Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ukraine Anti-Packing List: EFL Teacher Version

This post is written for English teachers headed to Ukraine. Why is it called an anti-packing list? See all that red? That's stuff that I hope to dissuade you from (or at least make you think twice about) bringing. Meanwhile, things in green are things that have been really useful to me during the past year. Everything on this list came from my packing list, from what I actually brought with me to Ukraine last year.

So grab some tea and read on. May this list help you with your packing decisions and help you plan for a successful stint as an English teacher!

As you read this, please keep in mind-
  • I work with adults, not children.
  • I live in a major Ukrainian city. It may be a lot more difficult to find some of these items in a smaller city (or village).
  • A native-speaker helps me shop. If you don't speak the language well or don't have access to a native-speaker, it may be easier to bring something from home instead of trying to track it down in Ukraine. 
disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links in case you find them useful!

Also see: The (regular) anti-packing list and shopping in Ukraine

What do the colors mean?

Red = Waste of Space
Yellow = Potentially Useful
Green = Get it!


Travel-size Guess Who?  
Too small for classroom use. The full-size version might have been worth bringing.

Playing cards  
It's easy to buy cards here, even though the Jack, Queen, and King are marked with their Russian names instead of J, Q, K.

So worth it!! This game is a huge hit every time we play it!

Works best for advanced learners because of the vocab. Also, the cards alone are great as a warm up.

Numbers Bingo 
Undecided. Only appeals to beginning learners and only a few times at that. 

Would You Rather? card game (adult & child version)
Fun for practicing grammar. I prefer the adult version because it's more philosophical. The children's version is called You Gotta Be Kidding- some cards are funny, others are really gross.... and then you have to explain what booger means :p

Totally worth it!! These can be used in SO many ways in the classroom. It's possible to buy these in Ukraine as well, but it's easier to just bring a stack. Hope you don't get stopped by customs, haha!


Homonym cards (word on front, definition on back)
Got these for $1 at Target during the Back-To-School sales.

National Geographic president cards (pic on front, info on back)
Eh. So far I haven't found a use for these. And have you noticed that most of America's presidents all look the same- old white men?

2 sets of famous landmarks cards (pic on front, info on back)
If you're bringing something like this, bigger is better. My students always enjoy the larger-sized cards more... the smaller-size set usually stays at home.

Books and Textbooks 

Note: The school I work for provides its own textbooks. I teach out of those most of them time and consult my personal library when I need backup material. Bookstores are pretty common in Kiev and Kharkov and most of them have a limited English-language section.

A great grammar book with lots of charts and explanations and activity ideas. The website is outstanding also (and has free material!) Possibly for sale in Ukraine.

Another great grammar book. Each unit is short (2 pages): a page of VERY CLEAR explanations and a page of practice material. It is sold in Ukraine for about $30, I got mine used on Amazon for cheaper. I definitely want to buy the Beginner and Advanced versions!

Undecided. I hijacked this old book from my parents' bookshelves. Personally I find it to be a valuable resource when we play the "invent a definition for this word" game. Other than that, though, I don't use it when teaching.

Pretty boring and while some of the ideas are intriguing, I barely have the time to read this book let alone implement its ideas in the classroom. 

Waste of space.  Hasn't helped me as a teacher of English or a student of Russian. 

Undecided. This is a fun resource but I always forget to look in it, plus I like the format of the original Nitty Gritty Grammar more.

The best bilingual dictionary. Ever! I read this thing for fun. It's got words like (not making this up) ерш: an intoxicating mixture of vodka and beer. BUT two things to note- it's freakin' heavy! and it may be sold in Ukrainian bookshops as well.


Other Teaching Supplies

I love you guys!
White Out (correction tape)
For some reason I was terrified that this wouldn't be sold in Eastern Europe, so I brought a big handful of them from Office Max. For months I felt smug about it, only seeing the old-school liquid White Out sold in stores, but recently I've seen correction tape offered at a decent price in two different stores. If you think this is going to be an issue for you, be on the safe side and bring 3 or 4.

Students LOVE these!!!! I got a set of 7 stamps, each with a different color and saying ("Excellent!" "Nice job!" etc.) and use them to check homework during class. Every single semester a couple of students want to know where they can buy similar stamps but I haven't seen something like this sold anywhere here : ( I wish I could find them though, because my set is almost out of ink.

Book Lover magnetic poetry kit
The idea of students creating their own sentences is cool, but these magnetic words are so tiny that I have never brought this activity to class, envisioning a 500-tiny-magnets-on-the-floor disaster. 

A stack of take-out menus, shopping ads, and fake credit cards
If you're in an English-speaking country now, start saving your junk mail. All those pizza delivery menus and Walmart weekly ads can be used a million ways in the classroom. Plus, most other teachers don't think to bring something like this from home, so it will really make you stand out. I also brought a dozen of these realistic but fake credit cards that get mailed out with credit card applications.

Travel magazines
I prefer the Abercrombie & Kent luxury tour brochures. You can request three for free from their website. The catalogs are full of beautiful pictures and poetic tour details. It's fun to tear out these inspiring pictures and incorporate them into activities. (PS: Thank you, Abercrombie & Kent, for the many years of free brochures you have generously mailed to me. I'll travel with you for sure when I'm a millionaire.)

Print Pictures
A couple of family pics could be very useful in class. If you forget to bring some from home, it's fairly simple to take a flash drive to a shop and get some pictures printed out.

I'm putting this on the list to dispel the illusion that both Ukrainians and Americans seem to have about how the other half lives. When we traveled to Ukraine in 2007 to visit D's relatives, one very sweet relative (bless her heart!) sent us back to the US with half a dozen spiral notebooks. She was worried that we'd have trouble getting such a thing in the US :p That said, there are two major differences: #1- most notebooks sold in Ukraine are filled with graph paper, not lined paper. Arghh! It's possible to locate lined notebook paper but you really have to look for it (and there's no such thing as pack of three-hole punched paper here, only blank paper.) #2- Notebooks and other school supplies are mainly sold in August-Sept. You can find them during the rest of the year, but with a bit of extra footwork.

Sticky Notes, Pens, and Notecards
I've read several comments on the internet that it's difficult to purchase sticky notes and decent pens in Ukraine. Not true. At least in Kharkov and Kiev, they're sold all over. Recently I picked up a 6 pack of color sharpies at the local dollar store. They work just fine. Meanwhile, that rumor about notecards? It's true. Students study off of other materials here, so either adapt, bring a stash of notecards with you, or prepare to cut up lots of pieces of paper!

I sincerely hope this list has been of assistance to the teachers out there.

Do you agree, disagree, or have something to add? Leave a comment!


  1. I love this list - although I'm surprised that photos from home only got a yellow designation. I've always found students of all ages to be really interested in pictures of friends, family, my house, my hometown, etc.

    I LOVE Betty Azar!

    And that book on 'English Grammar for Students of Russian'? You are so spot on in your assessment. Blech.

    1. Hi Annie :) You're right, students are always interested in those kinds of things. Sadly I didn't bring any or print any out yet. If I'd been using them all this time, they probably would have got a green title. Thanks for reading and commenting!