Teaching aids add dimension to your instruction. Children learn best when they are actively involved in the educational process, and teaching aids provide this opportunity. The problem is that teaching aids are expensive and easily lost or broken. Instead, make some simple teaching aids that will engage your students.

Teaching Aids to the Rescue

Plan your organization of the teaching aids. Teaching aids are useless if they are dumped into a giant bin and difficult to retrieve. Instead, use shoe boxes, yogurt containers, tin cans or baskets for sorting, displaying, passing around and storing teaching aids. You and your students can decorate the storage containers with colored paper, labels, stickers or pictures of the objects to be contained within.

Select which areas of the curriculum most require teaching aids. Typically, English as a Second Language curriculum benefits from realia while math and science curriculum demands counters and other manipulatives.

Create a symbolic meaning for the teaching aids you create. For example, if you are using water bottle tops as counters for math, you can organize them with circle-shaped labels. Yellow tops can have a value of one, red a value of ten, and so on. Provide a chart or a key for the symbolic meaning of the teaching aids.

Involve the students. Teaching aids are more meaningful to students and their learning if they have the opportunity to create them. If you are teaching the letter "P", for example, students can use popcorn to make the letter which you then display on a bulletin board for future reference. If you are teaching kids to count by ten, they can use sentence strip paper to make skip counting charts to place on their desks.

Allow students to explore with the teaching aids. If you have dry beans for counting or weighing, set up the scales as a learning center and have the students make discoveries on their own about the possibilities and properties of the teaching aids. Students can then report back to classmates or draw up or write about their findings.


Rotate and update teaching aids to keep them fresh and interesting, as well as relevant to the current curriculum. Some of the most fun teaching aids are edible. Use gummy bears for measuring or counting, or host a fractions party where all snacks must be divided equally amongst table groups.


Some teaching aids--such as wiggly rubber bugs--are too tempting as playthings. It is best to keep them out of reach until they are needed.

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