Creative Classroom on a Budget

Fact #1: Teachers don’t make a lot of money.

Fact #2: Most, if not all, teachers spend their own money on resources and supplies for their classroom.

Wouldn’t it be great if a store existed where you could buy a lot of things for your classroom and spend very little money? With just a little creativity, your local dollar store just might be that place! I’m here to share many of my own dollar store finds and ideas.

No Assembly Required:

  • Office supplies
  • Tools
  • Paper lanterns (usually only available in the summer)
  • Foam placemats that can be used in place of poly spots for some activities (for example, they could mark lines for longways sets, but they’re not great for actually dancing on)
  • Plastic spiders to use with “There’s a Spider on the Floor” (you could also use a variety of the little toys as rhythmic buiding blocks)
  • “Prize Box” items, such as glow stick bracelets, party favors like tops, pencil sharpeners, pencils, bead necklaces, and others
  • Teaching Supplies, including stickers, poster letters, sentence strips, and so much more!

decor 1
Dollar store finds featured: borders, bulletin board cutouts, and plastic tablecloths covering the board (I had to use two because they are thin and these were technically 3 for $5) 

decor 2
Dollar store finds featured: window cling graphics and window cling border (these worked great on my whiteboard, too)

Some Assembly Required:

  • Popsicle sticks (colorful or plain) – use them to divide students into small groups or choose students to pass things out (I number the sticks and then assign a number to each student in a class)

decor 3
Dollar store finds featured: bulletin board cutouts, bulletin board month headers, velcro dots/squares (this saves a lot of work if you change posters frequently)

 decor 4
Dollar store finds featured: paper plates (these particular ones aren’t from a dollar store, but they do have plates!), poster letters [I made the starbursts, but I just saw some pre-cut ones at the dollar store recently]

decor 5

Dollar store finds featured: plastic shoe boxes, packing tape [labels were free from Teachers Pay Teachers]

decor 6
Dollar store finds featured: contact paper, packing tape [containers were from home, labels were free from TPT]

decor 7

Dollar store finds featured: hula hoops, foam noodles cut into thirds [tie was from home, but they have some at the dollar store]

 decor 8
Dollar store finds featured: googly eyes, colorful Popsicle sticks [great for following sheet music or beat pages]

decor 9
Dollar store finds featured: coordinating bulletin board cut-outs, computer paper, packing tape, pencil bag

decor 10

Dollar stores finds featured: foam circles (technically from Target’s Dollar Spot, but there are similar things at dollar stores), permanent marker

decor 11
Dollar store finds featured: dinner spoons, duct tape [foam in between spoons is from my art teacher, but I’ve heard you can use erasers too]

There are many resources out there for free supplies, lessons, and ideas – Pinterest, Facebook groups, music teachers’ blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers, and, of course, Teaching with Orff!

How about you – What are some of your favorite dollar store finds?

Erin Clevenger

Erin Clevenger has been teaching K-5 music in University City, Missouri since 2011, has completed Orff Levels I and II, and is active in the St. Louis Orff chapter. Before that Erin had a variety of professional experiences, including substitute teaching for a variety of grade levels and subject areas, teaching general music to fifth and sixth graders, working with teenagers with developmental disabilities, and teaching English at summer camps in Italy. Erin attended Truman State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Voice and Master of Arts in Education.

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  1. Amy on September 3, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Great ideas! Thank you for sharing! I’ve heard that Dollar Tree offers a teacher discount, although I’ve never used it.

    • Paula Purpura on September 9, 2015 at 6:08 am

      Love the ideas, and thanks for sharing the pictures too. That really helps.

      • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:46 pm

        You’re welcome Paula! We hope the examples inspire you as you organize and decorate your classroom in the coming year.
        – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      You’re welcome Amy!
      Teachers showing their school ID may get a 10% discount at Dollar Tree. Not all stores do offer it, so make sure to ask first!
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  2. Lynn on September 3, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    At the dollar store I have purchased costume materials: Baseball caps of various colors; bunny ears; antlers; masks; wands; capes; grass skirts and leis; and on and on; Better that Target dollar spot, because they really aren’t a dollar at Target!

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      Great ideas Lynn! Thank you for sharing!
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  3. Beth Trousdale on September 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Erin, Thank you for your creative and inspirational ideas. love the google eyes on the pop sickle sticks..

    • Mary Schoen on September 10, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Thank you, Erin and others for your great ideas. This summer while taking Level 2 Orff, I found foam counting blocks in different colors, 50 in a pack for rondo form, writing rhythm patterns on, etc. at Dollar Store. Also, small, fluffy, colored balls for form games, staccato, etc.; stuffed animals: elephant, puppy for mixed meter 5/4 time (I was tired of strawberry, apple!) & a groovy, flower covered fly swatter for pointing, reading the wall, or reading rhythms!

      • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm

        More great ideas! Thank you for sharing Mary!
        – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      You’re welcome, Beth!
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  4. Julie on September 9, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Thank you for sharing! Love the dollar store. It’s a place where creative minds on a budget can get their groove on!!!! Love it! I’m gonna go this weekend! A tie for a tie! Duh!

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      We hope you found more creative inspiration in your latest shopping trip, Julie!
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  5. Dave Morrison on September 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing these ideas! The foam noodles jumped out at me as something my kids would love to do.

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:56 pm

      You’re welcome Dave! We look forward to hearing how your students enjoy the foam noodles.
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  6. Marcia Staples on September 10, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Thanks so much for sharing. The tips and ideas you showed are a wonderful resource to the enrichment of our music classrooms every day.

    • Teaching With Orff on September 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm

      You’re welcome, Marcia! We are so pleased that you found the article helpful.
      – Your friends at Teaching With Orff

  7. Kim Byrd on August 4, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Great ideas! The activity you did with the pool noodles you can also do with the popsicle sticks. Instead of googly eyes use permanent marker to draw quarter-eighth-half and whole notes and rests. You can purchase quart baggies @ DT to put 5 of each note/rest type in baggie. distribute each baggie of sticks to a group of 2 students. Give them a meter and watch them form and perform their own rhythms.

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