Dollar Store Teacher Hacks!

Fun post idea from Lauren P — thank you! 🙂

We are approaching the time of year when a new team of teachers will be hired, and they’ll excitedly begin planning and preparing for their first classrooms. As a novice teacher you are starting from the ground up, and buying supplies for a classroom can be very costly. Here are a few quality items that can be purchased at your local dollar store to help supply your classroom without breaking the bank.

Plastic shoe boxes. These are an asset to the classroom and can be used for many different purposes! They can be used to hold art supplies, math manipulatives, as goal bins for IEP students, etc…You can find them in sets and they also come with lids, which are great for stacking in a small space.

Plastic storage containers. They come in many shapes and sizes and also have lids for easy stacking and keeping prepped items for word work, art, or math. The smaller containers can be used to hold dice for math games. The kids can shake the entire container so the dice stay in one spot.

Dice. They are lost many times during different classroom activities and some math activities require each student to have a set. Many times the dollar store sells them in big packs. Foam dice can also be found, which will allow for a quieter math time.

Clothespins. Clothespins can be used to place students in different centers or used as a placeholder when students borrow books from the classroom library.

Utensil caddies. These come in many different colors and have different compartments to hold supplies. The caddies can be used to hold pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, etc…

Ziploc bags. These are also sold in different sizes. In early childhood the sandwich size bags are used the most. Make sure the bags have an actual locking system and they are not the sandwich bags that fold over. The bags are used to hold items for word work, manipulatives for math games, lost teeth, art supplies for a class project, etc… If you are reusing the items that are in the bags, they can be stored away in a plastic shoe box! Bigger Ziploc bags can be used as book baggies for reading workshop.

Plastic baskets. Plastic baskets can be used to hold books for your classroom libraries and come in a variety of colors. I would suggest buying more than you need. After a while these bins can break, but can be easily swapped out if you have extra.

Magnetic boards or clipboards. A class set is more of an investment, but can last for several years and be used in every subject. Perfect for rug activities, active engagement, word study, observation inquiry, etc. Plus these “professional” tools are appealing and motivating!

These are just some of the items that can be found at the local dollar store. Every time you go it feels like a treasure hunt. And the last few bits of advice are to start shopping early and when you see something you like, BUY IT! There are many other teachers that shop in the dollar store and things will be gone before you know it. Happy dollar store hunting!

Making the Most of Your Commute

Thanks to Melissa N for this guest post! 

Do you live, or are planning on living, far from Teachers College? Does it take you a while to get from internship or work to class? It can be somewhat of a task when you’re commuting a long way to and from school, and also have many assignments to complete. Luckily there are ways to make the best out of your long commute.

I live in Brooklyn, and my internship is there as well, so I’m on the subway for what feels like forever sometimes. These are some of the things I’ve found to be helpful when trying to make the most out of my long daily commute:

Download or Organize Readings Ahead of Time

Our program is very reading heavy, which can be overwhelming. To our benefit, reading can be done pretty much anywhere! I’ve found it helpful to look at the readings that need to be done and download them to my phone or iPad. This makes online readings accessible on the subway (because there’s no service!), train, or bus. If you have an iPhone or apple device, you can do this by opening the file on your internet browser, pressing the page, and clicking the option to open the file in iBooks. Now I know that some of you might not use an Apple device, so I tried to find a way to save PDF files on Android, and it seems that you need to download a PDF viewer.

What if I need to read from a book?

There are many textbooks available to buy or rent from Kindle, which has a free app for mobile devices/tablets/computers (sometimes they’re cheaper than the physical book!). This can help save space in your bag, create less weight on your back, and you’re even able to annotate and highlight on them! Audiobooks are also a great way to do readings, especially if you’re in a car or you get motion sickness. Lastly, you can also go the old-fashioned way and print out the readings/carry the book, but electronic versions help save trees, and it’s also convenient when you can’t find a seat on those crowded subways.

A Place to Relax

Relaxing? Yes! Your commute can be a time to get work done, but it can also be a time to take a breather and relax, before or after class. You can take this time to listen to music, read a book that’s not for grad school, or just enjoy the ride (and people watch, of course!).

Making It Official – A Road Map to Certification

This is a heavy hitter, but so important. If you need NY certification, start at the beginning. If you already have that and are ready to add your Literacy certification, scroll down. Remember the Office of Teacher Education can be a terrific resource for you. Visit them on the 4th floor of Zankel Hall.

Profuse thanks to Alicia for putting this together for us!!!

It’s the time of the year to start thinking about certification! If you’re like me (Alicia) this seems like a daunting process to navigate. In this post you can find some information and helpful links about getting certified in childhood/early childhood education and in literacy.

Childhood/Early Childhood Education

If you got certified in a different state, you need to transfer your certification to New York State. On the following website you can find the different pathways and requirements to get your NYS certification.

For most people, the requirements are the following:

  • Completing a college teacher education program in a US State with a minimum of a 2.50 GPA.
  • Taking three tests (ALST, EAS, and Childhood/Early Childhood CST).
  • Completing the edTPA for childhood/early childhood education.
  • Taking three workshops (Child Abuse Identification, School Violence Intervention and Prevention, and Dignity for All Students Act).
  • Getting fingerprint clearance.

Following is some information on the requirements.

Certification Tests

This is the link where you sign up for the three tests. You need to create an account and sign up for the tests. You will get a confirmation email shortly after to set up a testing center and time.

There are different review books, but this one has a review and practice tests for all the required tests and is only $16!


The edTPA is a practical assessment with different sections called tasks. It is a lengthy process and you need to videotape yourself teaching, so if you want to get certified before the end of the semester and have access to a classroom now would be a good time to start. This is the website where you submit the test.

To get resources like the edTPA handbooks head up to the Office of Teacher Education in the 4th floor of Zankel. There is a file on Moodle with all the resources. They can add you to it so you will get access to all the materials.


The certification workshops are offered at TC. This is the link to find them and sign up for them.


To get fingerprinted you need to create an account on this site and set up an appointment to go to one of their centers.

Literacy Education

Since the literacy certification is an extension, you cannot get your literacy certification until you have your childhood or early childhood certification. Here are the requirements for the literacy certification:

  • Completing an approved teacher preparation program (our masters at TC).
  • Getting institutional recommendation from TC.
  • Taking three tests (ALST, EAS, Literacy CST).
  • Completing the Literacy Specialist edTPA.
  • Taking the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) workshop.
  • Getting fingerprint clearance.

With the completion of the childhood/early childhood certification you should have already taken the ALST and EAS, DASA workshop, and fingerprint clearance. Therefore, the additional things to do are taking the Literacy CST test, Literacy Specialist edTPA, and getting institutional recommendation. Refer to the links above to sign up for the CST and edTPA and refer to the following website for information on institutional recommendation:

Good luck with the process!

Broadening our Horizons

April 2nd was International Children’s Book Day. It should be a week or maybe even a year!  Check out this poster as well as the Book Culture link with a valuable list.

P.S. If you  haven’t been to Book Culture, you are missing out! Several locations, but find the closest one at the corner of Broadway and 114th. Go down the black metal stairs at side of building and enter the magical Children’s Annex.