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Unexpected Places to Find Inspiration for the Classroom

Take your creativity to a new level with these five new and unexpected places to find inspiration for your classroom.

Teachers are creatures of habit and, admittedly that isn’t surprising since teachers often do the same activities and lessons over and over.

Whether you are an elementary school teacher who is looking for another set of task cards or you are a middle school teacher who teaches the same lesson six or more times a day, we often find ourselves repeating ideas and using the same sources to gather new information and inspiration.

We tend to have our go-to places that we seek out when looking for classroom inspiration. Maybe you’re already familiar with some of these.

Unexpected places to find lesson inspiration feature image with four pictures in circles spread around amongst other white circles: kids playing on the playground, kids playing with hula hoops, kids hands all together in a circle, and kids playing with something that looks like sticks
  • Target Dollar Section (You know that glorious section right at the entrance filled with items that range between $1-$5 that is always perfectly stocked with holiday items and back-to-school treasures)
  • The Library (Where imagination and plot sparks our creativity and gets us thinking about how new stories can teach old concepts in new ways!)

These are all fantastic options for the teacher looking to find something new, but don’t let these places be the only stops on your path to the inspiration station!

Today we are talking about some of the UNEXPECTED places you might go to look for inspiration as you begin considering ways to give some of your older lessons and activities a little sprucing up.

#1 | A Home Improvement Store

Although it seems odd, home improvement stores are like inspiration gold.

I love perusing the shelves of the Habitat for Humanity Restore and considering what the items could become….yes, I said become. Because the items I buy rarely stay just as they originally were. 

Walk into your local home improvement store with these questions on your mind.

Unexpected places to find inspiration for the classroom facebook image with three pictures: a lumberyard, students standing up against a whiteboard with colored lights shining on their faces, and a playground

When I walk through a home improvement store, I often find myself standing and holding random items (like paint brushes or sponges or carpet squares) and just thinking about what that item could do in my classroom. What role could it play? 

Tip from a Pro: Remember, you are not here to buy items…yet. That could get expensive quickly! On our first trip we are simply snapping pictures, taking notes, and considering the possibilities.

#2 | A Party Store

If you like color-coding classrooms and coming up with new systems, I love strongly suggest going to the party store for inspiration.

One of the things I like best about a party store is that it is often arranged by color, which means that I can find exactly what I need to set up different color-coded stations in my room or put together different classroom themes that I can change throughout the year.

Halloween Glow Games

I also like the party store for game and activity inspiration.

I like to walk around the store and think about some of the activities I already have planned and consider how adding an element like a piñata or a stack of colorful bowls might add a little ‘something something’ to the lesson. 

What if students got to fill the piñata with candy and prizes they earn as part of their class incentive, or I can use the party bowls as part of the fun during our math glow games in October.  

Again, the ideas will really start flowing so maybe take the time to purchase one of the cute little notebooks they have at the party store and start jotting down ideas. 

#3 | Your School Playground

We often think about the stuff we can add to an idea to make it better, but maybe what we really need is a change of location.

I really like to spend some time walking around the school grounds, specifically the playground, and considering what activities or lessons could be upgraded with a simple shift to the outdoors.

In this post, we talk about different ways to use the slides from the Fun in 5th Grade game shows. Two of those ideas, the Egg Hunt and the Scavenger Hunt, would work really well out on a playground. 

Sometimes something as simple as changing the location of the ‘classroom’ can change the level of engagement.

#4 | A Thrift Store

Oh the randomness of a good thrift store. Where someone else’s junk becomes the perfect prop you needed to take the reading of your new class text to a whole new level.

In all honesty though, don’t be afraid to spend some quality time in a thrift store many times throughout the year as the inventory changes so regularly that you never know when the right knick-knack could spur your next great idea. 

Some items you definitely want to consider picking up are old board games to use with some of your task card sets, or you can use the game pieces in other ways altogether like for class projects or crafts or counting collections or math manipulatives.

I also love picking up costumes to create a costume closet or costume trunk for acting out some of our class reading.

#5 | Another Classroom

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget that there are a lot of other teachers (and students) in your school district, and they have creative minds as well.

As a teacher of younger students, I often find myself looking for inspiration from high school teachers and high school students. 

Maybe there is a high school student who is a phenomenal artist who could come in and visit your students and illustrate the story they’ve been working on, or maybe a couple members from the high school football team could come in and help you talk about how percentages are important in sports. Maybe the art club could create some mugs that you could use to store some of your class supplies or the gamer club could come talk about the importance of developing a story in game design.

Teachers at different grade levels may also have some interesting ideas that you wouldn’t have considered. We are all looking for the best way to introduce, review, and assess information and skills, so take some pages from your colleagues’ books while you’re out looking for ideas!

We have so many students and other teachers who do amazing things…utilize all that talent, information, and knowledge to help your students learn!


What do you think of our unexpected place to find inspiration for the classroom? Do any of these inspirational places surprise you? Are you feeling eager to go exploring? We sure hope so, but we’d also like to hear from you. What places do you go to for inspiration? Let us know, and maybe we’ll add your idea to this list!

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