This is an unpaid product review by Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, editor of www.thecareerbreaksite.com, and former volunteer teacher.
I was excited to discover Tripkits recently as I haven't seen anything quite like them before! The Tripkit is a pack that's designed to help volunteers and TEFL teachers in their placements overseas.
So I was very pleased to be invited to review a Tripkit for The Career Break Site.
Here is the envelope that plopped onto my desk one morning - a welcome change from the bills and junk mail I usually get!
Inside was this very neatly-packaged kit, in a zipper plastic folder (Liz, the director whose card you can see in the picture tells me they've now changed to a sturder, button-closure folder, which I think is a good idea).
Look at all the stuff you get! I wasn't expecting quite this much.
Let's have a look in a bit more detail.
First, here are some stickers, and a colour chart. The teacher's guide doesn't actually give specific information on using the stickers, but if you've managed to get a teaching placement abroad, you can probably work this bit out for yourself!
The stickers are a nice addition, because kids really like them, and they make a good, non-food, reward incentive. Or you can use them on a reward chart (particularly useful for kids with autism or ADD).
That chart at the bottom of the picture is actually a double-sided whiteboard. There are suggestions in the book on how to use the grid although you will probably have your own ideas as well. The reverse is plain. This is a really useful inclusion as in some parts of the world, you can't always rely on a blackboard and chalk being available (nor in some British schools come to that!).
Next up is the activity book. This is the main part of the kit. "Activity book" is actually a bit misleading as it is more of a teacher's guide or resource. It does have tons of fun and educational activities, but also contains charts, information on learning and learning disabilities (like the autism and ADD mentioned above), lesson plan ideas, and so on.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be quite so comprehensive. I thought there would be a few ideas for games etc but it goes into a fair bit of detail with grammar, maths and suggestions on how to use the other resources in the pack.
You also get whiteboard markers and a cloth. As well as the whiteboard pictured above, you also get map cards that you can write on or colour in with these markers.
There are several sets of flashcards included in the pack. Flashcards are brilliant when there's a language barrier - pictures make things so much easier. Here are some of the food flashcards:
On the back are the words for each item. (Yes, I'm aware they aren't in the same order as above - I didn't realise there was writing on the back until I was putting them away!).
Finally, you get a set of counters, dice, some balloons and a tape measure. I really liked the inclusion of the tape measure - it's stated purpose is for eye tests (the eye test chart is included in the pack) but in my experience, children love measuring things and comparing bits of themselves to their friends! These added extras provide more fun ways of learning about numbers. Apart from the balloons which you can use for other teaching games.
First, some bits I didn't like:
- The pack the counters etc comes in could do with being a bit more robust - maybe a drawstring bag or something.
- As an editor, I felt some of the formatting inconsistencies (fonts, sizing, spacing etc) could have been fixed so the whole pack looks neater. This probably won't matter to anyone else apart from other editors though. It's a shame because a lot of attention has been given to really user-friendly formatting in other parts, like the charts, lesson plans, etc.
- A couple of the maps could have been sharper (this is very nit-picking of me but I want to give an honest review).
The best practical bits of this pack:
- It's robust. Anyone who's ever been near a bunch of kids knows how important that is. The flashcards are sturdy and packed in plastic wallets. Cards are unrippable and wipe-clean. There's obviously been a lot of thought put into this.
- The packaging is decent. When you stuff it into your backpack, it's not going to crumple or squash, and you can find all the items you need for a particular lesson or activity easily. I hate kits where everything is all jumbled together (it reminds me too much of my messy in-tray!).
- The flexibility of the contents. While there are a number of ideas on how to use the various bits of the kit, they are flexible enough for you to develop your own games and activities, which will keep lessons interesting (for you as well as the kids).
- Making the cards, whiteboard, grid etc reusable - as well as being better for the environment, it cuts down on the amount of stuff you have to carry.
- There's nothing that's country- or region-specific, so nothing in the pack is wasted.
- It doesn't require anything that's not in the pack (apart from a class of kids!) and suggested additional resources are minimal. It includes suggestions for what to take from home, and what to pick up there, which is handy.
The best educational bits of the pack:
- The number of subjects covered. I thought it would be mainly basic English, but it covers a number of other subjects as well, including (to my surprise) hygiene. This is obviously of crucial importance but it never occured to me before to include this in a teaching pack. Again, this shows the amount of thought that has been put into the pack.
- The flexibility of the pack. You could use this for a variety of ages, in lots of different settings. The activities you can do with the kit are pretty much limitless.
- The attention paid to special needs - as well as the activity book covering specific learning difficulties, there's an eye test chart. I don't know what eye care is like in other countries, but I imagine that an astute teacher with the right kit to perform an eye test in the classroom can pick up any problems quickly - which could potentially make a big difference to a child's education.
- The comprehensive grammar section. It's easy for a native speaker to talk proper, but harder to remember all the rules when you're actually in a classroom!
- The lesson plans are really comprehensive and useful, not only for the teacher, but in helping kids to absorb the information.
The ultimate best bit of the Tripkits pack, in my opinion, is the amount of thought that's gone into it. Having a kit that's been produced by an experienced volunteer teacher would be a real bonus to anyone thinking of teaching abroad. They've thought of so many things that simply would never have occured to me, like having hygiene as a main theme, having maps that you can colour, making the items reusable, etc. And that's coming from someone who's been a volunteer teacher too! If you're thinking of teaching abroad, get this kit - it'll save you lots of time and headaches!
Where to buy
The Tripkits pack is available to buy online. It's £29.99 which I think is good value for all the stuff you get. Buy one here.
We're giving away our review pack! All you have to do is email us telling us where you're planning to teach. Entries must be received before 15th December 2014. All entrants will be added to our mailing list and you can unsubscribe any time. Good luck!
Thanks to Liz and Caz from Tripkits for sending us the kit to review.