Save That Money

How to keep the classroom cheap:

Idea 1: Using MTV Strategies (Cost: $0)

The same strategies that we’ve been using to make thinking visible can create great activities for students to show what they know and for opening a new topic.
• Want to spark a student’s creativity for a subject that you haven’t yet discussed? Try using Compass Points to get them to come up with their own questions and points.
• Want to gauge how much a student has learned? Track their knowledge with 3-2-1 Bridge.
• Want to have a thought-provoking discussion with students expanding on each other’s ideas? Use a Chalk Talk and watch the ideas come forth.
An engaging activity does not have to be hands on or expensive, it could simply be thought provoking.

Idea 2: Webquests (Cost: $0 with a laptop)

Letting students discover a new topic with online examples in a webquest provides them the freedom to explore the concepts they are learning. The webquests can include images, videos, and tools to alter conditions to learn more about a subject. For example, a microbiology webquest may let students scroll to zoom in on an object so that they have a concept of relative size.
This example guides students through the Galapagos Islands and the different creatures that live there. It focuses on “The Big Question,” which is “To what degree and how should the Galapagos be protected from further encroachment from man?” Contrary to the typical way of starting off with some minibiography of Charles Darwin, this webquest begins with a modern environmental issue, and then requires students to learn more in order to create an argument.

Idea 3: Online Videos (Cost: $0)

When introducing a new topic, brief overviews and motion-related activities can help earn a student’s interest, rather than simply a lecture or reading. In the modern age, videos are out there for a plethora of course concepts. Taking advantage of Youtube videos and TED talks can open a new concept in a more engaging and applicable way, which will make more sense to students.
Video series like Crash Course give quick details and examples for concepts of science classes, and they explain things in a way that does not get too complicated. If the students already have an idea of a topic, these videos work wonders. If they have never heard of it, however, easier lessons should be taught first.

TED talks like the one below are great because they relate biology and chemistry back to real life. The concepts are no longer foreign jargon to memorize, but fascinating discoveries that impact the world around us. Talks on health and the impact on the future can helps broaden a student’s concept of science.

Idea 4: Demonstrations (Cost: <$5)

Demonstrations in the classroom don’t need to be expensive. There are easy and affordable demonstrations listed online that only require minimal supplies. The website listed offers demonstrations like using milk and lactaid to find lactose or using leftover Christmas ornaments to construct DNA.

Idea 5: Games/Apps (Cost: $0)

There are more and more apps being created for educational purposes, and these include games that teach along the way! is a website that is full of biology-related games and apps that pair to them. Topics range from enzymes and meiosis to ecology, so students can continue going back to the site for more topics.

Affordable supplies/activities: is a website that offers science materials for a relatively cheap price. Most items are in the $10 or under range, and they include some unique lab materials and kits for students. will likely have any other supplies that couldn’t be found with Home Science Tools. They may be a little more expensive, but a quick look around the site will spark creativity for labs and modifications.
In today’s online world, it’s often worth a shot to go online to places like Amazon and eBay to find online sellers who are willing to compete in price with stores. It may not always be a huge difference, but every little bit adds up!


  1. Thank you all for your comments. I’m not seeing a way to reply individually, so this comment will have to do.

    Peter- I would say the most useful things from HomeScienceTools are the lab materials they offer. What I would buy obviously depends on what materials are already provided by the school, but any supplemental materials could be used from this site. Every day does not have to be this engaging, but the beginning of a topic should be! These activities work best in earning the students’ interest.

    Wyatt- That was the goal! Cheap is the target, but if there are free resources out there, why not use them! I’ll chalk up my lack of an introduction to my preferance to scientific writing. Why write/read more than you have to? As for what I would use on my own, I would probably find a use for all of them. Specifically though, MTV strategies opened a new world of activities that I hadn’t considered before teaching. Webquests, games, and videos, were all things I could have predicted for my classroom, but I’ve learned the most by exploring the MTV book.

