New Uses for Old Classroom Supplies
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Old use: Stems for tissue-paper flowers or antennae for papier-mâché bugs.
New use: A flexible way to give kids hands-on practice with estimation. Provide a list of classroom objects to measure, such as a rug, bookshelf, and desk. Ask students to choose a material from the art center (pipe cleaners, craft sticks, crayons, or buttons) to measure each object. Then have kids estimate how many units long, wide, or high each object might be using their selected material. Ask kids to compare their estimations with the actual measurement.
Old use: Fastest answer to “If Bobby has $1.00, and apples cost 25 cents…”
New use: Secret code for spelling. To prepare, write letters on chart paper and assign a money value to each one (For example, A = $1, C = $0.25, etc.). Using the letters from the key, write 20 short words on index cards. To use, a student in a pair picks a word card, keeping it a secret from his or her partner. Then the child chooses the coin or bill that corresponds to each letter and “spells” the word using the secret code. When finished, the partners switch seats and decode each other’s words.
Old use: Paper-clip grabber and forceful intro to the world of science.
New use: Placeholder that helps kids “get” place value. Label each of four wands with “Ones,” “Tens,” “Hundreds,” or “Thousands.” Invite partners to place as many as nine magnetic items on each wand. Then have the pair write the resulting number, making sure each digit corresponds to the place value.
Old use: Geography problem-solver. “How far are we from Disneyland?”
New use: Reading scavenger hunt. Display a large map in your literacy
center. When students find a place name while reading, ask them to locate, pin, and tag the place on the map. Use it for fiction (“Eloise lives here at the Plaza Hotel”), non-fiction (“Home of the Golden Gate Bridge”), or both.
Old use: Finishing touch for “What I Did Over Summer Vacation.”
New use: Hi-tech spin on the life cycle. Did you know that Word has a simple, built-in drawing program? Have kids use it to illustrate what they’ve learned in science, whether it’s the life cycle of a butterfly or the food pyramid. Ask students to include text explaining their art.
Old use: Tempera paint transport.
New use: Absorbing take on volume. Cover a table with a plastic cloth. Add a pan of water, plastic measuring cups, and towels. Ask kids to choose a sponge letter, identify it by name, and immerse it in the water. Next, have them squeeze the water out of the sponge into a cup to find out how much liquid it absorbed.
Old use: Geometry shape-up.
New use: ABC practice. Ask kids to make letters on the geoboards. (Explain that the designs will have more angular features rather than curves). Invite others to guess which letter was formed and to name words beginning with that letter.