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12 Classroom-Changing Items Under $40

Our teachers shared their favorite classroom items under $40 that bring a million bucks’ worth of usefulness, relief, or ease to their school day.


The right little things can make the biggest difference. Anyone who reaches for the good scissors knows what we mean. Our Teacher Facebook Community shared their favorite classroom items under $40 that bring a million bucks’ worth of usefulness, relief, or ease to their school day. Take a look and find your new favorite deals!

1. Wireless Doorbell

The 2023 version of the classic school bell? A wireless doorbell! It’s a portable, pocket-sized attention-getter, transition time signal, and voice saver.

“This doorbell has over 50 different chimes that can be changed as the day goes on. The doorbell is wireless, so I will be able to carry the button with me around the classroom. When the students hear the sound, they know to freeze and follow further instructions. Having a device that is able to change sounds will help keep the students on their toes and will get their attention easily.” Sounds in the Classroom, Mrs. Vernon, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina

2. Timers

This one’s for the easily distracted students, the overly engrossed learners…and the adults. Timers with visual and auditory indicators are a simple way to keep the class on track and reinforce time management skills for everyone.

“My students rely on visual supports to help them navigate our schedule each day. The large color display and audible reminder will help my students remain focused on their task. They will know exactly how long they have to complete an activity, and when they are permitted to take a break. The timers will also help the many adults in my classroom follow our daily schedule.” No More Time's a Wastin', Mrs. E., Grades 3-5, Ohio

3. Sticky Notes

Vibrant, multi-size sticky notes are possibly the most versatile tool in the classroom. Students can use them as exit tickets, to self-submit answers, to share positive feedback on peer work samples, to flag unknown words in books, and so much more. Can you ever have too many sticky notes?

“We need a lot of vibrant post-its to re-energize our eager readers. Our second graders know that post-it's can be used to stop and jot character traits, predictions, empathetic comments, and when they notice "college words" in their books. ” Sounds in the Classroom, Mrs. Vernon, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina

4. Pencils

We can’t say it better than this high school math teacher from our Teacher Facebook Community: “PENCILS! There are some battles I refuse to fight and pencils are on that list. Don't have a pencil? Here's one you can have. You need to borrow one every day? Fine! (If they're borrowing every day I make them return it at the end of the hour).”

Pencils in bulk. Just do it. There’s no reason to let a broken or missing pencil disrupt learning for more than the 30 seconds it would take to grab one from your stash.

5. Dry Erase Board

Sometimes all the technology in the world can’t replace the simplicity and ease of its old-school counterpart. Dry erase boards can help enhance cooperative learning, facilitate communication, serve as practice notepads — and save paper! No WiFi required.

“With a dry erase board for each student we will be able to practice writing letters, numbers and eventually words. Being able to carry a dry erase board from location to location allows for learning to continue in multiple areas. My kids love having items that are not common in their lives. Dry erase boards will provide them that. Using a dry erase board is more fun than sitting at a desk and writing on paper.” Wipe It Off And Write It Again!, Mrs. Gordanier, Grades PreK-2, Missouri

6. Stickers

Mrs. O’Shea in Brooklyn has a very valid question for you: ​​”Wouldn't you love someone to acknowledge the hard work you do every day with a jazzy sticker or a pat on the back?” Teachers in our Facebook Community are reporting skyrocketing scores and student smiles from these timeless classroom incentives. And the options are endless!

“Shopping for stickers is mind blowing. There is such a wide variety of stickers for all ages, out there! There are glitter stickers, holiday stickers, goofy character stickers, angry bird sticker, gold star stickers, cartoon character stickers, Cat in the Hat stickers, reptile stickers, butterfly stickers, inspiring word stickers, just to name a few. Every kid loves to get a sticker and every kid needs a bit of motivation to do a great job on their homework assignments.” Splendid Stickers for Spectacular Students!, Ms. O'Shea, Grades 3-5, New York

7. Velcro

Giving sticky notes a run for their money as the most versatile classroom tool: Velcro. Here’s a short list of ideas and one awesome project example that uses Velcro in at least four ways.

