Thrifty teaching – saving money and time

Picture the scene. It’s an ordinary morning, in an ordinary office, in an ordinary city in the English Midlands, when two quite extraordinary Primary English consultants arrive at work.

Ooo, nice new frock!” exclaims one.

Sainsbury’s,” replies the other, “A right bargain. 25% off! Anyhow, what’ve you got for lunch?”

Soup – homemade. It cost me about a £1.00 for the whole batch.”

Welcome to our world. A world of bargains, thrifting and saving a penny or two so we can spend (no pun intended) our summer holidays sipping sangria and sunning ourselves. The thing is, we’re not on our own. We know that lots of our readers are just as thrifty as us and constantly have one eye on the reductions aisle in the hope of that must-have-classroom-resource- bargain. So, here’s a little round up of thrifty tips to save teachers time and money.

Displaying books face-out so that children can see them can be quite costly. Not though, if you wash, dry and turn upside-down all those Muller corner yoghurt pots. Now there’s a reason to indulge in a sweet treat at lunchtime!

Ikea’s Tolsby picture frames  are great for table top displays. Think: group lists, key vocabulary, monitor lists, key facts… and these little gems come up trumps every time. At just £1.00 for two is it any wonder that we see them in classroom all over the midlands?

Now this may be a literacy inspired blog but we do like to help with mathematics too from time to time. Egg boxes are a must for thrifty pedagogues looking to teach arrays. Egg box arrays used to be strictly multiples of 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12. Not these days! You can now regularly source egg boxes in 4’s, 10’s and 15’s – count on! Don’t forget they’re also rather useful for creating the pneumatic jaws of crocodiles, dragons, dinosaurs or mythical beasts – depending on your cross-curricular links between literacy and technology.

Do you need to display phonemes, high frequency words, maths vocabulary, number facts but don’t have much wall space? Clothes peg hangers (the sort you may use to hang out your socks) are perfect for this. Wilko do them for £2.00 each.

Whilst we’re talking about socks, if you don’t have a box of old socks in your classroom cupboard can I urge you to start collecting them now. Their uses are infinite. Just a few things I’ve used them for are: maths – just think pairs, two times tables, remainders and they’ve earned their place on your shelf already. Add in the obvious sock puppet dimension and they really should be upgraded to a labelled box. If you’ve managed to use different socks to create a character – just think ‘who would wear a pair of socks like these?’ – then you should get your socks one of those very lovely lidded plastic cartons and add a nicely laminated WordArt label. A colleague I’ve mine even used odd and holey socks as mini-whiteboard erasers! Definitely better than the school sweatshirt cuff preferred by most seven year olds and cheaper than the ones that get lost down the back of the bookcase.

Reception colleagues spend a lot of time encouraging children to add sound buttons to words in order to blend and segment. Who’d have thought the brightly coloured lids from plastic milk cartons could be recycled as sound buttons for group and whole class phonics lessons? Well I wouldn’t until I saw it taking place in a school here in Coventry. That’s an idea that’s ‘gotta a lotta bottle’!

I am intrinsically a lazy so-and-so. As a classroom teacher I always had a lovely classroom full of ever-changing displays. I managed this through cunning and idleness. After backing the display boards I used to add triple-mounted laminated paper ‘frames’ – they were slightly larger than A4 and perfect for blue-tacking on examples of children’s work. I had the frames for years and was able to change the content of my displays on a regular basis for the minimum of effort. When ‘working walls’ came into vogue I added to my laminated frame collection with some A3 examples, so that I could stick up examples of that day’s whole-class work whilst keeping the boards neat and tidy. At the end of the week I could take down my ‘working wall’ ready to start again.

Thrifting for me is not just about saving money. It’s also about saving time which is why I wrote this blog post about a brilliant little book that helps you make the most of your precious time.

Getting web savvy is one of the best ways to save time and money as a teacher. Visit blogs and teacher websites and ‘harvest’ as many ideas as you can (This blog by Isabella Wallace is an inspiration for teachers looking to make the most of their local pound shop.) Think about setting up a Dropbox, Evernote or Google Drive account with colleagues so you can share and amend documents as a team. We do this all the time and it really is very useful. Sign up to TES connect and gain access to thousands of teacher-made resources (you may even want to upload some of your own too). Use our Pinterest boards – we made them to save your weekends and we’re adding to them all the time.

And as a final word – share your ideas. Teachers love tricks, tips and advice and when it includes saving time or money they love it even more.

Keep saving those pennies and add your money-saving tips below.

Rachel Clarke – Primary English Consultant


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