12 Uses for Dollar Store Snack Containers in Your Classroom

I absolutely love the dollar store for picking up things for my classroom.  They have so many different things you can use at school.  While there are things to avoid buying at the dollar store, you can grab cheap craft supplies, classroom decor and borders, inexpensive snacks, and a whole bunch of other things you might need at school.  One of my favorite things to buy at the dollar store are containers!  I absolutely love containers, so I get really excited when I find some great ones!

One container that teachers have been (rightfully) going gaga over are the mini snack containers that Dollar Tree carries!  Though you can typically find these year round at some Dollar Tree stores, they are usually in stock during Back to School.  Usually, you get 2 for $1, making these containers 50¢ each, but during BTS, they usually come in a pack of 3, making them about 33¢ each!  Crazy, right?  If for some reason you can't find them at your local store, or you are unlucky enough to be far away from a Dollar Tree store, you can order a case of these online.  A case is 24 packages of 3, so you'll receive 72 of these awesome snack containers.  You might consider splitting a case with a friend if you don't think you'll use that many, but then again, you might want to keep them all for yourself!

I have found so many ways to use these handy containers in my classroom, and I thought I would share a few of the ways I've found with you!  

1. Holding playing cards: I used to use Ziplock baggies to hold the cards I used for math games.   I used to separate sets of cards and put them in Ziplock baggies, but little Kindergarten and first grade hands made quick work of destroying the baggies and getting cards everywhere.  It drove me crazy!  Now, I just place each set of cards into a mini container and snap the lid closed.  The students can keep the cards inside the container to play a game and just pull one card out at a time, which makes everything so much neater!  Lost cards happen so much less frequently that way.

2. Crayon holder: A 24 pack of crayons fits perfectly into a mini snack container.  Throw away those boxes and place your crayons into these handy containers!  You can keep them at centers, or give a box to each student to keep.  I usually have around 24 students, so an entire class set costs me about $8 if I stock up when they are a 3 pack!  You can label the lid with the child's name so they don't get mixed up.

This would also be a great way to store multicultural crayons.  Just place the set of crayons in one of these boxes and have them handy for students to grab during writing time, or whenever they are drawing pictures of people.  I like to keep mine separate just for this purpose.

3.  Mini eraser storage: I am just as wild about those little mini erasers as most teachers seem to be right now, but storing them has always been an issue!  I've tried a few different ways, but these mini snack containers are a great way of storing mini erasers.  Since these containers are so inexpensive, it's easy to grab a bunch and store all your erasers without breaking the bank!  You can also use them to put in erasers as game pieces or manipulatives for students to use during math or literacy centers.  When they are finished, the students just clip the lid back on and put them away.  It helps eliminate the chance of those little erasers spilling all over the floor too!

4. Math games or centers:  I always try to keep my math centers as contained and neat as possible.  I'm a little neurotic about my math centers being neat with all pieces present and accounted for.  My students know this too!  I keep my math centers in a bin where the students can just go grab what they need and take it to a table to work, so I like to have everything contained to avoid pieces spilling out all over the place or getting mixed up.  These little boxes will hold dice, counters, pennies, erasers, even a few counting bears!  All they need is the game board!

5.  Storing magnetic letters and numbers:  These are a great way to provide your students with magnetic letters for spelling words or magnetic numbers for completing math problems, matching, etc...  When they need a set of magnetic letters, they can just grab them!  These magnetic numbers came from the Target dollar spot, but you can use whatever you have!

6.  Mini reading kits: I just LOVE having things handy, and during Guided Reading is no exception!  Inside these little mini reading kits, I have a pointer finger for 1-1 matching, a Slinky for stretching out words, and erasers to use for sliding sounds in Elkonin boxes.  I can even add the magnetic letters for the word we are learning that day to the box if I'd like.  I just give each student a box when they sit down and they have what they need for a quick phonemic awareness lesson before reading.

7. Making Words: I do a lot of Making Words with my students using the phonics sound we are using for the week.  Sometimes we do it in small group, and sometimes we do it in whole group.  I can put the letters that they will need for our Making Words lesson in these containers and hand one to each student.  By doing this, I make sure they have just the letters they need so there are no distractions, arguments, or somebody saying they can't find something!

8.  Name Boxes:  Do you have a student who is struggling with spelling their name?  Use these handy containers for name boxes!  Just place the letters of their name in the box and tape their name to the lid.  Then they can practice their name using the model on the top of the box, and once they start to get the hang of it, they can try it on their own.  I used to use my assistant or our volunteer Granny to pull students to work with struggling students on their names.

9.  Name Puzzles: This is similar to the name boxes idea, but instead of magnetic letters, you can make a name puzzle for the student.  I have Name Puzzle templates in my Name Game activities pack in my store.  Write down the letters in the child's name, cut it apart, and place the letters inside the box.  Like with the Name Box, tape their name to the lid as a model.  They can take out the puzzle, build it, and use the model to check for accuracy.

10. Letters I know/Letters I don't: As students learn letters, it is suggested that they work in their zone of proximal development- that is, learning a few new letters at a time while continuously practicing the ones they do know.  You can make your students a personal letter box using a snack container.  In each box should be the letters in the child's name as well as letters they already know.  If a child knows less than 10 letters, you should add two of each letter to the box.  Once they have learned at least 10 letters, you can remove the duplicate letters from the box.  When they learn new letters, add those letters to the box until they have learned them all.  

11. Word Work Boxes: These boxes are perfect for mini word work centers!  For this center, I typed up the letters for each word in a box, cut them out, and punched holes on either side.  Then I added links.  The students practiced spelling words- either our sight words for the week or extra practice with our phonics sound for the week.  

