November 17, 2017

Classroom Uses for the Age- Old Craft Stick

These things have been around for as long as I can remember, including my years as a grade school student. Available in multiple sizes, they really go the distance for getting things done on the cheap. Need a few ideas for putting them to use and reducing your classroom materials budget? Read on.

Streamlined questioning practices.

While you can do this with the old fashioned popsicle size, I find it easier with the larger tongue depressor style ones. Put each student’s full name on a stick with a fine to medium tip permanent marker. Then put all the sticks in an empty coffee mug.Use this to randomly call students to answer questions by pulling one stick at a time until everyone has been called on at least once. Then start over. Learners of all ages perceive randomness as fair, so this also eliminates frustration outbursts from students who feel they may have been waiting too long and have a tendency to take it personally. It took me years to start doing this, and then I wondered what on Earth took me so long.

Super Simple Running Program.

Conducting the PE program all by your lonesome with say . . . absolutely NO funding? I’ve been there. Here’s an idea I picked up from an overseas teaching colleague that requires nothing but popsicle sticks and a reinforcement chart: Using your car after hours, measure out a quarter mile course around the playground, school grounds, etc. Try to make sure it’s a course you can see all parts of. Have a giant box of popsicle sticks prior to the class activity. Lead the group in a stretch and have them all start at the same spot on the course. Everybody then jogs / walks / runs around the course according to their own pace and ability level. Every time a student runs back by you at the starting point, hand them a stick. Four of them will equal one mile run. Keep track of everyone’s progress via a bar graph on a reinforcement chart. They love it, and the cost is minimal. You could even use sticks from the forest or jungle if there was no classroom budget for the popsicle sized craft sticks.

Puppet projects.

Stick puppets may not be fancy, but they get the job done. And with puppets being such a HUGE part of holistic story retelling for early language learners, this was something I used a great deal when teaching in Micronesia. When school financial concerns eliminated even these from the budget, I didn’t have a problem resulting to simple twigs. That’s how much I believe in puppet show story retellings for young learners.

Weaving shuttle.

Apparently, they make these things with grooves on the sides of the end. Who knew? When we were doing basic carpet weaving demos with yarn and small square looms in Kuwait, We just had the handymen notch grooves in the regular popsicle sticks for us. If your school has access to the notched ones, go for it. It’s great for simple weaving activities, and the kids really enjoy learning about the warps and wefts of carpet making and practicing simple designs. Even the intermediate aged ones.

Streamlining attendance and lunch count.

I wish I had thought of this one. The fact is, I only ran across this idea when researching extra information for this post.This teacher numbers a class set of jumbo craft sticks for little hands and puts a magnet on the back of each. Since they are not named, she doesn’t have to do it every year. The same number applies to the students for everything else such as coat hooks, cubby holes, etc. The kids place their numbered stick under hot lunch, bathroom sign out spot, etc. She uses the side of her deep file cabinet as a place where the magnets will work. Slick!

These are my top picks. If you have a project or management idea using craft sticks that you feel is exceptional, sound off in the comments section!

Photo Credit: S & S Worldwide

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