We all know how creative teachers can be.  We know how teachers can be great hoarders.  Teachers know that one person’s trash is another classroom’s treasure.  Until you find that “treasure” in your closet 6 years later…and it’s still trash!   I mean, I freely admit I have a plastic tote full of toilet paper rolls.  Why?  Because we might need them in 9 years.   You never know.
We also know that teacher brain never shuts off.  EVER.  Raise your hand if you wake up at 2:42 a.m. with a world changing idea.  Then immediately fall asleep and forget that idea.  Or you get all soapy in the shower and the solution to your biggest classroom challenge comes to you.  Then the soap gets in your eyes.. IT BURNS!  IT BURNS!  And just like that…solution gone.  And since our teacher brain never stops, we’re always looking at normal, everyday things in new and fun ways.  We don’t see paper plates.  We see counting puzzles.  And fluency games.  Pool noodles?  No way. Place value blocks.  Christmas ornaments?  Nope.  Sight word balls.  Thanks teacher brain!
(I’m gonna start a hashtag!  #teacherbrain for all the ways we use regular things in unique ways!)
So here are classroom hacks for four of my favorite every day items!  
(OK!  So two of them are seasonal…so make sure to stock up on them in season…)

I love paper plates because they come in different sizes and all kinds of colors.  They’re also UBER cheap.   Teacher brain loves cheap!
In fact, you can get pretty much any color for about a dollar at Wal-Mart!  
Paper plates are also pretty durable so they can withstand the wrath of a very excited 5 year old.  
So how do I use paper plates?
Puzzles!    Cut a paper plate in half using random lines.  And you have a puzzle piece.  In this picture we did counting puzzles.  So number on one half of the plate, dots on the other.  It’s self checking because they only fit together one way.   This is great for uppercase and lowercase letters, sight words, shapes, colors, addition and subtraction…and more!   
I also love the color plates for fluency games.  Simply write on the plates with Magic Markers.  Sharpies didn’t work well but Magic Markers work great!
Write any skill on the plates.  Play some LOUD and JAMMIN’ music.  Pass the plates.  Read the word on the plate.  Say the letter or sound or number.  Solve the equation.  Start the music.  PASS!  PASS! PASS!  Stop the music.  Do it again!  

Place the plates on the floor and toss a bean bag.  Whichever plate the beanbag lands on…you read, say, spell, solve.  
Red solo cup!   But the great thing about solo cups??  They come in all kinds of colors.  Not just red.  
So write sight words on solo cups.  Have students read the words.  As they read they can stack the cups to see how many they can read and stack.
Write numbers to 100.  Have them stack the cups starting with 1.  Or make it more challenging and count down.  You could do this with any numbers.  10..20…even skip counting by 2, 5, or 10!
You can write letters on the cups and students put them in order.
Write letters and students build words.  Sight words.  CVC Words.  CVC-E words… Names at the beginning of the year!  Build CVC words and change out letters to make new words!  Great for practicing adding and deleting sounds!
And they melt into flat circles!  TRUE STORY!
Click the picture to see how I melt solo cups for manipulatives!  
So pool noodles are amazing classroom tools.  But you need to go to the Dollar Tree NOW and buy a few hundred of them so you’ll have them in February when you see an idea or come up with an idea in the shower.
Click the picture for my post on making place value blocks and get a freebie!
Cut the noodles into small pieces and write letters on the noodles.  Students stack the pieces to build words!
You could write a sight word on one piece and the letters on other pieces.   Read, build and write the sight word!
Write numbers and put them in order!  
Write letters and put them in order!
Write numbers and math symbols (+  –  =) and build equations!
Cut them up to use as quiet building blocks!
Cut them in half and slice the top to make card holders!
Cut the noodles into thin circles and glue onto your boards for a fun border!
Again, not an everyday item.  So, the day after Christmas, run to Wal-Mart, Target and Hobby Lobby.  Buy all the ornaments for 50% off!   Stock up.  And yes, again, I admit I have a plastic tub of ornaments in the garage.  Just in case… ornament-pocalypse might happen…and if so, I’m ready!
My favorite ornament idea?  SIGHT WORD BALLS!
These hang from the ceiling from January until the end of the school year!  It’s a write the room activity!  The ‘staches roam the room and read and write the words!
You can apply this same idea to letters, numbers, CVC words, CVC-E words…any words!  USE ALL THE WORDS!
I’m picturing a small Christmas tree….ornaments…addition and subtraction equations…pluck a ball off the tree, write and solve!
Put 1 letter per ornament and they can build words…
And finally…again…stock up on these now!  
Write numbers to 100.  Toss the ball.  Say the number your fingers are touching.
Write sight words on index cards.  Use velcro to attach the cards to a beach ball.  Toss.  Say the word you’re touching or close to touching…
Works with CVC words…letters…sight words…CVC-E words…names…
Click the picture to see a post about this and download a free recording sheet!
Write numbers 0-10.  Toss the ball. Use the two numbers you’re touching to come up with an equation!
Morning meeting greeting…say:  Good Morning Mr. Greg and toss the ball to Mr. Greg!  
Now, I have to share something that I use for a lot of these projects…my Silhouette Cameo!  It cuts out vinyl in any font you have on your computer!   The vinyl sticks so easily and so well!  It’s a must have!

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  • Reply Maryann June 1, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    You are absolutely wonderful with your creative ideas! Thank you for the wonderful ideas to think about over the summer!
    Have a great summer and can't wait to see what you have planned for the next time!
    Thanks,
    Maryann
    brennemm@carlisleschools.org

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