I am a traveling teacher. When I was first hired as our Title 1/LAP K–1 reading specialist, I followed the model that was in place in the school, pulling small groups of students to work with them in my room. Having been a teacher in grades K–4 before, as well as a K–6 reading interventionist, I was aware of what students really need to accelerate reading progress, and I knew we could be more effective. I went to the first-grade team and asked if I could “push in” to their rooms rather than pull students out. They agreed, and so began my life as a traveling teacher. I now push in with every student I work with. Instead of spending 30 minutes with three or four students who have to spend part of that time traveling to and from me, I can devote 7–10 minutes with each child, one-on-one, providing intense and focused intention to meet their needs.
In addition to gained contact time, I also gained a sore back. I was lugging an always-messy, overflowing tote around from room to room. It was difficult to find what I needed, and I could barely get classroom doors open because I needed two hands to carry the heavy tub. That all changed when my friend Allison showed me her conferring caddy. It was smaller than my big tub and had a handle in the middle, so I could carry it with one hand! I decided to try using the caddy and realized I would have to be thoughtful and deliberate about what to put in it.
Take a look at what I use when I confer throughout the day. On the left is my caddy, packed and ready to go. You can see what is inside in the photo on the right.
These materials would work for most grade levels, and upper grades would need even less.
Clockwise from top:
- Gallon baggie of three- and four-letter Elkonin boxes—for sound segmenting/blending (control/click for hyperlink)
- File folder with running record assessment materials
- Clipboard with schedule
- Mirror—When a student can’t quite get a sound right, we look in the mirror to get their mouth, tongue, and teeth in the right place
- Letter cards for rote practice
- Leveled books—I have several at each of three levels, depending on the students’ needs. They take a different book and a baggie of personal sight words home every day.
- My phone—I add reminders to my calendar, use the stopwatch, take pictures, and more.
- Quart-size baggie of 3-by-5 cards—to make sight-word cards (this includes “chunks,” such as sh-, -ing).
- Snack-size baggie of breath mints and cough drops—I never want to have bad breath or to spread germs by coughing.
- Cup—It holds Sharpies, a dry erase marker, a pencil, a pen, and tissue for wiping off the whiteboard
- Whiteboard—for all kinds of Word Work
- Alphabet card—for reference when we’re Working on Writing
- iPad—I do all of my note taking on the CCPensieve.
- Clipboard—for letter/sound/sight-word assessment—one of the first measures of growth for kindergarten students
The caddy I use is from 31 Gifts. It sells for $25.00 and comes in various colors. You can even get it monogrammed. I’ve seen similar products at Target or HomeGoods.
Now I head off to classrooms with my caddy to see a number of students at many different reading levels, with highly varied needs. I find a corner in each room and hunker down with individual students. The tools in my tote serve me well. No matter if I’m practicing letters and sounds with a child or honing a complex comprehension skill, I always have the tools I need. I absolutely love being a traveling teacher. I feel like I am truly making a difference with students and accelerating their learning.
If I had my own classroom, I would put the same things in my tote and use it to move from student to student within the room. Conferring one-on-one is the most efficient, powerful way to accelerate student learning. So, whether you are navigating a classroom or an entire building, I hope you enjoy the journey you take every day with each student.
K-1 LAP/Title 1 Reading Specialist