What are in Ben and TJ’s Bags?


Ben, here.

These things aren’t found in my bag per se, but scattered about my room and used often.

As with so many of us here at CANEns, I also have an interest in physical and kinesthetic play-acting. I have several plastic shoe-boxes filled with stuffed animals, troll dolls, GI Joes, and other figurines. I also have some homemade tunics, togas, theater masks, and other vestimenta. In addition to these, I have various small tchotchkes I have acquired over the years – a combination lock, small rulers, Play-Do, rubber duckies, etc. These make great props or the goals of scavenger hunts.

I am very particular about my pens. I prefer gel ink with a small nib, .5 or .38. If possible I try to stock my room with lots of black pens and any other bright color for correcting (I know red can have a bad rep, though it is still easiest to find.) For those who like to geek out as much as I do about writing implements, JetPens will fulfill all your hopes and desires. In the past I have invested in the “uni kuru toga,” a mechanical pencil that auto-rotates to keep the tip sharp (great for interstitial notes) and a small pencil that I can clip into my wallet.

I also love magnets. As TJ mentions below, they are great for clipping up student work to the board (assuming you have a magnetic whiteboard). Another great use I’ve found is playing Rota on the board with different color magnets. I prefer the push-pin style, myself.

It may sound like my room is similar to TJ’s. It probably is. He has great ideas, another of which is dice. I found 100 red 6-sided dice for about $10 once (check Amazon for the lowest prices.) You might ask yourself, “Why do I need 100 dice?” Well, you don’t, but the kids are always amazed at seeing so many dice in one spot. One way I use them as randomizers is for doing quick grammar or vocab drills. Assign each die a function – this one is for a vocab word, this other is for one of the personal endings, this third is for a tense (amazingly, lots of grammatical stuff happens in sextuplets.) With so many dice, each kid or group has enough to randomize to her heart’s content. One other kind of dice I’ve recently acquired is “StoryCubes.” I think Emily or some other CANEns co-editor told me about them. They are a great way to get a story going for practice in writing or speaking.

Last, but most important, is my laptop. I am a techy kind of guy, and to describe in detail all the programs, apps, and websites I use would take a year’s worth of posts. I’ll fill you in on one I use every day: NoteSync. It is an incredibly simple-to-use note taking tool that houses your notes in your Google Drive. I use it for lesson planning; my school rotates on a 7 day schedule, so I made a new note for each “day” and type in my plans. No more need for a paper planner, and my notes are available wherever there is an internet connection. The program runs on lots of platforms, too.

My bag has shown itself to be a bag of holding. If you have any questions or require clarification, let us know in the comments.

So what’s in TJ’s bag?

I like to travel light and don’t use a lot of props. Still, there are some things which I find I use all the time in my classes.

A student teacher I had two years ago, Natasha Marple, introduced me to magnetic dots, which is great for quickly putting up on my white board student work, giant vocab cards for games, and pictures of characters for stories. She also hooked me on the Targus Laser Presentation Remote, so I can point out items all over the room and advance presentation slides without being chained to my laptop.

It won’t fit in a bag, but I love my document camera! It’s fabulous for showing student work to the whole class (assuming you also have a projector), and if you can shine the image on a white board like I do, you can make corrections, or add things, or whatever. You can also use it to project an image on a piece of paper or even the wall for tracing on a large scale.

Stuffed things are great, and I have a few I use all the time. There’s MILES MAXIMUS, a hand sized soldier I found in a UK gift shop, several DINOSAURI, a PIRATA for passives (he says RRR, like most passives, and he’s MINI), and a giant pie because, well, I love pie, and it flies easily through the room. I use these for choosing “volunteers” and as characters in stories.

I’ve got a bag of variously sized and colored dice, too, because they’re great randomizers, good for teaching numbers, and for paired activities.

Finally, I’m a big fan of stickers, though I’ve had a hard time finding good ones in Latin ( if you know of some that aren’t super big, let me know). I like the mini ones the best, particularly variety packs you can pick up in the Staple’s teacher section, because you get a lot for the price, and I tend to burn through them quickly. The look of joy in even a senior’s face when they get a sticker on a quiz or test well done is a thing of beauty.

Want to share what you use all the time? Let us know, and we’ll compile your input and share them on the blog!


About TJ Howell

TJ is a UMASS Amherst MAT alumnus and teaches Latin, and Greek when he can, at Belchertown High School in Massachusetts. He holds a weekly Latin Conversation Hour in Amherst, MA and must be a heretic because he isn't convinced Virgil is the best Latin poet.