Since I first started teaching, many things have entered and exited my teaching kit, and I still take more delight than is probably healthy in organizing and restocking it! If I could fit an IWB in my pencil case, I would, but until technology allows that, here are some of the permanent fixtures from my kit that cost under $5 and might even fit in your pencil case! To prove how fantastic these often underrated items can be, I’ve included some of my favorite ways to use them in class which can all be adapted for different levels or topics.
Sticky notes love getting out of the office; I once decorated an entire wall in them. They’re great because they don’t leave any residue and can be stuck and re-stuck almost anywhere!
Try: Give each student a sticky note (they can be all the same color, or you can use different colors for later group organization) and a couple of minutes to draw something on their sticky note. They can draw anything. Organize students into small groups (if you used colored sticky notes, group students by note color). Students must then work together to create a story incorporating each drawing. Encourage the use of language to enable them to do this, for example, ‘What if/How about/What happens next.’
Extend: You can extend this activity by re-grouping the students and having them create another story.
Twist: I prefer to do this as a storytelling activity, but this could also be the basis for written work.
2. Number Dice
Dice aren’t just for playing games and learning numbers. The numbers can represent almost anything from individual words to specific tenses.
Try: This is a fun way to practice & check students’understanding of new vocabulary to describe facial features. Students can do this with different colored dice or one dice & re-roll for each facial feature. One die or your first roll will be for one facial feature, for example, face shape. Each number on the dice will represent a different adjective. In pairs or small groups, students take turns rolling the dice and drawing a face.
Extend: Students can then describe the faces or create wanted posters using the new language.
Twist: Do this with shapes/colors with younger children to create crazy robots!
3. Alphabet Dice
If you have an extra 5 minutes of class, you can use alphabet dice like Boggle – all you need are some pens and paper, but you can also get students thinking about grammar and sentence structure without them realizing it!
Try: Depending on their ability, students can work alone or in small groups. Roll at least five alphabet dice where they can be seen by everyone. Students must then make a grammatically correct sentence. The letters on the dice are the initial letters for words in the sentence. Award points for fastest sentence, best sentence, or creativity.
Extend: Students could try to draw their sentences for other students to guess.
4. Alphabet Tiles
Alphabet tiles are awesome! Use them to play scrabble without the board, Bananagrams, or practice spelling.
Try: Each pair of students has nine tiles from which they must make a word. They don’t have to use every letter and can only use each tile once. Students must write a description of their word and then mix up the tiles. Students then move around the room, reading other students’ clues and trying to guess their words.
Twist: Do this as a speaking activity. One student must stay at their table and give a verbal rather than a written description of their word. Their partner listens to other clues and tries to guess the words. Swap so all students describe and listen and guess.
5. Strips of card
You can use different colors and lengths and use these like Cuisenaire, rods, and laminating them enables you to write on them like a whiteboard.
Try: This works best in groups of 4 – 6. To start, make an initial sentence that is visible to all in the center of the group. Each word in this sentence should be written on a separate card. Next, give each player three blank cards. The aim is to get rid of the cards. To get rid of a card, a player must write a word on it and either add it to the sentence or replace a word that is already in the sentence. If the sentence is incorrect, the student must take the card back.
Twist: Forget taking turns and make it more fast-paced by allowing any student to play a card at any time!
Even with all the technology available, students still love to write on mini-whiteboards!
Try: Cut an A4 mini-whiteboard into four mini-whiteboards. Of course, you can use them as you usually would, but I’ve been making puzzles from them recently with my very young learners, which is excellent practice for shapes and pretty much everything else!
Twist: Add in some language for more advanced students, e.g. ‘Is it a __? Maybe…’