There are few things I relish more than being a Classical Conversations tutor. Our family is absolutely in love with the Classical Conversations program and the structure it brings to our school year. As I told my director: “Being a tutor is such a gift! I can’t believe I get paid to play games and hang out with kids all morning!”
So far, I have focused on tutoring the youngest classes — Abecedarians (4-5yo) and Apprentices (6-7yo).
Along the way, I’ve put together a Tutor Bag that allows me to have flexibility, spontaneity, and to drill new grammar while keeping that ol’ stick planted firmly in the sand.
You may recognize my username from CC Connected (bentkitchen). I’ve teamed up with dear friends and fellow CC Family and we’ve moved my old blog over here.
So, here’s a peek inside my Tutor Bag.
The Bag Itself
Well, let’s talk about the bag before we open it up. I purchased a cheap lightweight suitcase from Ikea – about $15. I actually had some specific stipulations when purchasing my bag. I wanted it to be lightweight with wheels. It needed to have a carrying handle (the facility we use has stairs, so a handle to haul was a must). And it needed to be water-resistant.
I’ve seen a lot of tutors tote around crates-on-wheels, like this one. In fact, we use a set for our library trips. But I didn’t like how easy it was for stuff to get buried in the bottom of the crate. Plus, the top got annoying and there were plenty of holes for water to get in.
This suitcase has been fantastic.
What Else Do I Use?
On a typical CC morning, I lug around four things:
- My Tutor Bag (which this post is about)
- A messenger-style ‘Weekly Bag’ (which I use to carry stuff that is week-specific: handouts, science experiment extras, picture books, etc)
- My tutor boards
- My messenger-style lunch cooler
It is my mission in life to be able to carry everything in one trip, so my Weekly Bag goes around my shoulders (as does my cooler). One hand carries my boards and the other pulls my tutor bag. It’s been a great system! For my boards, I use laminated poster board (and write on it with dry erase crayons). These boards have been used for three years and still look in brand-new condition!
What I Keep Inside
I keep my Tutor Bag jam-packed with ‘stuff’ I can use in the classroom. I keep the same contents in this bag week-to-week. This is not to be confused with my Weekly Bag – a separate over-the-shoulder bag for stuff I’m using THAT week in class. I also store my portable iHome mini speaker, some mavalus tape (FANTASTIC for taping poster boards to walls), dry erase crayons (what I write my memory work with) and a memory work flip book in my weekly bag.
This means once I pack up my Tutor Bag at the end of class, it stays closed until the next week. I don’t have to do any thinking. I don’t lose anything between classes. Everything is prepped and ready to go.
I should also add: I don’t use everything in my bag every week.
Let me say this again.
I DON’T USE EVERYTHING IN MY BAG EVERY WEEK.
Rather, I like to consider this my “arsenal” that allows me to be spontaneous with my class – and allows me to be prepared for multiple classroom scenarios.
Tutor Tools For New Grammar
I purchased a set of echo microphones from Amazon for essentially $1 each. I labeled the names of the kids with masking tape and stored them in a box to keep them from being scattered all over the place. These are a FANTASTIC way to make any form of new grammar – or review – fun instantly. Who doesn’t like talking into these things?? Note: After using these, I always have a parent wipe down the tops with some wipes, for sanitization purposes.
Shakers And Tambourines
I had some toy shakers lying around the house, including the Tigger Tambourine which I picked up from the Dollar Tree a few years ago. I have two kids come to the front of the class and help “lead” the class during History Sentences using these instruments. I keep three in my bag so that I have one to use for myself.
I keep some big dice in my bag. I use large, indestructible foam dice weekly, with a chart I made with 24 different ways to say new grammar. We love doing this for math. Each kid gives it a roll and it’s indestructible. Be sure to grab my printable dice list.
I also made some cardboard dice that I printed. (CC Connected username: sheriellis) However, I found that these can crumple really easily. So I only keep these around as an emergency idea.
