I love using supplementary resources! They improve any curriculum and increase engagement. Whether it be task cards, sort cards, board games, Jeopardy games, sorting activities, physical movement challenges, unusual writing projects, or something else, I love supplementary resources! They improve any curriculum and increase engagement.
However, some challenges exist with supplemental resources. Today, I’d like to discuss hints for printing those resources you’ve created, downloaded, or purchased from someone else. Here are my top three tips for printing those supplemental activities.
Unless you are homeschooling or doing tutoring, you likely have more than three or four students in your class. My ESL classes typically range from twelve to twenty-four students, but I have had classes of up to thirty, and once, I had a class with fifty in it. Since most of my activities are designed for two to four students per group, this means I need multiple copies of each exercise. Another thing all teachers know to be true is no matter how conscientious and responsible your students may be, at some point, a card or other piece of an activity will fall on the floor or get stuck under a book and be missed during the cleanup process. Thus, you will have to figure out exactly which copy of an activity that particular card belongs with.
I’ve found an easy solution to this problem: colored cardstock. When printing my games, task cards, etc. I print each copy on a different color of cardstock. That way, when a card is found on the floor or under a book after the activity has been put away, I can quickly determine exactly which copy of the activity it belongs to. Green cards go with the green copy, blue cards go with the blue copy, and so on. This has saved me so much time that I’ve started to remake materials from early in my career that are all on white cardstock.
I use a few resources that do not work as well with this tip. These games or activities have images where color is an essential factor, and using colored cardstock inhibits student learning. However, I’ve found that I can still get several different sets by printing on white, cream, speckled, light gray, and light yellow cardstock. Five sets of an activity that can support four students per set gets me reasonably close to a typical class size of 25-30 students. And when I do have to make multiple sets on the same color of cardstock, it still takes much less time to figure out if a card goes with the first or second white set versus which of seven or eight white sets!
This is an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how many teachers don’t laminate their materials. I can understand why because lamination can be expensive but worth it. I have tried it out, and the materials I don’t laminate only last a few years, even with mature students who use them carefully. In contrast, the materials I laminate last almost forever. I have some games and activities that I have used multiple times a year for the last twenty-plus years, and they still look nice.
I have tried many lamination forms, from hot roller laminate to pouches to cold laminate; my preference is cold lamination. My experience with the large laminators at school is they tend to peel, especially after you cut through the paper. The large machines are also not practical to have at home, I’ve worked at several schools that didn’t have them at all, and other schools that limited how much laminating each teacher could do. With the small hot laminators, I have trouble getting my materials lined up in the pouches, and again, they tend to peel after being cut through. I was also never comfortable using the hot machines around small fingers (children) and wet noses (pets). I found the Xyron EZ Laminator, tried it, and have never regretted it. My first one lasted nearly a decade, and my second is still going strong after ten years. What I like most about it is it is very portable, does not require electricity, is safe around children and pets, and the finished product never peels–even after I cut through it. The major drawback is that you are limited to paper that is no more than nine inches wide (but up to sixty feet long).
A few years ago, I wrote a post reviewing how I organize and store my supplemental materials. I’d like to reiterate a small part of that here, though. I keep my activities and games in plastic bins labeled by subject/topic (past tense verbs, compound words, integers, etc.). Each game/activity is kept in its own large Ziploc bag. Inside the large bag goes directions and the game boards. Smaller game pieces (such as playing cards, dice, and player pieces) go into smaller Ziploc bags, one bag for each group of students. This allows me to quickly grab a single bag and know I have everything I need (besides extra copies of recording sheets) to implement that game/activity with my students. It also means that when I pass materials out to students, I don’t have to count out pieces or separate sets of cards. I grab the large bag, walk to each group, hand them a game board and small bag, and walk to the next group.
Before someone gets upset with me and begins to lecture about how there’s too much plastic in the world, please hear me out on something. I have been using this system, with the same plastic totes and the same plastic bags, for well over a decade now. I only throw them out when they become ripped and unusable, which is a rare occurrence. Whenever possible, I recycle materials and storage items that are no longer usable. I do my best to care for our planet, but I also try to be practical about what it takes to do this job.
There’s nothing revolutionary about these tips, and I would be embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure them out, but they have made my life a lot easier. My activity creation process is quick and relatively painless because I know exactly what I’m doing each time. My materials last a long time, and my time and sanity are saved through an organization system that allows me to quickly find what I need and get it into the hands of students. I hope some of you can be spared the trial-and-error process and enjoy the fruits of my experience. Happy teaching, everyone.