One Thing You Should Always Keep in Your Classroom (and Why!)

There are so many teacher tools, tricks and lists of classroom must-haves. And while I love so many fun supplies and gadgets, I have learned over the years that the most simple things can be the most effective tools. Here’s one thing you should always have in your classroom (and why!)

The One Thing You Should Always Keep in your Classroom

No matter how amazing the lesson plan, the inevitable always occurs.
Have any of these ever happened to you?

  • You saved the link to that awesome website you found. It was SURE to enrich your lesson on nonfiction text features. The video explained them in a kid friendly language better than you ever could. Double click….and….nothing. Wifi is down. Websites down. SmartBoard is not responding. Now what?
  • Your original copies are all sitting neatly in your plastic drawer which is beautifully labeled “to copy”. It’s plan time and you have every intention to head to the copier but your teacher bestie stops by to tell you about her weekend. Next thing you know, it’s time to pick up your kids from the gym. No copies were made…
  • It’s guided reading time and your students are super into the book they read about penguins. You capitalize on their excitement by pulling out a nonfiction book you have sitting around–also about penguins. You want to take the opportunity to compare and contract fiction and nonfiction but you didn’t prep anything ahead of time.
  • It’s 2:30 on a Friday and raining. Indoor recess had to be cut short because your kids are arguing about who’s turn it was to play Sorry next and you just cannot take it anymore. You planned to read from your chapter book but you can’t do that for a full 30 minutes and your throat is starting to hurt.
What would you do?! There is ONE solution to ALL of these scenarios. Are you ready? Wait for it…
Drumroll please…..
Pull out some blank paper.

Yes, it’s that simple. And here are 5 things to do with blank paper–ideas to keep in your back pocket.

Fold that paper in half, make some cuts and ta-da–you have yourself a learning activity. Label each flap with a category within a topic you are learning—like suffixes. Then have students write examples under each flap. Or, even better, have them search in books to find them. This is so versatile!

This is a perfect review activity. Students get into small groups and you pick a topic. For example, after I teach about polar bears, I ask students to write or draw about things they learned. I set a timer for a minute. You can have 1 student draw at a time or the entire group work together. They write and draw as many things as they can and then pass it when the time is up. If you want to add some friendly competition, count up how many different ideas they recorded and the team with the most wins. It’s fun and a perfect informal assessment tool!


Not only is this a great no-prep activity, students will benefit greatly from being able to design their own graphic organizer. Just pick whatever skill you want to work on and pair it with a book you are reading. If you are teaching main idea, draw one large rectangle and three smaller rectangles. Keep a visual of graphic organizer types laminated and on hand for quick ideas.

{I use a directed drawing for each one of the U.S. symbols we learn about. Students use a blank 11×14 sheet of paper to draw and then write 2 facts about the symbol.}

If you have never done a directed drawing before, you need to try this one! They are magical! You can find them on TpT or on YouTube (even better because you don’t even have to talk!). Students love these step-by-step drawings. They can be for fun or tied to something educational. I love to do one on a Friday that connects with whatever we were learning.

Charts are my go to activity when I forget to copy something or I need an activity on the fly–especially during guided reading. Simply have students fold their paper in half, thirds or fourths. They can make a vocabulary graphic organizer, or sort words with different patterns. It could even be a task card recording sheet. Once, I had students make a mini-version of my anchor chart on blank paper and they used it quite often as a reference tool.

Happy Teaching!


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