Education's Greatest Teaching Resource: The Blank Page
Teachers are on the lookout for resources. Cheap and easy are the best. I went to a seminar where an education professional promoted his “cheap and easy” system. It was easy because the lessons were already prepared, but it wasn’t cheap. I was looking for free. In pursuit of the teacher resources that easily adapt to their students’ learning methods, they overlook the greatest resources since the Puritan hornbook: the blank piece of paper.
Teaching resources don’t have to come from a glossy catalog or a teacher supply store. Any core subject and even some electives can produce great students with an 8 ½ by11 and the imagination.
Build Literacy Skills
Flashcards are the obvious idea that comes with using blank paper. Kindergarteners make letter cards and practice letter recognition, sound recognition, and word building. C-A-T spells cat. The flashcard and some tape or sticky tack becomes a flag for a letter sound treasure hunt. "X Marks the Spot" for the last letter in "box". These young writers can practice writing their letters over and over in whichever medium. They don't have to write in dry erase marker, but rather crayons, markers, colored pencils, glitter glue, or just pencil. When they are finished, they can take it home or recycle them. No teacher has time to clean off the district's flashcards that are scratched and carved by the heavy-handed young writer.
Primary students can create word family or rhyming word cards. They can write their own and manipulate them for writing poetry or matching rhymes with the same vowel sounds in the middle. The phonetic awareness and phoneme awareness will transfer into their reading abilities.
All students can make vocabulary cards for stories, novels, and other texts. Young children can draw a picture of the definition as they see it and older children can transfer the definition from the appropriate glossary or dictionary. With a rubber band or paper clip, they can be transported home, to another classroom, or kept in one place until review time.
Build Writing Skills
Of course the blank paper is perfect for writing. With or without lines, students can brainstorm a topic with pictures, keywords, or an outline. They are allowed to brainstorm freely without a costly border that distracts from the writing process. There are students who want to write all the time or just write when they want to. Both types of writers use blank paper to write notes or letters. With classroom guidelines, students can write letters to each other. They can be delivered in envelopes, or they can learn how to fold the paper to close it up, similar to how I passed notes to friends when I was in high school:
- Fold the paper in half (top to bottom)
- Fold the bottom right corner over to the middle (makes a triangle shape)
- Fold the remaining bottom to the top
- Flip; start opposite of the pointed end, fold by quarters
- Tuck the pointed end into the opening near closest to it.
Students can also make their own sealed valentines with practical from Camp Smartypants' tutorial.
Mini books can also be folded or cut in similar fashion so that students can become the author and publisher at the same time. Letter writing, messages, story writing, or any type of writing is encouraged and needs nothing more than a blank piece of paper and a writing instrument. Creativity can blossom out of nothing.
Build Math Skills
Flashcards are applicable in math as well. Students can write out their own problems, particularly the ones which need more practice. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or even fractions and formulas.
Scratch paper is important for complex problems, but blank paper can be enhanced for better assignments as well. Instead of printed worksheets with limited space, students can make their own worksheets for homework. By folding it, the grid defines a workspace to contain calculations for each problem. No need to print out a grid for every assignment. When the class plays math games, blank paper documents results well into the final round.
Geometry makes sense when it is tactile, and a classroom does not have to own the plastic kit of shapes and prisms. Paper can be used to model shapes, and take it up a level academically. Students can measure the shapes they draw and cut it out themselves. When they create their own three-dimensional, they apply the psychomotor skills of Bloom's Taxonomy. A 3-D prism kit may or may not be able to open up, and students certainly are not be allowed to take it home. Paper shapes do not have to be shared and they can go home for assignments or keeps.
Blank Paper: The Ultimate Teacher Resource
The blank paper is the ultimate teacher resource because of its usefulness in all subjects. Science can utilize it for physics like paper airplanes or physical science when paper changes properties when it is burned. Art has a number of ways to use paper with what goes on it or what it can be used as. Imagination is the key to the number of educational uses of the blank paper. Teachers are the guide and supplier, but the student takes the lead in terms of what they are able to learn and do.