Teacher Tips: Cool Educational Supplies for Classroom and Home
Education| By Amy Vagne | September 8, 2020
Teachers share expert tips for the best educational supplies and learning resources for primary school kids to use in the classroom or for at-home teaching.
Looking for educational supplies and learning resources? We asked primary school teacher Renee Thielbeer to share her best buys, top tips and clever classroom hacks that you can use to set up a successful learning environment at home or at school. A 2015 Australian study identified that a child’s home learning environment, packed with books and arts and craft supplies, can positively affect both reading ability and numeracy levels. So what are you waiting for?
First things first. Kids need a comfortable, clean space to sit down and complete their work. At school this is sorted for you, but what about at home? “Once they’re in primary school I always recommend they have their own desk or at least a designated space to do their learning that’s neat and tidy and a good space for thinking,” Renee says. Spend some time organising stationery and other educational supplies so that everything is accessible and easy to pack away. “I use desk caddies or trays,” Renee says. “It divides up the essential things they need: books, glue, pencils, scissors, everything! Then they don’t have to go and find it somewhere in their bag.” Speaking of stationery, Renee also recommends buying duplicates of the basics like glue, scissors, pencils and erasers. Have one set for home and one for the school classroom to alleviate the hassle of carting things back and forth.
What To Try
“Coding is now a mandatory part of primary curriculum,” Renee says, “so the Sphero robotics products from Officeworks are something I dream about for my classroom.” Indeed any products that engage those core STEM skills and encourage kids to solve problems and think critically are recommended. Renee also likes the K’NEX range, which allows kids to build and make things using different sized rods and pieces, “Playing with items like this is the basics of engineering. You could also use it in maths for patterns. Or use the fold-out directions as a model text for procedure writing.” She’s also a fan of EDX Education’s GeoStix set – “It’s the best [learning] resource I’ve come across for teaching about 2D shapes. It’s a large pack of 100 rod-like pieces in all different colours and the pieces are flexible so you can snap them together to make any shape that you want.” Tablets or iPads are commonly used in schools now and while they’re not compulsory, they do offer lots of fun opportunities for learning. “There are so many amazing educational apps available,” Renee shares, “And that was life-changing, especially during COVID, when we had to make everything go online.” Some of Renee’s top website picks are Vooks and teacher resource sites like TPT or TeachStarter.
What To Try
Teaching mathematics to kids can be tricky, especially when you’re dealing with more complex or abstract topics. Evidence shows that using small physical objects such as counters to count, group, model and move around can encourage learning and improve student outcomes. “You can use anything, even toothpicks! I also like coloured mini pom poms,” Renee says. If you’re keen to work on maths and number skills, Renee has plenty of great educational product recommendations – “I use a deck of cards and dice almost daily for a whole range of number games. I would also spend money on board games and puzzles, get the kids counting along, solving problems, reading the numbers on the dice, and adding dice together. There are a lot of money resources out there, but look for ones that are Australian and to scale, if possible. Children are having less and less experience with handling money and this year even more so. It should actually be a regular hands-on thing.”
What To Try
- Kadink Matchsticks Coloured 1000 Pack
- Kadink Playing Cards
- Thinkfun Maths Dice Jr Game
- Kadink Snakes and Ladders Game
- Kadink Pom Poms Assorted 70 Pack
- Learning Can Be Fun Adding Money Snap Game
- Learning Can Be Fun Matching Coins Dominoes
Reading & Writing Essentials
According to Renee, if you’re looking to develop those all-important literacy skills, it pays to focus on regular reading. “I’d suggest getting a library membership or a book club subscription. The only thing that will improve students’ reading, and therefore writing, is to read aloud to their parents. And having the parents read to them gives them great language to use.” Cultivating a love of reading is so important, as reading for pleasure boosts skills like spelling and vocabulary and is also linked to reducing depression and enhancing empathy. “Here’s something else I can’t live without,” Renee says, “Whiteboard markers and mini whiteboards. All of my students have their own and they can scrawl down ideas and brainstorm.” For younger students, a personal whiteboard is also perfect for daily writing practice – get them to write, wipe and repeat: letters, numbers and words.
What To Try
Display & Decor
Decorating your learning space isn’t just about the aesthetics. Most teachers will utilise walls and doors to hang up students’ work or stick up resources that can assist with learning. “I’m laminating something every couple of weeks,” Renee says. “Especially if you’re on the same grade each year, you’ll often use the same resources so you want to keep them nice.” If you don’t have a laminator, Officeworks can laminate your documents for you. You can use Blu Tack, velcro spots or a staple gun to secure educational posters and work to walls. Another item that Renee recommends is a large wall-sized world map – she particularly likes the Huge Felt Wall Map from Officeworks. “I’ve been looking for something like this for years. It’s a great size for a wall display, for people to refer to, but it’s also really cool for a whole classroom or a small group exploration. I’ll be using it in my Year 2 Geography unit.”
What To Try
- Huge World Felt Map
- J.Burrows A3 Home Laminator
- Fellowes A4 100 Micron Laminating Pouch Gloss 100 Pack
- Bostik Blu-Tack Colour 75g
- J.Burrows Hook and Loop Dots 22mm White 62 Pack