I picked up a 10-pack of finger puppets for ~$7. We use these finger puppets weekly, alternating for Latin or English. I’m amazed how much fun kids have once they have a puppet on their finger. You would think this would eventually get boring… but it doesn’t! The kids have certainly picked out their favorite puppet and getting it is a pretty big deal, so in order to curb the “CAN-I-HAVE-THE-ELEPHANT?!” question, we often pause, I yell SWITCH!, and everyone passes their finger puppet to the left. I try to get through as many switches as I can so everyone can experience the euphoria of Mr. Elephant.
I keep my shakers, dice, and dice compilation paper in a tiny kid shoebox. This helps things to not get lost in my larger tutor bag.
Tutor Tools for Grammar Review
Keeping a slew of ready-to-go review games on hand is important. I usually don’t plan my grammar review time TOO much (aside from, “Hey, this is a new thing I’d like to try…”). Usually I make the snap decision once we are in the heat of things, judging from my kids’ energy level and how much they need to MOVE or be docile.
Various Popsicle Games
I keep a sour cream tub in my Tutor Bag. Yes, being a tutor will cause you to start looking at the potential in everyday object – haha! But my sour cream container is PERFECT for holding popsicle sticks. (I get mine cheap on Amazon.)
I have one set of sticks with the names of my class. This is helpful for playing games, choosing who goes next in presentation, and other things that require random name selection.
I have a second set that I use for the game Wiggle Worm. You can find instructions for the game here, from HalfAHundredAcreWood.com. Rather than print game pieces, I just wrote/drew these items on popsicle sticks. My class loves this game and would play it weekly if I let them.
I also created this Animal Antics game. It has been a tremendous hit! I numbered the popsicles 1-16. The kids pull a number from my trusty sour cream tub and then hunt on the chart for which action they are supposed to do. This is PERFECT for getting out any pent up energy after a long day of class.
Looking for more great review games? Check out my post with free downloads!
Roll 5 Dice Review Game
Another perennial favorite, available here. I got the dice from Amazon and printed off 4 game boards so that two students could pair off with an adult and play the game. Instructions are in the printable.
Again, another popular option. I let the kids use this inexpensive (and portable sized) nerf gun to shoot one of my boards. Whichever category they hit, we do some review from that subject.
Ping Pong Balls
I keep ping pong balls on hand. I’ve done a variety of games with these… blow the ball across the floor, bounce it across a table, bounce it to a partner, bounce it into a cup… This is one of those creativity-sparking tools I keep on hand.
Same thing could be said about balloons. Creativity is limitless. Sometimes we write the 7 subjects of new grammar and then throw them all up in the air. Whichever one is the last to hit the ground is the subject we review. (As kids get older, I make it harder… they have to be on their knees or bottoms in a chair.) Sometimes we play relay races or make our legs a tunnel and try to bat them through.
This one is pretty simple. Answer a question, put in a token. We use it maybe 2-3 times a year. But I like to keep it on hand. This version is extra small and portable, which is perfect to not take up too much space.
I also keep big puppets in my bag. Sometimes the kids are so wiped, they just need something light and easy for review. So I have one of them come up, be the tutor, lead a question, and hold a puppet. They think it’s fantastic.
Ball and Bubbles
I keep a foam ball in my bag for hot potato, rolling, or throwing (it can be squished and still retain shape). And bubbles are just fun. Sometimes we do competitive games with them. Sometimes we just blow through 10 straight pieces of memory work and then everyone dances in the bubbles.
My Packed Bag!
So there it is! What I consider my trusty Tutor Bag Tool Box. I feel ready to work with any age group or activity level, thanks to these tools that I’ve assembled. Each year I tweak my bag a little bit – adding a special item or replacing it with a better one. But on the whole, I’m pretty pleased with this kit.
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Do you have a favorite Tutor Bag item? Tell us in the comments below!