't bleed through paper. Color-coding is very effective for many of my students.

Item #3: scissors
I use scissors most often with my elementary students, and mostly for homework, but I also use them to cut down flashcards for my older students. For my little ones that struggle with fine motor skills, I often use these and have them cut out a squiggle line on a sheet of scratch paper.

Item #4: hole punch
I originally started carrying this around with me so that I could punch and clasp flashcards together, but recently, I've been using it to 3-hole punch handouts so that they can be filed in students' notebooks (I use a sheet of notebook paper as a guide for the holes).

Item #5: eraser
If you're not making mistakes, you're not trying. I love the Pentel erasers because they get rid of the graphite without leaving smudges.

Item #6: dice
Dice are my go-to item for motivation. Sometimes, I roll it to see how many problems we are going to do, how many sentences we are going to write, or how many paragraphs or pages we are going to read. I also use them to practice multiplication facts (roll two and multiply), addition facts (roll two and add), comparing numbers (which is greater, how many more is one than the other), and adding three numbers together. I also carry a deck of playing cards which are not pictured here.

Item #7: flashcard rings
I use these to clasp together flashcards.

Item #8: Paper Mate Sharpwriter mechanical pencils
I love everything about yellow wooden pencils (Ticonderoga Dixon #2, of course), but there are 2 things I can't stand about carrying them in my work bag. First, I don't like how the graphite gets all over the fabric of my bag. Second, having wooden pencils requires carrying 


Item #9: Semikolon tab markers
I love composition notebooks (see pocket 8), so I use these to separate the pages into different sections along the side. If I need to draw attention to something, I'll use it along the top of the notebook. For my students, I use these as subdividers for their 3-ring notebooks. For example, I use them to separate work by type (classwork, homework, notes, quizzes, study guides) or by chapter. The Container Store carries this Semikolon line, and it's unbelievably awesome.

Item #10: Post-It Note flags
One of the families I work with found these for me, and they're terrific. They're transparent post-its with the words "study", "to do", and "on test" already on them. I love to use them to draw attention to formulas, definitions, and resources that students will want to refer back to.

Item #11: small Post-It Notes
These are the most versatile Post-It Notes that I carry with me. I use them if I have to add a temporary note to student work, or if I can't find one of the other items in this pocket (which is totally not a problem now). More recently, I've been using them to pre-plan students' sessions. I write down what material we will be covering, or which activity I have in mind, for the following session. I put it in the box for the next session, and then I remove it and replace it with notes about what we did and how it went. I could go on and on. If you follow me on Instagram (link here), you'll see that I post about these often.

Item #12: Martha Stewart color-coding labels
These aren't removable, so once you stick it, you're stuck with it. I use these mostly on calendars, and occasionally I'll pop a few into students' planners to highlight certain dates. These are more fun than functional.

Item #13: lined 3x5 index cards
I could rattle off 284632847 ways to use these, but I'll spare. you all. I (obviously) use these for making student flashcards, but I also use them to make small notes or reference materials that students can use like bookmarks in their textbooks. 

Item #14: Martha Stewart tabs
I know, more tabs. I use these the same way that I use most of my other tabs and labels. These are a lot thicker (I think they're poly) than the other paper ones, so they're much more durable. I use these as tabs to draw attention to important reference materials that students will use for extended periods of time, such as selected answers in the back of math text books, as tabs in planners for the current week, and for reference materials in textbooks that are needed throughout the year. 


Item #15: Expo pens
I've always used Expo dry-erase markers for my white boards because they are the easiest to erase. The red one, however, tends to leave a reddish tint. The larger pens are easy for my younger students to grasp, and they don't often get to use them in class, so that makes them EXTRA special. I use these 3 colors the most often because they're how I structure writing (green for main idea, yellow for details, and red for explanations). 

Item #16: small Expo pens
These work better for my older students, especially if we have a math problem that takes up more space.

Item #17: Expo eraser
This eraser works so much better than the cheap ones that leave those little filaments of ink everywhere. I keep it in a sandwich bag to prevent the dried ink from getting all over my new bag. There are some new ones out (I'm not sure who makes them) that have layers of eraser that you can peel off. I'm sure that will be my next purchase. If I don't have this with me, I use paper towels or napkins.


Items #18 and 20: business cards and case
Sometimes, I work with kids in public places, such as Starbucks (shocking, I know!), youth centers, and/or public libraries. Occasionally, someone will ask me for one of my cards. I actually have several cases in a bunch of different places so that I can hand them out, post them on community boards, or enter those fun raffles at restaurants. Sometimes, I even use them to show off Heather's amazing work. You can check out her stuff on Etsy and on her blog. This case came from my dear friend, Alexis, and I LOVE how it matches my bag.

Item #19: gum
This is my favorite gum ever. I drink a lot of coffee, and let's face it; no one wants coffee breath all up in their face when they're trying to solve a system of equations using the substitution method. Am I right?!

Item #21: chap stick or lipstick
I hoard chap stick and I use it several times a day. This is my Merle Norman lip stick that I keep in my work bag, but my bag is kind of like a revolving door of lip care items. I can't think straight if my lips are dry. This lip stick came from another dear friend, Selena, when I went back to work after maternity leave. Isn't that just the sweetest idea ever? Lip stick can change your whole attitude.


Item #22: business binder
I keep all kinds of notes in here, separated by my Martha Stewart dividers. I love the colors, and they're easy enough to erase and relabel if necessary. I keep lists of procedures, new student forms, billing records, a sheet of notes for each family (for vacations, reschedules, etc), a sheet of notes for each of my tutors (payment information, availability, subjects taught, etc), lists of blog and website ideas, and a calendar for workshops in the office and school events. I call this my sanity binder.

Item #23: student binder
This is where I keep all of my notes about students, as well as welcome postcards for new students, pacing charts, and lists of the common core state standards by grade level. It's my go-to binder when I need to realign my materials according to the new standards.

Item #24: elementary math common core composition notebooks
This is the newest addition to my fleet. I use Semikolon tab markers to mark off each grade level. I printed out an address label for every math standard and put one on each page (except for the few that were out of order on my sheet...those were added on the lower half of some sheets). I miscalculated how many pages were in the notebooks (there are 70 rather than 100, which is standard), so they spilled over into 2 notebooks. One was supposed to be for math, and the other for ELA. This makes my OCD-tendencies flare, but I'm trying to get over it. I keep track of the unit that each standard is taught, how many times it is revisited, what materials I have in my office that help teach this standard, which assessments I have that assess students' knowledge of this standard, and ideas for activities. It's sort of like an organized way of brainstorming. I'll share more on how I'm using these and my common core filing boxes to keep track of all of my materials according to the new standards.

Item #25: business composition notebook
I used to keep so many Post-It notes all over the place. I had notes about everything from client information, to reschedules, and even business ideas. Now, I keep everything all nice and neat in one place. It feels so good to be organized!

Items not pictured:
  • computer: I carry my laptop everywhere because I keep lots and lots of documents on it. I can also hook up my personal hotspot to get internet access anywhere. 
  • math manipulatives: I carry around a makeup case full of manipulatives such as dice, bingo markers, base ten blocks, play money, and a mini clock. I make math as hands-on as possible for my little ones.
  • student data notebooks: These are new this year, and they deserve their own blog post. I'll get on that soon.
  • white boards: I carry 2 because 2 is better than 1, right?! Tandem math problems!
What do you carry around with you?

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