    Michael- I definitely wanted to include MTV! I think when most of us hear something like “activities on a budget,” we tend to think of $10 and under things to buy for the classroom, so I wanted my post to focus on more FREE ways to get the class engaged. Obviously, we’ve already talked about MTV and its benefits, but I didn’t want the book to become forgotten just because we’re not “doing that” right now. As for my favorite, I think a variety is best, but one that sparks my interest is Red Light, Yellow Light (Green light? I’m forgetting the name, but I think you know which one I mean) because it analyzes a text the way we would in other subjects like literature and history. Students keep in mind an author’s bias and limitations instead of thinking of a reading as “fact.” It may not be the single most engaging strategy, but I do think it stands out among the others, and it teaches a lesson easily forgotten in the science field.

    Bailey- Thank you for sharing your opinion, and I have to agree with you that the WebQuests bring a new type of engagement. I believe in variety, and the more forms of engagement you use, the more likely it is for your class to stay interested. As for the costs of small materials, I think I tend to focus on the little costs more than most people. Financial advisors will tell you that it’s the minor expenses in life that add up to ruin a budget, and I think the same holds true for a teacher. If there’s a chance where a video or online assignment will be engaging for the students, USE IT! Saving little costs here and there may help you save for another out-of-pocket assignment that would be worth spending the money on.

  2. Hello Will!

    I like how you mention the MTV strategies. I did not think of that for my post. I think that they are all great ideas, but certain ones work best in certain instances, I think. You can, however, use multiple ones for a specific topic. Which one do you like best? My favorite would probably be either the chalk talk 0r the compass points. I thought they were both awesome ideas. I like the webquest ideas as well. Microbiology is great to do with a webquest because microbiology labs can be messy and require expensive equipment. Webquests might work better. I like you videos! Lol. I used the same ones for my post! Hank is awesome, isn’t he? Crash Course is my favorite! I like how he is engaging to the audience. Cellular respiration is a tough concept, but with this video, it makes the topic fun, engaging, and presents it in a way that students will not forget. I agree that demonstrations and games can also be fun. I like kahoot and I also found many other games on the internet about cells and other topics. I didn’t look at the one you mentioned. What is your favorite game on there? I like your closing statement about how engaging can be free and doesn’t have to be hands on or wasteful. Simple things could also mean the world for a class of awesome adolescents!

    Delaina 🙂

  3. Will, I loved your suggestion of games and apps. I spent some time looking into the website you posted HomeScienceTools and it looks like they’ve got some pretty excellent stuff in there.
    How would you structure this portion of your class? Do you think you would run an engage activity like this everyday?


  4. Will,
    I LOVE all just about all of your resources are only a smidge greater than, if not already, $0. My favorite kinds of lesson plans are those that cost about nothing out of my pocket! I think your article could have used an introduction to the topic but I liked the straight-forwardness! Which of these do you see yourself using the most in your future classroom? Personally, I’m always skeptical of theory reads but I truly do like MTV strategies, they’re super helpful making conversation about a particular topic.


  5. Will,

    You provided many good strategies and resources for other teachers to use! I also loved how you included potential cost because it really tells teachers that engaging their students can be free! Money is definitely a concern for teachers everywhere. Opening up with MTV strategies was very interesting. I haven’t seen it in the other posts. It is a very good way to have students get engaged with the class and is very effective. What are some of your favorite MTV strategies to use?


  6. Will, I would like to start by saying how informational and fun your blog was to read. I loved every single one of the resources the resources that you would use to help engage your class. I enjoyed that you listed the prices of each engage resource as well. I also have never heard of the WebQuest website before and I believe that that will be a real go way to get your class engaged and active in their own learning, which is an important step in any learning cycle. In the closing part of this blog one thing you said stood out to me. It was when you mentioned that every bit of money you spend eventually adds up. Do you think that if teachers were to cut some of their out of pocket spending would the engagement step of the lesson plan be affected? Overall, this was a really great post!

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