  • Sensory tactiles (Velcro under the desk as a fidget tool!)
  • Durable alternative to floor tape
  • Name tags
  • Anchor charts
  • Workplace labels
  • Communication boards
  • Fine motor skill builders
  • Hanging…anything!

8. Play-Doh

A learning tool disguised as a toy, what’s not to love? Play-Doh gives students a hands-on medium for any subject, any lesson. Or for those five minutes between lessons when everyone needs a brain break.

“Academically, my students can use Play-Doh in our literacy centers to identify letters, learn sight words, and towards the end of the year they can use Play-Doh to build sentences using the stamps. Play-Doh can be used in many different ways in our Math and Science centers too! My students can use Play-Doh during the free-choice time to be creative and use their imagination. No two students learn the same way, so the addition of Play-Doh in my classroom allows me one more method to teach my students.” Squish, Mold, Roll...Where is the Play-Doh, Mrs. V?, Mrs. Vultaggio, Grades PreK-2, Michigan

9. Kwik Paint Sticks

By teacher definition: “Kwik Stix are like a mix between crayons and tempura paint. They make it easy for the child to paint with brilliant, bold colors but no mess. They also give lots of control which is great for a child with fine motor goals.” (Thanks, Ms. Doman!) 

A no-mess option for artistic expression in the classroom? We’ll take three.

“The Kwik Stix are a fun tool for painting, poster making and experimenting with color mixing. Some students don't like painting because it can often be messy and hard to control. These painting sticks make it easy to explore painting without the mess.” Exploring Kwik Stix in the Painting Center, Ms. Brown, Grades 3-5, New York

10. Pop-its

You may not have heard of these but we guarantee your students have! Teachers in our Facebook Community have found tons of ways to turn these popular stress-relieving fidget toys into bona fide classroom aids for everything from math to reading to sensory tools.

“Pop It Fidget devices have a multitude of possibilities for use within a Kindergarten classroom. We would like to use the Pop Its to support our kiddos in all areas. In reading, we can use the Pop Its to count the number of sounds within a word and to help tap out our words. The Pop Its can also be used to make the shapes of letters. We can use the Pop Its in math to add, create a number and even subtract.” Pop It Learning!, Ms. Ruder, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina

11. Over-the-ear Headphones

Dreaming of a quieter, more focused classroom? No judgment here – just a great idea for making it happen. Over-the-ear headphones are surprisingly inexpensive and give students independent access to all the audio resources they need.

“My students love using technology in the classroom to aid in their learning. There are a lot of great resources available, but most use audio. Headphones are required so as not to disrupt other students' learning, and allow for more technology to be used during independent work, which is done every day during guided reading. These headphones will also allow students to create projects that showcase their learning, because they have a microphone that they can talk into.” We Can Hear It Now!, Mrs. Weaver, Grades 3-5, South Carolina

12. Flair Pens

The yellow #2 pencil will always be a staple, but pens have their place, too. Teachers for all grades find use in PaperMate Flair Pens (standard black and every color!). One teacher in our Facebook Community reports that after a year and a half of remote laptop learning, Flair pens helped motivate their 7th graders to use their writers notebooks. Little learners can benefit from pens, too!

“The advantage to having the pens instead of pencils, is to be able to see the child’s thinking. When children make mistakes using a pencil, they simply erase. I am able to see the thinking work that my students go through with pens instead of pencils. Cross-outs, attempts at solving a tricky problem, or the spelling of a tricky word can tell me so much about what my students already know and what they need to learn next. Pens enable us to teach our students and our school community that we value process as much as we do product.” Writer’s Workshop: Beyond the Pencil, Mrs. Morris, Grades PreK-2, Texas

Take a look at the new projects teachers are working on to show their students that learning is the best kind of adventure, then start your own low-cost project!

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