Teachers need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Use these tips, shortcuts, and dollar store ideas to save your budget and your sanity.
SAVE YOUR DIME
- Use greeting cards to make collages, mobiles, banners, magnets, picture frames, or ornaments.
- Draw designs on latex balloons.
- Decorate tablecloths for picnics or parties.
- Make tissue paper stained glass paintings.
- Puppets can be made out of garden gloves, lunch bags, clothespins, or wooden spoons.
- Mirrors help students draw reflections of objects and make more accurate self-portraits.
- Dip cotton swabs in glue to use "just a dot, not a lot."
- Fill empty deodorant bottles with glue, paint, or melted crayons.
- Fill ketchup and mustard bottles with paint or glitter glue.
- Fill salt and pepper shakers with sand, glitter, powdered paint, or fairy dust.
- Sandpaper can smooth things out or appear in a lesson about textures.
- Paint trays are especially convenient for making footprint paintings.
- Cork boards can serve as message hubs.
- Magic Screens, whiteboards, and chalkboards can be used for any writing.
- Notepads work well as science logs or workbooks for writing around the room.
- Journals and diaries give children a sense of ownership and security for personal reflections, and can also be used for shared writing.
- Use book lights for reading.
- Make rebus stories with rubber stamps.
- Name tags and autograph books help with handwriting practice and name recognition.
- Affix prewritten or blank caption stickers to photos for reading or writing.
- Clap out syllables with garden gloves.
- Blow whistles for one-to-one correspondence or sounding out syllables.
- Two students can use badminton racquets to bat a birdie back and forth, with each student reciting the next letter in the alphabet.
- Record onto blank CD-Rs for your listening center.
- Wooden dowels are perfect as poster holders, scrolls, or decorated pointers.
- Rulers help with line drawings, construction, and measuring.
- Use rubber bands for nonstandard measurement or shapes on geo boards.
- Rubber stamps make good icons for graphs.
- Compare types of seeds.
- Hook together plant rings as in the game Barrel of Monkeys and count.
- Play with a toy golf set by adding a point for getting the ball in the hole, and subtracting a point for missing it.
- Jump and count with jump ropes.
- Sort glow sticks by size and color.
- Practice patterning with toy cars.
- Sort sharpened pencils by size, and markers and crayons by color.
- A great activity for special occasions is to sort gift bows by size and color into favor boxes.
SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES
- Test if glow sticks are affected by temperature change, or see how lighting impacts their intensity.
- Use flashlights to to talk about shadows, or to show how light goes through some things (e.g., transparencies, tracing paper, cellophane) but not others (e.g., construction paper, wax paper, tinfoil).
- Match the bounce of Silly Putty against a height chart; see how a square of it reacts to different kinds of pressure; or figure out how different shapes make it sink or float.
- Take pinwheels outside to see how wind makes them move. Find other ways to make them move.
- To illustrate how germs spread, sprinkle flour on a dark balloon and have students tap it around the room.
- Separate items that can be shared and items that can't. Explain that combs, hats, barrettes, and ponytail holders might carry lice and cannot be shared.
- To teach oral hygiene, give students toothbrushes.
- For shoe-tying practice, draw shoes on tagboard and attach shoelaces.
FUN, GAMES, and MOVEMENT
- Cut holes in a gift bag for a beanbag toss.
- Play parachute games with tablecloths.
- Pin the Tail on the Donkey helps with spatial awareness skills.
- Catch an inflatable beach toy to speak or solve a problem.
- Catch poppers with butterfly nets to work on eye-hand coordination.
- Dance with pinwheels or glow sticks. (On holidays, use holiday-themed colors and music.)
- Use flashlights for movement exercises.
- For developing fine motor skills, small muscle control, and dexterity, use chopsticks and tongs to pick up objects, rolling pins to flatten, and wooden spoons to stir.
- Create flash cards, self-checking quizzes, and concentration games with coasters.
- Make puzzles or lacing cards out of greeting cards and calendars.
- Ice cube trays and plant gems can be used to make mancala games.
