The Price Is Right- For Cheap Classroom Resources

Having gotten ahead on my schoolwork yesterday, I took a trip over to Dollar Tree to seek some classroom resource inspiration! Dollar Tree is an excellent place to stock up on basic school supplies, seasonal classroom decorations, student prizes and rewards, and materials for lessons.

After first perusing Pinterest for ideas and leaving Dollar Tree with a cartful of items, I went home and created a few fun educational resources (some didn’t even require bought materials, but used recyclables!). These ideas are easily adaptable for different grade levels and standards.



A Carton of Clocks

The first graders in my internship class are currently working on telling time to the hour and the half hour (1.MD.B.3). After watching them complete worksheet after mind-numbing worksheet (sigh), there are still a handful of students who write :00 as :12 and :30 as :6, some who aren’t making connections between digital and analog time, a few who can’t distinguish between clock hands, and some that simply give up before they even begin, due to the daunting number of problems on the paper. I notice the teacher’s frustrations with the students’ mistakes, but I believe they are repeating themselves for two reasons:

  1. Aside from clock-face worksheets, lengthy assessments, and the occasional YouTube “telling time song,” I do not see my students involved in any fun or creative time-telling activities; thus, they disengage before they even put their names on their papers. There’s no discussion, no movement, and no push to make the content tangible and relevant to their lives!
  2. Most of the time-telling instruction I have observed has been facilitated with the whole class. It is nearly impossible to have 23 fidgety first-graders pay attention throughout an entire lesson. Because of this, students are falling through the cracks with a multitude of misunderstandings. There’s a desperate need for partner and small group activities, as well as some individualized interventions.

I wanted to find a time-telling activity to integrate into their math stations….Bring in the magic of the egg carton. I did NOT come up with this activity on my own– I give all kudos to Stephanie at The Primary Theme Park (http://www.primarythemepark.com/2015/05/time-activities-for-first-grade/). I did, however, create my own templates (which I have provided here for you!).

To create this super easy activity, all you need is:

  • An empty egg carton (dozen is preferred, but a half dozen cartridge would also work)
  • Mod-Podge, glue, or tape
  • Printed templates (HERE YOU GO- A Carton of Clocks (3 files merged))
  • A marble (or a chunky bead, pom-pom, etc.)

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All I did was Mod-Podge the cover and directions onto the carton (Mod-Podge works better on cardboard egg cartons, rather than the styrofoam ones), cut out the clock faces, draw on their times (I used different colors to help students distinguish between the hour/minute hands), glue them in the carton compartments, and VOILA! An easy math station/center activity.

To use, students place a marble/bead/pom-pom/small round object inside the carton. They shake it all around, open the carton back up, and read the clock face where the item landed. Then, they find the corresponding digital time on the graph sheet and color in a square. This requires them to recognize time in different formats and also incorporates standard 1.MD.C.4, which has students organize, represent, and interpret data. The students can repeat the shaking/graphing a designated number of times, until they receive a certain number in one category, or until it is time for them to rotate to another station.

Activity Alterations/Modifications

  • Instead of making lots of copies of the graph, you could laminate a few copies and have students fill them in with dry-erase markers.
  • You could make different egg cartons with varying difficulties (one with time to the hour, one with time to the hour and half hour, one with time in quarters, and one with normal times) to help differentiate instruction and offer advanced students new ways to challenge themselves.
  • For an even bigger challenge, leave the digital times off of the graph and have students read the clock faces and fill them in themselves before beginning the activity.
  • I glued the clock faces into the carton; to make it easier to assemble and to make the clock faces removable, you could stick them down with a piece of tape.
  • Place an hourglass in the center with the carton; the student must continue shaking/graphing until the hourglass runs out!
  • Students can complete the activity in pairs, taking turns shaking the carton.

**By the way: The ideas for egg carton activities are ENDLESS! They can be adapted to a multitude of content areas and grade levels! They work great as resources for sorting, letter identification, sound recognition, sight words, counting, tens frames, etc.**


 

Math Egg-cellence!

My first graders are working hard on their addition and subtraction skills. The official standard is 1.OA.C.6 (adding and subtracting within 20). Similarly to their time-telling troubles, I’ve noticed many of my students getting mixed up with the difference between adding and subtracting. They’ll complete a sheet on subtraction but half of their answers will be sums! To help them work on their skills in a more tangible and enjoyable way, I created these Easter egg puzzles to implement in their math stations. (This is also a GREAT activity for students with special learning/physical needs; it’s hands-on, engaging, and reinforces fine motor skills!)

You will need:

  • Easter eggs ($1 for a pack of 18 at Dollar Tree); I used 2 packs of the same color scheme for this activity (so that I had 6 different colors with 6 eggs of each color).
  • Sharpie
  • Clear nail polish (optional)

I divided the eggs into groups by color. I chose three colors for addition problems and three for subtraction (18 problems for each operation). I wrote math problems on the long side of the eggs and their answers on the lids (if you’re using the clear nail polish, brush it over the Sharpie and let it dry before you move on; the polish prevents the Sharpie from coming off later). I broke the little pieces of plastic attaching the lids to the bodies of the eggs so that each egg could be two separate parts. That was it!

