$250 worth of classroom awesomeness.
August 11, 2014 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I have been given a $250 stipend to spend on classroom materials. I have no idea what to buy.

I'm teaching 7th grade Language Arts this year. My school has generously given each teacher a $250 stipend to spend on classroom materials.

Basic school supplies will be plentiful as they are bought by the parents. I could use a few more posters, but that's barely going to make a dent. There's already a computer, projector, and smart board.

What can I buy that will maximize the awesomeness in my classroom?
posted by gnutron to Education (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You need art supplies. Crayons, markers, colored pencils, reams of paper. Containers to keep it in.

Lots of kids are kinethetic and will get a LOT out of drawing pictures of the stories they're reading, or mind maps or whatever all else you can think of as assignments.

You've got to change it up. It can't be all reading and writing, sometimes you've got to let them color and draw.

I never regretted it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:03 PM on August 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Do you have to spend it now? Maybe wait until the year gets going and see what you're missing?
posted by radioamy at 5:08 PM on August 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

Document camera? They are pretty awesome and the teachers I know who have one LOVE them and find they use them more than the smartboard or projector.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:08 PM on August 11, 2014

Do you have to spend it before the school year starts? Might be nice to have some flexible spending money if the perfect potential activity comes along.
posted by fifthrider at 5:17 PM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: I need to spend it by the end of September. And any unspent money goes back to the coffers.
posted by gnutron at 5:21 PM on August 11, 2014

Amazon gift card? Or gift certificates to other likely stores?
posted by teremala at 5:31 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

What kind of subscriptions do you already have? To newspapers? To BrainPop? The latter has some good language-artsy videos. What about a decent dictionary? Online or otherwise? The free ones tend to be pretty average and there are some amazing options out there, esp electronically. What kind of software do your students have access to? Does your school already subscribe to Inspiration? What kind of pd have you done lately? Does the money have to be spent in the classroom per se? Even reading materials for you could be useful- new textbooks?
posted by jojobobo at 5:51 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bulletin board supplies. Seriously. I could spend that $250 right there. What about bookmarks or bookplates to give as rewards throughout the year? Think about your lesson plans for the year, is there a project or lesson that would be that much better if you could just get this one more thing? Get that one more thing!

Also, now may be a great time to investigate if that local actor, journalist, librarian, etc will come in and speak to your classes for one day for a small fee.
posted by shesbookish at 5:53 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have iPads or tablets in your classroom? You could get a year's subscription to a lot of great educational apps with that $$.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:04 PM on August 11, 2014

See if you have access to sets of novels. There may be a set you want to use that you don't have.
posted by tamitang at 6:18 PM on August 11, 2014

What about books or magazines? Are there times when your students are reading, but not all reading the same thing? (I also second the art supplies. I'm a university professor, and I still find myself wanting more scissors and tape.)
posted by yarntheory at 6:20 PM on August 11, 2014

Start building a class library. Check with your school's librarian. He/she should be able to tell you where the library's weak points are. If not, ask a returning teacher. Consider graphic novels and manga to entice non-readers.

Does your curriculum recommend any class sets of books that your school doesn't provide?

Buy some books and their corresponding audio books, plus appropriate technology (playing devices, headphones). This is good for struggling readers.

Take Home Book Packs

Class magazines

Supplies to make your own books.

Do you have enough storage in your room? Bookshelves? Supply bins? Drawers/bins/folders for turning in homework? For returning graded homework?

What about a sturdy floor lamp or two? Fluorescent lights are awful.

Chart paper.

I sometimes use 3 ft x 2 ft whiteboards to display information to the side when I need the primary whiteboard for something else. Also, students LOVE individual whiteboards, but I teach math so maybe it wouldn't work as well for an ELA classroom.
posted by rakaidan at 6:24 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm trying to think what I would have enjoyed in 7th grade. I don't know if paying a guest lecturer would count as "classroom materials," but I always perked up for interesting guests. Ditto field trips. Do tickets to something count as "classroom materials"? End of September would allow time to coordinate and get permission.

One of my favorite parts of 9th grade was a weekly assignment in music class where we took turns bringing in a song we liked and then discussing what worked (and what didn't). I always liked participation assignments. Maybe there's some way you can use $250 to create something along those lines for your subject.

Good luck!
posted by cribcage at 6:31 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I worked with middle schoolers these were a big hit.

Definitely a yearlong subscription to BrainPop, Discovery Education, or Learning A to Z.

These have also been fun.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:02 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do y'all have access to computers? Awesome, unconventional software that the school might not provide?
posted by pearlybob at 8:09 PM on August 11, 2014

Buy an e-reader. Take requests for books students would like loaded on and sign those books out of your local public library. Make the e-reader with their books available for students in their spare time in class and let them sign it out for the night.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:59 PM on August 11, 2014

Okay, bear with me here, but I have the Best Idea Ever that turned my classroom upside down in the best possible way:


We use puppets to record videos (no photo release!), we use them to tweet during school events (of course my puppets have Twitter accounts!), and we use them to learn about plot, character, narration, POV...pretty much everything.

You could buy a few puppets, or better yet, MAKE YOUR OWN!! YouTube has tutorials that we used to learn how to make simple ones. I can give you more links if you want to see how I learned or how I use them.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:00 PM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

A couple boxes of Kleenex can vastly improves your students' quality of life when they have the sniffles.
posted by CarolynG at 10:57 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have the space, get a small throw rug, some college-dorm type chairs or even beach chairs, a few lamps and set up a relaxing corner in the classroom. Kids love having that quiet nook.

If you have those harsh overhead lights but don't have the room for a quiet work space, I would get a bunch of lamps and light the room.

And I think if you can't do any of those, I'd buy Amazon gift cards and wait until you saw what you needed.

I completely agree with the puppet idea. I had my kids rewrite and film "A Christmas Carol" using hand puppets and they loved doing it.

And of course, it's always worth it to buy 200 pencils that say, "Property of Justin Beiber," so when kids ask to borrow one of your pencils they have to use the Beeb's.
posted by kinetic at 6:11 AM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You might find a trip through Donors Choose inspiring. It's a charity where teachers post requests for money to buy supplies for their classrooms. Each request has a very specific itemization of things they want to buy, and is looking for money. You have money but not the list, a perfect complement.

On my recent look through there I saw a lot of teachers asking for art supplies, books for an informal love-of-reading lending library, and things to help kids organize their papers, books, etc.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

That's cool! I teach first grade and the big ticket items that come up for me are: Chart tablets (about $30 a pop), electric pencil sharpeners, bins and organizational supplies.

If I had a bunch of extra money, I'd buy a bunch of tropical plants, a rocking chair, some decorative stuff, new headphones for my computers and a bunch of leveled books. Also first graders are insanely motivated by prizes depending on how cool they are so things for our prize box. Not sure how that transfers to middle school.

How is your classroom library? You could buy your favoritest middle school fiction. Also you might consider putting the money aside for now and using it as a "rainy day" fund when you need it. A lot of what I spend on school stuff comes down to incidentals. Like, oh, we are doing a geometry project that involves toothpicks and grapes. Now I am out $20 for toothpicks and grapes for 25.
posted by mermily at 7:44 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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