- To work on breath control, blow through Krazy Straws.
- Turn Ping-Pong paddles into signals for partner match-up games, answering yes/no and true/false questions, or asking for help.
- Make papier-mÃ¢chÃ© piÃ±atas with latex balloons, or stuff Mylar balloons with confetti for piÃ±atas that have to be popped.
- Use tablecloths for floor centers.
- For floor seating, have students sit on individual rugs.
- Use flowers as decorations and centerpieces. Decorate the pots with cheerful faces.
- Arrange touch lights, flameless tea lights, air fresheners, and reed diffusers around the room.
- Use colored duct tape to establish boundaries, color-code containers, or identify tables.
- Let students wear headphones to block out noise.
- Let students wear sunglasses for shyness, sensitivity to light, or watching movies when there's too much natural light in the room.
- Let students hold stuffed animals for security.
- Give students who fidget Silly Putty or Play-Doh to squeeze.
- Work doesn't always have to be indoors â take some sidewalk chalk outside.
- When it gets hot, cool off with spray bottles of cold water.
- Use pencil boxes as math or reading toolboxes at each table.
- Gift bags make great totes for students to store their center work in, or for you to store games in.
- Garden totes can be used to hold supplies in centers or to carry them around the room.
- Put supplies in mini backpacks for writing centers.
- Put coins in wallets for math centers.
- Things to put in folders, binders, and photo albums include writing, work samples, pictures, and drawings that students give you.
- Give each student a Ziploc bag with all the pieces for a project.
- Serving trays are helpful for anything that's messy.
- Muffin tins and ice cube trays hold paint or sorted items.
- To minimize a popsicle mess, push the stick through a coffee filter to catch the drips.
- Luggage tags can become school ID badges, organizing labels, or card holders for matching games.
SAVE YOUR TIME
- Cut down on busy work. Assign jobs so your students can help out in the classroom.
- Cut down on repetitive work. Save things such as handprints, favorites, self-portraits, etc. that can be used in many projects throughout the year.
- Cut down on redundant work. Take advantage of patterns, reproducibles, templates, and forms.
- Cut down on homework. Don't assign it. It's developmentally inappropriate, and with school standards being what they are, kids get quite enough work at school.
- Cut down on schoolwork. Before breaks and holidays, eliminate â or at least lessen â classroom work.
- Cut down on missed work. When a student is sick, have someone collect all their work for the day.
- Cut down on messes. Keep baby wipes at the end of each table for quick clean-ups.
- Cut down on misplaced materials. Give students individual pencil boxes.
- Cut down on misshelved materials. Have students put their books in a return bin, and assign a class "Librarian" to reshelve the books.
- Cut down on lost materials. Keep a Lost & Found box for small things like erasers and puzzle pieces.
- Cut down on file clutter. Keep only one master copy of everything.
- Cut down on paper clutter. Instead of overusing the copy machine, teach with a whiteboard.
- Cut down on distractions. Assign a class "Greeter" to sit by the door with a log-in/message book and deal with visitors throughout the day.
- Cut down on student dependence. Use photographs for everything that identifies them.
- Cut down on confusion. Put Velcro dots on computer mice so students know where to put their fingers.
- Cut down on misunderstandings. Use props and stories to illustrate a point.
- Cut down on pencil sharpening. Give each child their own sharpener.
- Cut down on lack of motivation. Give students tickets or stickers they can "cash in" for points or prizes.
- Cut down on free passes. Make each student answer a question or demonstrate a skill before they can get their hand stamped as a pass to leave at the end of the day.
- Cut down on discipline time. Use the 1-2-3 approach â three strikes and you're out.
- Cut down on notes home. At the end of the day, rub ChapStick on the thumbs of students who showed good behavior. Each parent will know immediately if their child was good by whether they can see (and smell) a colorful thumbs-up.
- Cut down on fighting and mulling too long over prizes. Make lunch bags into mystery prize bags.
SAVE THE PLANET
Don't forget to return, recycle, or reuse your shopping bags.
I hope these ideas will make your teaching life a little easier.
Have an economical weekend!