Young woman in shop of cosmetics and perfumery chooses spirits
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Young woman in shop of cosmetics and perfumery chooses spirits

For most teachers, their classroom is their kingdom, students are loyal subjects and supplies are the warriors in the battle for knowledge. Moving thousands of miles away can put a serious dent in our supply chain, but luckily, there are hundreds of household items just waiting to stand in for their more expensive, specialised counterparts. So, take a quick trip to Ikea, Daiso, or even your local hypermarket and pick up some practical, reasonably priced substitutes to make your classroom shine!

Small but powerful

Binder clips have more uses than their original job of holding papers together. They come in plain or pretty prints and can be found in the stationery section of almost every store. For more high-end prints, check Paperchase in many malls. Ways to use binder clips include; using them to hang projects or decorations from dropped ceiling tiles, organising work (label each clip with a student’s name) and holding small pictures or direction cards for learning centers.

Hang it up

Clotheslines and clothespins are the perfect medium for constantly changing classroom displays. Use multicoloured clothespins for extra fun. Clothespins can also be used on behaviour charts or to keep track of work that has been turned in.

Keep it organised

Shower or picnic caddies with handles are the perfect organisers for group table supplies or center supplies. They are easily picked up at the end of the day and stored on shelves. for extra organising points, take a picture of how the caddy should look when fully organised and expect students to return it to that state before they move to another activity. Caddies can also be used to store whiteboard materials in the front of the room, as well as supplies for guided reading or small group instruction.

Rack it up

Use a dish rack in your teacher area for files, lesson plans and resources. The cutlery cup can hold pens and pencils as well. Students can use dish racks to store clipboards, behaviour folders, or portfolios. Be sure to use a metal rack with higher dividers for more efficient use.

Keep it separated

Blue painter’s tape (also comes in many other colours) has long been a teacher‘s secret. Used on the whiteboard, it keeps daily information such as date, schedule, assignments and learning objectives separate from board work and clear for students who need to copy them into their notebooks. Tape can also be used to create lines on whiteboards to give a guide for handwriting practice. Many teachers also use it on the floor to create interactive coordinate grids, maps or group areas.

The key to teaching is to be creative and flexible. The next time you are in a store, take a few minutes and check the household supplies area and think outside the box. I have seen pretty placemats used to decorate windows, wrapping paper as a bulletin board background, and even contact paper used to cover desks to make them into personal whiteboards. Check Pinterest sites for ideas and make them into your own. You don’t need fancy teacher supply stores to make your classroom into a place where students love to learn.


By Betina Fuentes

Betina is a Cycle 2 teacher at a girls’ school in Al Ain. She and her family are from Florida, USA and are enjoying their time in the UAE. She is looking forward to travelling, meeting other new teachers, and helping her students learn as much as they can.

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