There are very few things that bring me as much pleasure as spending some quality time in a dollar store.
As I walk the aisles, my mind runs wild with all the possibilities about how these inexpensive items could be used to enhance my students’ classroom experiences.
I decided recently that it has been way too long since I went to a dollar store to be inspired, so I packed up the ol’ purse, grabbed my notebook, and took myself down to the nearest store for inspiration.
I always recommend taking a notebook and pen to the store or pulling up a note app on your phone since you’ll never know when inspiration will strike. After just a few minutes, I found my cart filling with items and my brain exploding with ideas.
Thus this blog post was born.
13 Items I Picked Up at the Dollar Store (and how I plan to use them)
#1 | A Velcro Ball and Target Set
Use any set of cards with this Velcro Ball and Target set to add a fun game element to your U-KNOW sets or any other task card sets you want students to work on.
Begin by asking a student to flip a card and answer the question. If correct, they get to throw 1-3 balls at the target to determine their points. Students will keep track of the points to create a fun competition.
This is a great option for a full-class review, small group time, or a center activity.
#2 | Dice and Storage Containers
If you are looking for small containers for class items like dice or task cards, the dollar store always seems to have something to meet your needs. I found small containers like the ones in the picture that work great for dice.
In addition to getting the container, the dollar store is also an excellent place to pick up dice, playing cards, manipulatives, and other items that can be used to enhance games in the classroom.
#3 | Barrel of Monkeys
In the toy and game section, I stumbled upon this Barrel of Monkeys game. My favorite part of this game is the ability to assign different colored monkeys to each student.
My idea is that each student will flip a card with a question, either from a U-KNOW deck or any of the other task-card-based games, and if they get the question right, they get to hang a monkey that is their color on the chain. This is a fun way to tally correct answers!
You can also use these little monkeys in a fun, full class activity.
Assign students into three groups. Each group will correspond with one of the colors of monkeys in the container. Then give the students a task to complete. This could be a series of questions, a hard math problem, a riddle, etc.
Once a student believes they have answered correctly, they will run back to the teacher (or walk at a quick pace) and get their answer checked. If they are right, they will grab a monkey that is their team’s color and run up to the front of the room to hang it up in a designated spot. The first team to get a certain number of monkeys hung up wins.
#4 | Mini Cardboard Cornhole Set
Use this mini version of a common backyard game with any set of cards!
Start by asking students to answer a question. If their answer is correct, the student gets a chance to earn an extra point if they can toss the little discs and get them in the hole.
For best results, make sure to assign a point value to the cards too!
#5 | Suction Cup Football Posts
This football-inspired game is a perfect fall activity to use alongside your other games and card-based activities in the classroom!
To begin, students get points when they answer a question correctly. Then they can shoot for an extra point with the football and goalposts.
Or you can put a number on each side of the ‘football’, and how the football lands determine the number of points the student gets for answering correctly.
#6 | LED Glow Art
This little glowing game would be great on a day that you are doing glow games or as a point tracker for other activities.
Assign each student to play one of the colors in the game. One person will flip a card, and everyone will answer on their whiteboards. After showing their answers and determining the correct answers, students will get to add a peg of their color to the board.
#7 | Star Wand with Cutout
This was cool, and I could see myself ending up with a whole class set of these little wands.
My first thought was that students could use the wand if there are a few choices for all of the questions like this fact and opinion set. I also like this for multiple choice activities as students could write A, B, C, and D on their whiteboards and then use the wands to select their answer in private, then the teacher could walk the room and get a feel for the students’ choices before revealing the answer.
On a completely different note, I think these could be used for student check-ins. By putting some emojis across the top of the students’ desks, they could set their wand on the emoji that best fits their mood or level of confusion. This is an easy way for students to reveal their thoughts and feelings without having to say anything out loud or make a big deal out of it.
#8 | Mini Basketball
Use this mini basketball game in much the same way you use the target or the football games.
Students flip a card, and all students answer on whiteboards…then if correct, they take a shot for bonus points. They can then keep track of their total points on their whiteboards.
You can also reverse this idea and start the game by shooting baskets. For every basket one team makes, the other team has to answer an extra question to earn their points for the round.
#9 | Stickers
Stickers! They have lots of stickers at the dollar store, so I grabbed some and a pack of colored notecards. I’ll use the stickers to document points and the notecards as a way of displaying them.
This method can be used to track points in any of the games that we’ve listed so far in this post (basketball, football, or the target game), or it can be used as a way of simply tracking correct guesses.
Stickers and notecards are also a simple way of documenting good behavior in the classroom!
#10 | Colorful Popsicle Sticks
I would always grab these while I was teaching because their uses are limitless.
I would put questions and answers on these sticks and ask students to make pairs. I would put point values on them as a way of keeping track of points during a game. I would put students’ names on the sticks for picking groups or randomly assigning tasks in the classroom. So many different uses, and you can get a whole pack (like those in the picture) for just a buck!
#11 | Colorful Pipe Cleaners
These colorful pipe cleaners are a great way to visually show a student’s progress. Students can earn the pipe cleaners for correct answers and wear them around their wrists like bracelets.
They could also be given out to determine specific classroom duties like the line leader, different color groups for jigsaw-based activities, or to represent the different teams in a game. I like that you can mold these pipe cleaners into other things, which is why they are so versatile!
#12 | Popcorn Containers
Popcorn…they had these containers 2/$1! I grabbed them but had to buy the balls (like the ones pictured) on Amazon. It’s the only thing I didn’t buy at the dollar tree.
I like using these within the popcorn theme. Basically, each student gets a container. As they get correct answers, they add popcorn to their container. This is fun for a theme day or theme week!
#13 | A Puzzle
I really like the idea of using a puzzle as a full-class incentive project. Instead of adding marbles to a jar or some other item, students could earn a piece of the puzzle.
Although this is the puzzle I picked up, I would strongly recommend using a much smaller puzzle for an activity like this. I also think it would be beneficial to put the puzzle together ahead of time and number the pieces so that the student’s pieces will fit together as they earn them.
It’s always fun and inspirational to spend time at the dollar store just looking around and dreaming about how items can be used in an unexpected way in the classroom. Use some of these ideas or take some time to head to the dollar store yourself. We’d love to hear about what you found and how you plan to use your new treasures!