By Andrew Hawk
The holiday season is a busy and exciting time for adults and children alike. During the hustle-bustle of the season, people of all ages will look for the perfect gifts for friends and family. Businesses will try their best to draw customers to their products. The sales totals that companies accumulate during this season will determine if some businesses keep their doors open for another year.
Soon, December 25 turns into December 26. Children enjoy their presents as the anticipation fades away. Store employees gather up the products that people spent countless hours scrutinizing, and another sales season begins. These sales should not go unnoticed by teachers. After-holiday sales give teachers the opportunity to upgrade their classrooms at a fraction of the normal cost. Here are some products you might look for when the holiday celebrations are over.
Games, Games, and More Games
Oh, no! The weather is bad and students will be inside for recess. Students will groan as they look through a cabinet full of garage sale finds and other games left behind by the previous teacher.
It shouldn’t be hard to find good deals on classic board games before and after the shopping season. Vintage games such as Life or Monopoly involve math skills, and Scrabble needs no explanation of its value. Many of these games now have shortened versions perfect for a twenty-minute recess or a reward day.
When I taught first grade, the teacher who taught across the hall from me made ornaments with her students each year. She would buy plain ball ornaments and put her students’ fingerprints on them using white paint. The prints were arranged to make a snowman. Students took these ornaments home to give to a loved one as a gift. Right after the holiday season, those plain balls will be extremely discounted at many popular stores. This example is just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities for using holiday decorations in craft projects with students.
Does your nurse’s office stock extra clothes in case of accidents? Extra pants, shirts, coats, and underwear come in really handy if you work in an elementary school. Ask your administrator if there are any funds in the budget to add to your school’s extra clothes inventory. If no funds are available, it is a good idea to circulate an email asking for donations from staff members.
Lots of people give books for presents, and lots of books end up on sale after the winter holidays. This is the perfect chance to add to your classroom library. You can also acquire one or more classroom sets of novels if you look in the right store.
If you are like me, you send thank-you cards to parents if you receive a gift. I also like to send them to colleagues from time to time if they go the extra mile for our school or need a little encouragement. Many of the cards you find on sale after the holidays will be holiday-themed, but if you look hard enough, you should be able to find a couple of boxes that will work any time of the year.
Many teachers like to give candy to students as a reward. If your administrator allows this, post-holiday sales offer the chance to fill your reserves at very good prices. The students I have worked with over the years have never complained about leftover Christmas candy (or any other holiday candy for that matter).
The education world is on fire right now for science, technology, engineering, and math—and for good reason. This style of teaching science and math also integrates writing, reading, and problem-solving. In my experience, student engagement is consistently high during these lessons. Anything from toys to decorations could be used in a STEM lesson. Complete a quick internet search to find a lesson you like. Then figure out which materials you can save on during the sales season. One idea that I have (but have not tried yet) is to instruct students to build a container using only wrapping paper and tape (limits would be placed on materials) to carry candy. The team that builds the container that holds the most candy without falling apart wins! Always remember to have students write an entry in their STEM journals describing their procedures.
Many classrooms maintain a class store. Students earn classroom money for various good deeds. These dollars can be spent on items or privileges. I ran a classroom store for three years. The holiday sales season is the perfect time to acquire reward items cheaply. Pencils, toys, and other trinkets are easy to find at low prices after the winter holidays.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for sixteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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