Hacks…The Good Kind!

For most of us, the end of the school year is so near! I find that this time of year can still be challenging. Everyone is exhausted and I feel like I need a new bag of tricks. With that being said, you might be out of SPED money, or broke yourself from buying things all year, or saving those pennies for summer tacos and pool passes (no? just me?!). Enter in product hacks! Let’s use those products and games you might already own and turn them into something new!

Leveled Language Arts 1 Vocabulary

I love the unit vocabulary words and pictures that are included in this level! I had some kiddos who needed some extension and additional practice with expressive and receptive vocabulary as well as basic matching. I decided to make mini identical matching boards and mini vocab flashcards. If working from a desktop, search for the “snipping tool” (thanks Rachel!) and “snip” the anchor chart area where the pictures are. Save to a folder and print the images twice. Laminate and Velcro! BOOM, mini-matching boards! From a MAC you could screen shot the anchor chart, crop and repeat printing and laminating.


Use the mini flashcards for yes or no tasks! Students can expressively answer or physically sort in response to a verbal question, “Is this chicken”?

Non-Identical sorting

I love the non-identical sorting file folders. This product hack actually happened because of lack of timing on my part. The thought of making these into separate file folders was a little too much at the time. I needed them and I needed to make them quickly! First, I printed all of the pages and pieces out separately. Next, I simply laminated a few empty file folders and added some soft Velcro in the corners of the folders. On the back of the boards, I added hard Velcro. Doing this allowed me to make the folders interchangeable and even give choice to my kiddos! Do you want to sort dinosaurs and chairs or cookies and soup? I even popped them into independent work and was able to change the tasks.

Another use of the non-identical sorting boards is to turn them into identical matching boards! I re-printed the boards, laminated them and I had new matching boards!

Independent work!

I’m not going to lie; I struggle with independent work tasks. I try my hardest to have a variety but I sometimes just do not have the time. I started using my file folders and mastered curriculums as work tasks and it has been incredible. Furthermore, think about ALL of the amazing skills this teaches. The student learns to find their work, maybe ask for an anchor chart, seek information, and learn to sit at a desk and complete work independently. Hey there general-education and life long learner skills!

Mastered curriculum and anchor chart in a work box. Mastered file folders in yellow basket! Perfect work tasks that did not take any time to re-create!

When you need a new task, simply switch out the Velcro numbers!


Oh Candyland. The joy this game has brought my students in the last few weeks has been incredible. This game that I’m pretty sure everyone in the United States owns has revived everything from state testing review to basic skills practice. Funny how you can use the same materials and mix it with a game and it’s suddenly the most engaging activity ever! Besides being a game in general, I love Candyland because it works on turn taking, colors, counting and whatever skill you wish to pair it with! I have used this to practice letter identification skills, CVC words, sight words, addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts, multisyllabic 3rd grade words and more! Even better, you can have different levels of kiddos play at the same time; just have different stacks of material available! Take a turn, read a card or complete a math flashcard!

Happy hacking and recycling!

Gina Russell, B.S , M.Ed
Latest posts by Gina Russell, B.S , M.Ed (see all)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *