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It’s the beginning of a new school year, and your to-do list is a mile long: You’ve got supplies to buy, lessons to plan, a room to set up, and names to learn. You don’t have time or money to waste. The dollar store can be your best friend to help you accomplish this!
We asked teachers across the country to share the most resourceful ways they use dollar store items in their classroom. From creative crafts to space-saving solutions, here are 20 innovative tips we love for kicking off the year without breaking the bank.
1 | A Basket a Day
“I have a basket labeled for each day of the week. The Friday before, I set up for my week, placing materials, books, papers, etc., that I need for each day in its basket. This way, I just grab my basket for the day and have everything I need!”
—Kelly Craven, PreK, Georgia. Blog: Ms. Kelly’s Pre-K Magic.
2 | Team Colors
“Instead of assigning kids a number for group work, I bought a pack of neon plastic bracelets and a super-cute monster pencil pouch. Students can reach into the bag to grab a random color, or I can pass them out. The bracelets help everyone keep their groups straight.”
—Christi Fultz, former grade 3, Indiana. Blog: Ms. Fultz’s Corner.
3 | Art to Go
“I placed clear pencil pouches with holes in a three-ring binder, then put art supplies in each pouch and labeled them. But be careful not to put anything too bulky in, or the binder won’t close.”
—Amy Edwin, homeschooler, Arizona. Blog: Fig Milkshakes.
4 | Gaming It
“I hang my games on a towel rack with shower rings and binder clips, for easy off and on.”
—Arlee Greenwood, child care provider, Alberta. Blog: Small Potatoes.
5 | Ear Beads
Wary of having kids share earbuds? Suggest they bring in their own to use while at computers and listening stations. Then, store them in a bead box!
6 | Spinning Caddy
“Hot-glue magnets to a lazy Susan and attach buckets or tin cans for an easy supply caddy! The buckets stay in place but can be moved as you wish.”
—Dan Walsh, grade 3, New York
7 | Hook Upgrade
“I attached an old bracket to my wall and hung carabiners from it. No more backpacks falling off wall hooks!”
—Troy Saunders, instructional technology specialist, Virginia. Instagram: @saundersroom.
8 | Reading Hideaway
“Fold the top of a bedsheet over a Hula-Hoop and safety-pin the sheet to itself. Hang it up by tying twine across the top of the Hula-Hoop (use at least two crisscrossed pieces), and hook these over a wall or ceiling hook. The sheet should hang down to the floor, creating a cozy and transportable reading tent!”
—Alanna George, freelance designer, Michigan. Blog: The Craft Nest.
9 | Revamped Reading Corner
“I bought a bunch of frames and used Velcro hanging strips so I could easily switch what’s inside. Then, I removed book jackets and cut them to size to display in our classroom library!”
—Katie Daily, grades 3–5 ELA, science, and social studies, Wisconsin
10 | Pencil Pockets
Need to solve the disappearing pencil problem? Simply cut big straws in half, lay one piece in an upper corner of each child’s desk and duct-tape it in place. When students aren’t using their pencils, they can slip them inside their straws for foolproof storage!
11 | Bejeweled Endings
“Clear gems are perfect for punctuation practice. Write end marks on each with a Sharpie. Kids read a sentence and add the mark by placing a gem.”
—Chad Boender, kindergarten, Michigan. Blog: Male Kindergarten Teacher.
12 | Place-Value Practice
“Buy weekly pill boxes, and cover up the days of the week with spray paint or duct tape. Next, label the inside of each lid with a different place value, from millions to ones. Put one die inside each compartment. Snap the lids shut, turn the box upside down, and shake!”
—Chrissie Rissmiller, grade 3, Pennsylvania. Blog: Undercover Classroom.
13 | Tiny Rekenreks
“Help kids practice counting by making a set of Rekenreks out of a few simple materials! String 10 beads onto a pipe cleaner to make a number rod. Make two or three rods, and then wind the ends around two straws. Attach erasers to the end of each straw to secure the pipe cleaners, and you’re ready to count! I really like that the beads stay in place when I pick them up—with many of the commercial Rekenreks, the beads slide as soon as it is tilted.”
—Anne Gardner, Response to Intervention teacher, Nevada. Blog: Common Core Connection.
14 | A Fine Line
“Make a scaffolded scissor-skills practice kit out of a bead box! Print zigzags, wavy lines, and different shapes on small pieces of paper. Make multiple copies of each pattern and arrange the patterns in the bead box in order of increasing difficulty. It makes a great station for kids to develop fine-motor skills throughout the year.”
—Kelly Cummings, special education, Tennessee
15 | Petal Power
Use flower-shape pinwheels to make story elements more concrete: “Write a story element on each petal to create ‘retelling pinwheels.’ Students can practice orally retelling books by holding/turning the petal prompts.”
—Bevin K. Reinen, learning specialist and former teacher, Virginia. Blog: Teach. Train. Love.
16 | Swat That Word
“Remove the handle from a flyswatter and snip out a rectangle shape from the center to make a word finder. Or keep the handle and cut a deep rectangle out from the top of the swatter, and you have a word-framing pointer.”
—Leslie Simpson, kindergarten, Michigan. Blog: KindergartenWorks.
17 | Flash Card Flipbook
“I buy dollar-store photo albums and put flash cards inside. Kids can use dry-erase markers to practice. Plus, everything is so easy to clean and change out!”
—Katrina Miller, grade 4/intervention specialist, Ohio
18 | Puzzle It Out
“I get the 100-piece jigsaw puzzles and number 1–100 on the picture side using a Sharpie. You could also number using skip counting by tens to teach place value. Or try writing vocabulary words on each piece and have kids put the words in alphabetical order.”
—Cheryl Kulp, grade 1, Pennsylvania
19 | Hula Lessons
“I use Hula-Hoops to make interactive Venn diagrams—they’re great for both whole-group lessons and literacy workstations.”
—Nicole Cantu, grade 1, Texas. Blog: Live, Laugh, Teach First Grade.
20 | Word Noodles
“Cut a pool noodle into pieces and attach letters to the outside of each piece. Stack the pieces, and put a straw or dowel through the middle to keep them steady. These rotating rods are perfect for teaching rhymes, spelling, and more!”
—Andreja Vucajnk. Blog: Easy Peasy and Fun.
Photos: Adam Chinitz
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