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Finding Elementary Teaching Resources

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Natasha is a former English teacher who studied under the author of the A Beka English curriculum. She is also a freelance proofreader.

The right resources can make learning much more enjoyable for students.

The right resources can make learning much more enjoyable for students.

An Introduction

In my days of student teaching, we had a standard curriculum that we were not to deviate from. In the past, education was strictly "explain + demonstrate + practice." Other than in science classes, students rarely received hands-on instruction. Unfortunately, that meant that students who didn't understand had few options other than to have the material explained again.

The philosophy I was taught—which I now realize is wrong—is that there are only two reasons for a student to not understand. Either the teacher didn't explain it clearly, or the student wasn't listening. There was no consideration that the student could have a learning disability or a mental block. When I mentioned mental blocks, I was told that it was my job to work through the mental block.

As a result, I didn't really know much about supplementing the standard curriculum until I graduated from college and began working at a church-run school. Worse, I didn't know how to help students who didn't understand. With only a minimal Spanish curriculum meant for high-school juniors, it was hard to present the material to seventh-grade students. I tried creating and purchasing materials to help, but many educational supply companies weren't even considering publishing Spanish materials.

That was a long time ago, and we've become able to purchase both hard goods and downloadable materials. That's good news for today's teachers, who must continually try to find new ways to present more material to students who learn in different ways.

Hard Goods

Hard goods are useful for beginning teachers who need a starting point to supplement the curriculum. The variety of teaching materials and suppliers ensures that most teachers will find something they can use. Many educational-supply companies now offer free previews of their goods on their Web sites, allowing the teacher to better understand what is available.

Visiting a teacher supply store gives teachers a glimpse into a typical curriculum. Often, other teachers are shopping at the store and can offer advice. But perhaps the biggest advantage to visiting a teacher supply store is being able to browse the materials before purchasing them.

One disadvantage of a hard good is storage. After a while, what started out as one or two books ends up as a library full of books. Different classes have different needs, meaning that these books may end up just occupying space.

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Another disadvantage of a hard good is cost. A teacher is probably paying for supplemental materials out of pocket, meaning that funds are limited. If the curriculum is incomplete, or if students need more help than usual, the teacher may be forced to spend several hundred dollars throughout his/her career.

Hard goods can be useful for teachers.

Hard goods can be useful for teachers.

Where to Find Downloads and E-Books

As we've become more "connected," we now have more access to others' creativity. It's simple to browse dozens of materials with the click of a mouse in our own living rooms. Educational publishing companies, recognizing the need for convenience, offer e-books, lesson plans, and organizational materials for free or paid download. One huge benefit to downloading items is the savings in cost and space. Downloaded items often cost less than published items because the teacher is using his/her own paper and ink. Furthermore, the teacher can simply print out the pages he/she needs, while having the other pages available on the computer.

In the past several years, teachers have expressed dissatisfaction with materials put out by publishing companies, which often have errors and have not been tested in actual classrooms. Several online teacher marketplaces have begun catering to teachers who want to use teacher-created and classroom-tested materials. Although there are those who object to paying for other teachers' work, many appreciate having these materials available.

The best-known of these sites is Teachers Pay Teachers, often shortened to TPT. The site boasts a membership of almost four million buyers and sellers. One selling point of TPT is the sheer number of materials available for download. Presently there are over two million products available for either free download or purchase. The best-selling products are created by teachers and have been successfully used by other teachers worldwide. One disadvantage is that TPT pays only once per month.

A newcomer to the market is Teacher Sherpa. All items on this site are free to download, but only paid members are able to create and edit materials. All bugs that plagued the site during beta testing have been addressed. Since Teacher Sherpa is much newer than the other sites listed, fewer items are available for download.

Of course, the educational publishing companies have Web sites offering free and paid downloads. Evan-Moor, Teacher Created Materials, and Carson-Dellosa all have free lesson plans, but Carson-Dellosa stands out for its visually pleasing site and suggestions for using its products in centers.

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