12. Mini Fluency Boxes: Grab a sand timer, a set of dice, flash cards, or a spinner and make a mini Fluency box!  Fact fluency is a big deal in my classroom, and I am always giving students time to play fluency games or practice their facts.  These mini fluency boxes are easy for students to grab or just keep in their desk!  They can practice rolling the dice and adding the numbers together or subtracting the smaller number from the bigger number.  The boxes will keep their flash cards handy and safe.  With the sand timer, they can time themselves on practice quizzes or flash cards.  

Does anybody else want to RUN to their nearest Dollar Tree and grab some more of these awesome little boxes?  I know I do!  What is your favorite way to use these handy little boxes?

Don't forget to pin this post so you can easily find it again!

Categorizing and Sorting in Kindergarten

One of the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten is to classify objects into categories and count the number of objects in each category.  We begin our school year with this standard because it's an easy one that all the students can usually master.

We actually begin by introducing our math manipulatives in exploring centers- I get out the different manipulatives and let the kids explore them.  I've actually covered that here, if you want to see how I introduce math manipulatives and centers to my students. Our first official lesson is  matching socks based on their attributes.  I gathered several socks of different patterns, colors, and sizes.  (Snagging some worn out old socks with holes in them works really well!)  Then I gave each child a sock and they found a partner who had the same sock.

After we played that game a few times, we talked about the socks and how they were the same and different.  We used "These socks are the same because ______" and then they had to fill in the blank with a physical attribute of the socks.  Another fun activity is to find socks that are similar to each other but not exactly the same- like one sock that has blue stripes and one that has black, or one sock with orange cats and one with blue.  Then you can play the "these are the same because ______ but they are different because ______."  Basically, I just like to get my kids noticing how things are the same and different.

The second day, I gathered materials where the objects were similar but had something different- for example, two pencils where one pencil was sharpened, or two crayons but one was blue and one was red.  I just gathered objects from around the classroom.  We used these objects to talk about how they were "the same, but different because this one is ______ and this one is _______."  For example,"they are both markers but they are different because one is blue and one is red."  It really helped them look more closely at the objects to tell why they were the same but different. Then we sorted with attribute blocks.  If you don't have these in your classroom, they are great for sorting!

First, we started talking about how we could sort our attribute blocks.  The first way we decided to sort was by color.  Note:  I didn't use all the attribute blocks to sort, to avoid overwhelming them.  

Then the students decided we needed to sort by shape.  

  We also sorted by thick and thin.

Then we sorted these utensils.  I purchased 4 packs of utensils from the Dollar Tree in 4 different colors.  (The best part- the rest of the utensils were perfect for eating lunch!)  I gave each of my students a utensil, and we talked about how we wanted to sort.  

We sorted by type of utensil first, forks, knives and spoons.  Then I asked them how we could sort them a different way, and they suggested color.  So we lined up on our carpet in rows- blue utensils stood on blue, green stood on green, and so on.  

After switching up our utensils and doing this a few times, we worked on our anchor chart.
We made an anchor chart about all the ways we could sort.  We added to this cart as we sorted more and more objects.  

Then we got to do some sorting in centers!  I purchased or pulled out several different things the students could sort- foam shapes, pom poms, google eyes, buttons, shape buttons, and attribute blocks.  We didn't end up using the google eyes or shape buttons this year, but I saved them for next year- just in case.  The cookie sheets and sorting containers all came from the Dollar Tree.

Our first sorting activity was sorting these foam shapes.  I gave each student in the group a small cupcake pan and foam shapes in a cup.  There were 6 different colors, several different shapes, and different sized shapes.

Sometimes they sorted by color... 

Or by shape... 

And even by size!

When a student was finished sorting, I would ask them "how else can you sort these?" to get their brains thinking about other ways they can be sorted.

I also gave the students the opportunity to sort the attribute blocks.  We used cookie sheets for sorting.  

 Some students sorted by color... 

They lined them up and stacked them.

Some sorted by shape... 

I also had buttons for the students to sort.  They could sort by number of holes, or color, or size.
This student sorted by number of holes (2 holes, 4 holes, and some sets had no holes)

Size (tiny, small, medium, and big)


 As they sorted, I walked around and asked them how they sorted their objects.  This student is explaining that she sorted by how many holes the buttons have.


We also sorted pom poms.  They could sort them by size or color.  Once they finished sorting their tray of pom poms, it was easy to switch with somebody else at the table.  Next year, I'd like to add the shiny pom poms to this to give them another attribute to sort by!

Some students sorted by size...

Some sorted by color 

We also did some sorting with other types of attributes.  This is a sort based on whether food is healthy or not healthy.  There are several of these sorts in my Vocabulary Concept sorts, including some cut and paste sorts.

This game is called "What's Missing?" and it's a great way to get students to look at physical attributes and use them to figure out what is missing.  The student takes one object and hides it behind their back, and the other student has to figure out which object is missing.  I used foam shapes, buttons, crayons, red objects, numbers, and erasers for the different "What's Missing?" boards.  I just make sure the objects are related in some way.  

To make the trays, you can just take a plate or aluminum pan and separate it into 9 spaces.  I got fancy and taped straws to mine to make the separate spots, but a permanent marker works as well!  Then collect 9 related objects, put them on the pan or plate, and you've got a game!  

I hope you were able to find some engaging, useful ideas for teaching categorizing and sorting with your students!  Leave a comment with your favorite way to teach these skills!