I enjoy teaching with very few props or electronics. Relationship-based teaching (passwords, discussing reading and persona especial interviews) propped up by well-honed TPRS questioning skills are the go-to tactics in my classroom. But I have discovered that there are two tools without which I can no longer function optimally, and they both seem a bit gimmicky: a handheld mechanical sports counter and a stop watch. It was disconcerting to realize that my students and I lean upon these devices so heavily.
Our routines were disrupted and students with classrooms jobs no longer had the tools of their trade. My mechanical counter (which was dear to me because it was a gift from Michele Whaley when I was in Alaska four years ago) disappeared last week at the same time my trusty old stopwatch (that I have had for 20 years) finally faded out for good. Without those two items we all felt chaos creeping into the classroom.
The the students whose job it was to count could not reliably measure the number of rejoinders classmates were saying each hour. No class could know for sure whose group was spouting off in spontaneous Spanish the most each hour. Their good-natured competition was damaged and normally boisterous kids were uncustomarily quiet because of it. And worse, we had to rely on cell phones (otherwise anathema in my classroom) to time the five minutes for timed writings, to gauge the number of minutes of reading and to count the number of minutes we stayed in the target language without English interruptions. With cell phones out in the open, I imagined that every student in the class would begin doing nothing but texting any minute. Mass hysteria! Trouble! With a capital T and rhymes with P and that stands for phones!
So right after school I drove to the regional sporting goods megaplex and wandered around for an hour until I found suitable replacements for my missing devices. Whew! I am happy to report that plenty of spontaneous rejoinders quickly resumed today and that focus and order have been restored.