Let’s face it.
None of us went into the teaching profession because we thought we could make a million dollars. Teaching is infamous for reaping low salaries and even lower budgets, so every teacher I know is continually looking for inexpensive resources for the classroom. Never fear! You can have great materials in your classroom without breaking the bank. Here are some places to look for materials you can use in class.
13 Great Places to Find Resources on a Budget
Probably your best source for ideas and materials is other ESL teachers. If you have other teachers at your school, pool your resources. You may be in different classes, but you are still on the same team, and you may find that sharing benefits both you and them. But don’t feel stuck if you are the only ESL teacher at your school, join an online forum or a local network of teachers and pool your resources there.
Once you get involved with a group of teachers, you may hear of a resource swap. A swap is basically a get together where everyone brings one or more idea or resource material (kind of like a classroom potluck). You come together, see what each person has, and trade. Everyone leaves with less unwanted classroom clutter and at least one fresh resource for their classroom. It doesn’t take a lot to organize a swap, so don’t be afraid to put on one yourself if you don’t find another one near you.
If you are looking for lesson plans or worksheets, you already know what a great resource Busy Teacher is. We have thousands of worksheets and lesson plans that you can simply print and go at no cost to you. If you want even more resources, try our eBook collection which will give you enough ideas to keep your classroom busy.
Other Teacher Websites
Busy Teacher isn’t the only website to find great resources. Try Teachers Pay Teachers or education.com among others for more resources for free or at discount prices.
Twice a year, my local library has a public book sale where they sell donations from the community as well as library books that don’t circulate or that have been damaged. At our sale, you can get a paper grocery bag for $5 and fill it with as many books as you can. This is a tremendous way to get books for next to nothing for my classroom. (It’s not unusual for me to get 30-50 books in my bag.) Many libraries offer similar sales once or twice a year. Ask at your local branch about book sales coming up in your area to cash in on a bargain book sale near you.
What do people do with magazines once they have read them? I know what my friends and family do. They give them to me! My students use old magazines for countless activities in my classroom, and yours can, too. Start saving magazines of your own, put a message out on social media that you are collecting them, or hit up your local used book store for next to nothing prices on old reads. You can use those magazines for all sorts of activities in your classroom both as reading material and for the pictures as well as not-so-typical vocabulary words.
If you have a homeschool network near you (and you probably do whether you’ve heard of it or not) check with them to see if they have a book swap or sale any time during the year. Often they do, and you can get text books for all levels and ages which you will find useful in your ESL classroom. Particularly useful are reading curriculums that include reading material at a variety of skill levels – just perfect for ESL students in the process of language learning.
End of the Year Clean Out
Your local public schools probably spend some time at the end of the year doing cleanup and clear out of books and classroom materials. A phone call or two may be all you need to have access to texts and other materials your schools are getting rid of, and you will find that those materials are great resources for your students.
Used Book Stores
Used book stores are a favorite hangout of mine, but besides giving me reading material for next to nothing, they are a great place to get resources for your classroom. My bookstore has a clearance section where nearly everything is $1-2. These clearance items include children’s books, nonfiction books, and teacher resources. It’s all about looking through the clearance section at the right time to find the books I’m looking for. But even if I don’t hit the clearance section at the right time, the store has plenty of educational resources at low prices. Check out your local bookstore and see if you can’t find some great resources for next to nothing. I’ll bet you can.
When was the last time you were in a thrift store? While most may focus on clothing for all ages, you will also find books, games, and other materials that work great for the ESL classroom if you take a look. Inventory changes every day, so make a habit of stopping by the Salvation Army Store, Goodwill, or whatever thrift store is close to you and look for old games, books and magazines, and other materials that fit in with whatever unit you are teaching.
The Dollar Bins
Have you looked in the dollar bins at Target and Michaels lately? You can find great resources there all through the year but especially right before back to school. You can find workbooks, flashcards, classroom manipulatives, and tons of creative materials. I take a look every time I am in the store, and I am rarely disappointed. They are also great resources for student prizes, stickers, and classroom decorations. Don’t see what you are looking for in these bins? Try a dollar store near you for an even greater selection.
Are you an eBay shopper? You should be if you are looking for discounted equipment and resources for your classroom. You can find just about everything imaginable for sale on eBay. I was intimidated before my first purchase, but now I see how easy it is. You can also check sites like etsy and even amazon.com for discounted purchases. Amazon sells used items that you can often get for nothing more than the shipping. Just click on the other items for sale button to see what you can get used or new from other sellers.
Make Your Own Materials
No doubt you have made plenty of your own materials for use in class. I don’t think any teacher can make it through his or her first week of teaching without making at least a worksheet or two. But you can also make audio recordings, film your own videos, and write your own reading passages for use in the classroom. A little creativity will take you a long way when it comes to making your own materials.
If you are looking for discounted materials, they are easy to find if you just take a look around you.
Be creative in where you look and what you make yourself, share with others around you, and you will be ready to go with tons of resources for your classroom.
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