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To use, the students search for the lid with the answer to their egg’s math problem. Since there are six eggs of each color, you can have each student complete the problems for one color, or you can give them two or three colors of eggs to match up. The colors make it easy to separate the eggs for different students to use (easy grouping/differentiation strategy), as well as for you, the teacher, to quickly find the matching egg parts later. 🙂

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I included some math problems that went beyond 20 in order to challenge my students.

Activity Alterations/Modifications

  • These eggs can be made for any mathematical operation!
  • Make “sets” of problems based on color; provide one color as a challenge set
  • Instead of putting a single digit answer on the other side, try an equal math equation (4+1 on one side, 3+2 on the other). This is a great way to break students out of their equal-sign misconceptions (that an equal sign means one specific answer, that only a single number can follow the equal sign, that the answer is always on the right side of the equal sign) and show them that the equal sign refers to numerical balance.
  • Put an equation with a missing number on one side, and have them find the number to complete it (6+ __ = 9 on one side, 3 on the other).
  • Send students on a mathematical egg hunt. Instead of putting problems on the outside, put slips of paper with math problems on the inside of the eggs, hide them around the classroom or outside, and have students find (and answer) the eggs.
  • If you’re using these in a center or math station, include some laminated number lines, scratch paper and pencils, number charts, and counting manipulatives (blocks, bears, counters, etc.).
  • When students make a match, have them write down the full math fact in their math journals.

Similarly to egg cartons, Easter eggs can be used for a variety of learning activities! How could you use them in your classroom?


 

Question Box

I recycled this old Kleenex box into a Question Box to use with my students. It’s a great formative assessment tool, and it can be implemented across all grade and content levels. It can also be used to strengthen student/teacher relationships and improve classroom climate.

All you need:

  • Empty Kleenex box, plastic removed from the opening
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors, markers, glue
  • Index cards

You could make this as fancy and creative as you wanted to; you could decorate it, Mod-Podge pictures or designs onto it, etc. I simply glued on some matching construction paper and made a quick label. It was late, and I was getting a little tired.

To use the question box, pass out an index card to every student during a lesson. When you ask them a question you want to them to answer (whether at the beginning, middle, or end of the lesson), have them fill out the index card and place it into the box (encourage them to write sentences, make bullet points, draw pictures, anything!). Kleenex boxes are the perfect size for index cards!

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Ideas for questions/topics:

  • What do you still need clarification on after today’s lesson?
  • What is one thing you would like to learn about during this unit?
  • What can I do to help you succeed?
  • What is your favorite way to learn math?
  • What is something you are confident about and could help a struggling student with?
  • Have students complete quick writes and drop them in the box on their way out
  • How can we make our classroom a more friendly, welcoming place?
  • What is one question you have after reading this book?
  • Have students come up with questions to use in future class discussions
  • Morning meeting topics
  • Writer’s workshop topics
  • Word problems
  • Have students make a chart, visual, or drawing to explain an answer or a strategy
  • If you could go back in time and interview Dr. King, what is the one question you would ask him?
  • Can you think of a connection to your own life?

The Question Box gives shy and non-verbal students a way to ask questions and demonstrate their knowledge in a low-pressure way. How would you use this with your students?


 

Toss and Think

Another formative assessment tool I came up with was a number ball! I got this giant ball at Walmart for $1 and split it into 8 different quadrants, which I labeled from 1-8.

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**Side note: I would rather do this activity with inflatable beach balls, because they are already separated into quadrants of different colors; however, I couldn’t find any at Walmart or Dollar Tree (hurry up, summertime and pool supplies!). Also, inflatable beach balls are a tad lighter than this ball is, so they seem a little bit safer.**

At an appropriate point during a lesson, have students get out of their seats and stand behind their chairs. Toss the ball to a student. Have them see which quadrant their left hand is in, and give them a corresponding question to answer. For example, after guided reading, provide 8 questions about the reading:

  1. What was the setting of the story?
  2. Why were the neighbors kind to Elizabeth after the accident?
  3. How would you feel if you were new at school?
  4. Can you make a connection between this story and something we’ve learned in social studies?
  5. If you could speak to Elizabeth’s mom, what would you say to make her feel better?
  6. ……….

If a student’s hand was in the fourth quadrant, that student would answer question #4 before tossing the ball to another student (or back to the teacher, depending on how you would like to facilitate the activity).

This activity works great for all different subjects. It’s a great way to gauge questions and knowledge before a lesson/unit begins, to check understanding after an activity, or to assess knowledge at the conclusion of a unit. It’s an engaging way to start discussions, to involve all students, to prevent overpowering voices from dominating the conversation, and to get students moving and laughing. Before beginning the activity, however, make sure that your students know your expectations: No powerful throwing, supportive and respectful listening, etc.

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How could you incorporate an activity like this into your current lessons?


 

As you can see from this post, there are plenty of activities and resources you can create for your classroom with minimal time and minimal costs. I am very excited about implementing these ideas with my first graders! I’m excited to engage them in valuable learning activities that go beyond their typical worksheet-HUSH STOP TALKING-worksheet-silent reading routine.

Do you have any favorite activities/resources/Dollar Tree finds/ideas that you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading, and good luck teaching!

-Summer-

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