Dollar Store Hacks and How I Use Them

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

I had a few hours to kill the other day, and when you’re a teacher, what better way to kill time is there than wandering through the Dollar Store. Every time I visit, the wheels turn for DIY projects or for ways I can repurpose those golden gems I find. As I wandered Thursday, I did get a great collection of ideas, and I believe most Dollar Tree stores carry similar inventory. So if you have a Dollar Store near you, read on for ways you can make reading manipulatives for your room..

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

USE SPECIAL POINTERS FOR READING GAMES

I spied these right off the bat a few years ago. Whether you’re in primary or upper elementary, you can use these for lots of instructional activities. With primary readers, you can use pointers for reading the room or tracking print on a smartboard of course, but you can also use them for identifying text evidence in an article you project for upper.

A great strategy for all grades for spelling is air writing. Students hold the pointer out and use their full arm to write their words in the air. Finally, kids love using all kinds of things you find for pointers, so if you Dollar Tree is missing these, you might look for witch fingers, finger lights, magic wands, or another favorite of mine, light sabers!

USE DOLLAR STORE FINDS FOR ORGANIZATION

Organization is so much easier when things are color coded. I use colored baskets for my reading groups and even use the same color for notebooks and folders too. Color coded baskets really make it easier for setting up my reading groups. When sorting out materials, you might even use color coded clothes pins for grouping organizers or materials you want for those groups. You can also use colored dots for labeling.

BASKETS, BASKETS, BASKETS

Another use of these baskets is for organizing your students too. Our desks are deep enough that the baskets slide right in. Kids put their supplies into the basket, and it prevents paper stuffing or things falling out of the desks.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

Finally, you can use baskets for your stations. You can easily relocate the station to separate noisy students or improve traffic patterns. Plus, you can even divide the basket up with other baskets that can hold supplies students might need for the activity.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

THEMED ERASERS MAKE GREAT READING MANIPULATIVES

Kids love games, and the Dollar Tree is a great place to get cheap game supplies. I’ve found file folder game boards that I can modify for skills I’m teaching in the education section of the store. All I’ve had to do is add task cards to them, a die, and pawns. Bam! Done! Games are great for partner work and for RTI sessions.

GAME PAWNS

Another favorite of my Dollar Tree finds is the cutely themed erasers. They work really well as game pieces or as cover pieces for games like Bingo. With the many themes offered, you can even match the theme to the game you’ve made. I also like using the erasers for push it-say it. I give the erasers to the kids, and they segment phonemes of the words we’re decoding. Of course, they also work well when we’re writing as an….eraser!

STORAGE CONTAINERS FOR GAME PIECES AND TASK CARDS

Finally, the Dollar Tree has great storage containers. I love the three packs of snack sized storage containers for storing task cards. They are perfect for keeping the task cards ready for future lessons. You can easily add a mailing label identifying the skill on top.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

Likewise, the rectangular lunch sized storage containers work really well for my Close Reading Kits. I keep them at my guided reading table for use in small groups. Each container-sticky notes, multi-colored highlighters, pencils, erasers, and cards with the symbols we use for close reading.

I also was excited to find a plastic craft box which would work perfectly for phoneme cards that you can use for building words in small group. Having students make real and nonsense words is a great way to work on phonics rules.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

FOLLOW CLASSROOM ROUTINES WITH DOLLAR STORE FINDS

Throughout the year, I take running records to monitor my students’ reading progress. Of course, you have to have a timer, and they have digital ones in the cooking area. You can also have your students keep a timer with them to help organize their time in stations. If you have groups set their timers to the same time, then they can monitor themselves to make sure they work efficiently.

CLASSROOM TOOLS

In my classroom, I haven’t been very lucky with classroom furniture (sound familiar?). So I’ve used a few things to help get by in an inexpensive way. One thing that’s helped me form tables is to use cable ties to connect my desks together to form a “table”.  It has always driven me crazy when the kids move their desks all about messing up our arrangement. You can avoid fixing it every afternoon this way.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

This year, I also was lacking enough bookshelves, so I used milk crates to create my own shelving. To strengthen them, I put a long 1 x 6 board cut to length between my crates, and I used cable ties to connect them all. Because they were holding books that were heavy, the extra support kept them from collapsing.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

Do you use whiteboards regularly? I do, and I love these shammy towels from the automotive section for cleaning them. You can use them year to year. All you have to do is throw them in the wash periodically. Sure beats using Kleenex for cleaning. I have also used old socks too.

BOOK BINS AND MORE

Finally, I wanted to share these cute file folders, magazine boxes, and snack containers. With magazine boxes, I have students store their books for independent reading. Book Bins are so great for making sure you don’t have kids saying, “I don’t have anything to read!” They put their collection in the bin and replace periodically always keeping “just right” books close by.

The Dollar Store offers teachers an inexpensive way to make special things for the classroom. This post includes one teacher's favorite finds and how to use them.

I  also found an adorable snack holder in the baby section. These could be used for random name picking. Simply put type names in a grid, laminate, and put them in the container. You can draw them just like a kid picks out cheerios.

I’ll close with the cute file folders. Personally, I just liked them and thought they’d be useful for organizing guided reading groups. I’ve seen others line out their groups in a grid on the inside, add velcro tabs, and put the loop side on the back of student name cards. You can then easily move kids from one group to another.  Do you need a fancy folder? Maybe not, but they are cute. What are your favorite finds? For more great classroom and Dollar Store DIY ideas, you can search Pinterest. From Dollar Store Writing Stations to Dollar Store Science Labs, the ideas are nearly endless.

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Carla

Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.