February 23, 2017

More Classroom Hacks for Teaching in the Trenches

If you’ve been following this blog all along, you’re already aware that I love to pass along great classroom hacks as soon as I think of or run across them. This is no exception. Read on for some great ideas on getting things done on the cheap and easy.

Hula Hoops.

In addition to making great classroom playground equipment, these can be used in PE and also for small group circle assembly. As any primary teacher can tell you, younger students really have a difficult time forming circles on their own. Having a few hula hoops on hand for small groups to assemble around gives them a bit of fun factor and you a bit of sanity. Particularly helpful for teaching in outside environments where the school may just be one shaded area surrounded by coconut trees. These situations also tend to be short on classroom furniture. If you are at a school where most of the instruction has to take place outside, you can easily distribute some hula hoops around your area and have one circle for reading group, one for a language game, and one for quiet PE stations such as stretching or sit-ups.

Affordable Art Smocks.

Remember shirt smocks? So do we, and we’re recycling this age old classroom classic. Old adult-sized long sleeved button up shirts can come from family members or a thrift store such as Goodwill. Great for science experiments and art projects, children need only to put them on backwards and have a buddy fasten a button or two in the back.

Poster Taping Tips

Anyone who’s taught in a jungle environment can attest to how difficult it is to keep posters taped to the wall. If you are lucky enough to have walls you can staple things to, congratulations. If you are stuck with concrete however, this is for you. To protect the back of your poster during end of the year removal, flip it over and place flat pieces of masking tape on each corner. This will give you a stable base to put tape circles on, from which they can easily be peeled off later. The jungle element? Instead of placing your tape circles up and down, go horizontal. Keeping them up is still a challenge, but they will at least last longer this way.

Document the Journey

If possible, consider incorporating a digital camera into your learning environment. Document projects and class work throughout the year, compile a slideshow for open house, etc. This is much less expensive than having to continuously purchase film, batteries and developing services. If you have a tech person, you may even be able to include the documentation in a web site.

Get Some Help from the Animal Kingdom

At an outdoor “garden school” in Tucson, Arizona, a trained therapy dog is a favorite visitor for the students to read to. This is worth considering in any learning environment, as practicing oral reading with a class pet or visiting animal removes the fear some students have of reading in front of others. It also generates enthusiasm for those learners who may not be excited to practice reading aloud otherwise. Even a fish tank or aquarium in the classroom or home learning corner can be used to implement this strategy, which is particularly powerful for the shy ESL learner.

Student Anchors

If you’re comfortable going high tech for your student report presentations, consider turning the entire event into a type of news show. Learners can write brief commercials, bring background music for the “anchor people”, write introductory scripts, etc. I have personally done this at numerous grade levels. Students of all ages love the outcome.

Book Parades

This idea was inspired by one of our newsletter subscribers. At this particular school in Texas, students each make a small “float” based on their favorite book, or dress up as their favorite character. The entire school then has a parade to honor the literature each student has celebrated. Home-schoolers could easily implement this as well in their local park or group gathering place.

If you have a great shoestring teaching idea, or one that is just too cool not to share, please post about it in the comment section. Sharing these things helps us all out, and our students as well. Happy teaching, everyone!

Photo Credit: Peiqian Long

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