DIY Highlighter Strips for Literacy Centers

DIY Highlighter Strips from Page Dividers - Big Books, Charts

If you've been hanging onto big books, chart poems, and old anchor charts, but aren't quite sure how to use them with your students, this simple idea is just for you! When you're out shopping for school supplies, grab some plastic page dividers (I used these, but rather than ordering online, look for deals in stores. You should be able to get them for a dollar or two a pack during back-to-school time!)

These multi-colored translucent plastic dividers are easy to cut with scissors or a paper cutter into a variety of sizes to make these useful highlighter strips! To make the strips, measure the text height in a few of your big books and on your charts and then cut strips in a variety of lengths and colors. (Think about what you might want to ask students to highlight: words, letters, blends, digraphs, punctuation, etc.) Store the strips in a shallow basket or container so students can look for and select the strips that are the size they need.

DIY Highlighter Strips out of Plastic Page Dividers

To use these strips, have your students lay a big book or chart flat on a table or the carpet. Challenge them to find certain words (letters, patterns, etc.) that you have been focusing on in your shared reading or small group instruction. You can give the students a list of items to look for, or you can have them refer to your word wall or class-created anchor charts.

Hint: If you use removable highlighter tape during your shared reading activities, your students will know just what to do with these strips. Wikki Stix are another way to isolate words and letters on a vertical page or chart.

Another way students can use these highlighter strips during literacy centers is to play a simple partner game. This works best with a big book or poem that you've already read together. Have the students take turns highlighting a word for their partner to read. Teach the students to check for accuracy using strategies you've already taught (letter sounds, blending, re-reading the sentence to check the context...).

These DIY highlighter strips made from plastic dividers will add some fun and purpose to a simple read the room center in your early childhood classroom. Preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students will all enjoy and benefit from using this simple tool!

While you're in the DIY frame of mind, you might want to check out this DIY Math Toolkit post.

If you are interested in the poem in the photos above, check out this post all about apples! (The poem is from my Apples Thematic Unit).

DIY Pocket Folder Toolkit for Small Group Math Instruction

Laminated toolkit made from a pocket folder is perfect for small group math work

If you teach math in small groups, you know how imperative it is to be organized and prepared. With the rest of your students working independently at math centers, time is of the essence and you don't want to spend it counting out manipulatives or distributing materials. These do-it-yourself toolkits are perfect for keeping your supplies at the ready for passing out. Made out of simple pocket folders (which are so inexpensive at back-to-school time!), these envelope-like kits store manipulatives and a dry erase marker and double as a whiteboard surface.

Make a DIY toolkit for small group math work in kindergarten

By gluing a ten frame to the toolkit prior to laminating, you give your students a surface for practicing and demonstrating a variety of number concepts. At the beginning of the year in kindergarten, these kits are great for practicing simple counting and cardinality concepts (show a number, write the numeral). Later in the year they can be used with teen numbers (fill the ten frame and place extra counters to the side to develop the beginning place value idea of "a group of ten and some more"). Using two-sided chips or two different styles of counters, these kits can also be used to practice composing and decomposing numbers when beginning addition and subtraction. The ten frame is such a powerful tool!

Read on to see how you can easily create a set of these toolkits to use during your small group math time!

DIT How-To for Math Ten Frame Toolkit

One folder makes two toolkits.

1. Cut a pocket folder in half down the center.
2. Stack the two halves and trim a little of each side (about 1/2 inch, but it doesn't need to be exact).
3. Use clear packing tape to seal the two sides of the pocket. Use a ruler or some sort of straight edge to make a neat crease for the flap (this will make it easier to fold after laminating).
4. Print out a ten frame (find some here, or make your own using a table in PPT or a word processing program), cut it out, and glue it to the pocket.
5. Laminate the pouch with the flap open. The thick laminate from a home laminator works well for making these envelopes sturdy. Whatever laminator you use, make sure to let it heat up plenty since these are pretty thick. After laminating, trim as needed, but leave enough of an edge to keep the plastic from popping open.
6. Use a craft or utility knife to gently slice the laminate open at the top of the pocket. (Don't press too hard!)
7. Attach self-adhesive hook and loop closures to the corners. Velcro dots (affiliate link) work really well and don't gum up your scissors like the tape does! Close the envelope and press the corners together for a bit while the adhesive sets.
8. Stock your toolkit with a dry erase marker, a little square of felt for an eraser, and some counters such as mini-erasers or two-color counters (affiliate link).

Note: When having students use these (or any laminated materials) as a dry erase surface, make sure they erase completely before cleaning up for the session. Otherwise the surface can be hard to clean completely. In addition, it seems that the black dry erase pens wipe off more easily than other colors and that fresher markers are easier to erase than those that are running low on ink. If these become hard to clean, try using some whiteboard cleaner or some rubbing alcohol to get a fresh, clean surface.

This ten frame toolkit has a dry erase surface for small group practice

These envelopes don't take up too much space, even when loaded up with supplies. You can keep a small group set in one of those many bins and tubs you picked up over the summer ;) or even store them in a large zip-top bag.

I hope this tip helps you start your year off in an organized way and takes some of the stress out of small group planning!