Whether you are setting up your very first classroom, or are looking for cost effective classroom ideas, this post is for you. Over the past 8 years I’ve found a number of ways to build an inviting classroom space without breaking the bank.
#1 BUILDING A CLASSROOM LIBRARY
One question I hear over and over again, is how to build a classroom library. We want #allthebooks for our classroom, but let's just be real, books can be expensive. Even at a $1 or 0.50 a piece, it can add up quickly! As a new teacher, it's easy to look at the extensive library of your teacher neighbor and feel both awe and overwhelm. But it's important to remember that most likely the teacher started out with a small collection of books, and it took years (and a lot of money) to build their solid library. So no need to fret!
Check out books from the school and public library:
Not only are the books free, but most libraries allow an account to check out as many as 50 books at a time. So, let's say you check out a new rotation of books every 2 weeks. You could potentially rotate through as many as 1,0000 books over the course of the school year. That’s a lot of books, and a lot of savings, because the average picture book or chapter book cost is around $12 for a new copy.
Will it be a forever book?
I still purchase books for my classroom library, but when I decide whether or not to make a purchase, I determine if it will be a “forever book” in my library. I also like to support authors by purchasing directly from their website, if possible.
Adding Diverse Books:
I love thrift shopping. It's one of my favorite things to do. But while finding books at thrift stores is another option, the library offers newly released titles as well as the ability to bring in diverse books to your classroom. Second hand stores often carry classics, but it can be difficult to find diverse or new books. Just look at the graphic below; we need to make sure our students have access to diverse books and that all our students are represented in the books we bring into our classroom.
The library is also a great resource for finding informational text centered around our topic or unit of study. I usually check out as many books as possible, and stand the books on a table so they are visible and accessible. Checking out books from the library also widens our book selection, which means that I can bring in books from various genres to spark student interest.
How do I keep track of library books?
When I check out books at the library, I make sure to get a list of all the books in a receipt or email. When I return the books I can run down the list and make sure I have all of them. With younger kiddos, students must return the books to the library table after reading time is over. With upper elementary kiddos, you might have a book check-out sheet handy so that if a student keeps the book in their desk, you know who is responsible for a missing book. I also do not allow students to take home library books. This saves me so much hassle.
#2 SEARCH CRAIGSLIST & MAKE AN OFFER:
If you are looking for bookshelves, furniture, or flexible seating options, Craigslist is a great option. I have found seating and storage for my classroom at a fraction of the price. I like to scan the "Free" section on Craigslist for items I could use in the my classroom. When I find something of interest, I am always sure to ask if the item is from a pet free/smoke free home. With student allergies, it’s so important that the items we pick up are clean.
I was kind of intimidated as first to ask the seller if they would be willing to sell their item at a lower price, but I've found that most people are pretty open and willing to sell at a better price (sometimes free!) if I share that I'm a teacher.
Here’s an example of what I might say:
Hello, I’m interested in __________. I’m a ________(grade/subject) teacher at ___________ school, and am looking for ways that I can add _________________ in my classroom. Would you be willing to sell _________ for a more friendlier price (or name the price), or possibly donate this item to my classroom. I know my students would be forever grateful. Thank you.
People tend to understand that teachers spend their own money on their classrooms.
I have found many people are willing to donate the item to my classroom, I just have to ask. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no, and I keep looking; something else will pop up. I have found flexible seating options, bookshelves, storage shelving and this exercise system, which I used for kids that need a quick brain break, all for free, simply because I asked.
#3 JOIN "BUY NOTHING" FACEBOOK GROUPS:
I love local Buy Sell Trade or Buy Nothing groups on Facebook. Typically, I have found the Facebook groups helpful for ISO (In Search Of) posts.
Supplies for school projects:
I was looking for buttons for a school project, and I figured that instead of buying a bunch of buttons, I would post on my local Buy Nothing group to see if someone had a jar of buttons in the back corner of their sewing closet collecting dust. And sure enough, multiple people came forward willing to help with my class project. This not only saved me money, but I got a wide selection of buttons too.
Porch Pick Up
A few years ago, I picked up a free paper cutter for my classroom. Even though my school work room had one, it was handy to have my own in my classroom for last minute needs. I didn’t pay anything, I just ran across it on the page, and was able to pick it up from someone's porch on my way home from work.
In the image below, the tent was obtained for free, and was perfect place for reading. The window covering I made from scrapes of fabric I found at a second-hand store.
I have found that when I post a need and explain the purpose behind that need, my local community is eager to help. Buy Nothing groups on Facebook are a great money saving solution.
There are plenty of other ways to save money on your classroom. Here is a list of a few additional ideas:
- Set up a Donors Choose project
- Shop Thrift Stores
- Shop Yard Sales
- Find a Retired Teacher
- Scholastic Warehouse Sales (major discounts on books!)
- Gain Points through Scholastic Book Sales (free books!)
- Set up an Amazon Wish List
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