A laminator is just about an essential part of a teacher’s toolkit. And as we head into the new school year, I’m sure many of my readers will be warming up your laminators to create a bunch of new resources for your classrooms. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some ways I’ve been using my laminator to jazz up my lesson resources.
The main reason I use a laminator as a teacher is to keep my resources in good enough conditions that they’re reusable year on year. A laminator can turn a piece of paper form a single-use resource to a resource I can use for 5, 6 or 7 years in a row. It makes the paper more durable and “kid friendly”.
But there are a ton more uses that I have found for my laminator as a teacher. Once you buy a laminator for your classroom, you’ll see there are a thousand different reasons to use it. You may as well leave it on permanently! (Actually, don’t do that – you’ll ruin it).
15 Uses for a Laminator (for Teachers)
1. Multiplication Tables
Create a multiplication tables chart on your computer and print it out. Laminate the chart and place it in your math resources in the classroom. For students struggling with multiplication, you can allow them to use the chart during math classes. This can be a great scaffold, but don’t forget to use it as a support rather than a crutch.
You can turn any printable paper into a sturdy poster using a laminator. Posters can be placed around the classroom that perfectly relate to your unit of work. You can even personalize them based on exactly what your students have been asking questions about, or include your students’ names on the posters.
3. Desk Top Checklists
A desk top checklist is great for students who struggle staying on task or maintaining good behavior. The checklist or rules list can sit on the student’s desk top so they can refer to it easily whenever is needed. You can ask them what’s next on their checklist, or give them subtle reminders to take a glance at the checklist / reminder list when they start playing up.
4. Bag Tags
It’s a nightmare when you’ve got three children with identical backpacks. It’s usually that one backpack that’s the “cool” backpack recently released by Walmart. You know the one. The solution is the bag tag – and there’s no easier way to create a bag tag than to laminate a few pieces of paper with a student’s name on them, hole punch the corner, and thread it through the zipper of those students’ backpacks.
5. Handwriting Licenses
When I teach my Grade 3 class, I hand out “handwriting licenses” to my students who have proven their skills at cursive writing I laminate the licenses and make them small enough to fit in my students’ wallets. They’re so proud of their “licenses” and love to rip them out of their wallets to proudly show them. It’s fun to stop them and say “Hey, show me your license to do that!”
6. Matching Game Cards
You can create laminated cards for the matching card game “memory”. Create cards featuring historical figures, math questions, or – my favorite – matching questions and answers. Have the students play the game of “memory” where they need to match the word to the image, math sums that add to the same number, or the question to the answer. This is one of my favorite activities to play in my classroom. And as normal, if it’s not laminated, this game is a one-time thing and you have to print new cards every time. So, laminate them!
7. Multiplication Games
I have a great kit of laminated letters, plus signs, minus signs, multiplication signs, division signs and subtraction signs. I have them all laminated and wrapped in a rubber band like a pack of cards. When my advanced students are a little ahead of the group, I’ll often get them to go over to a corner of the classroom and silently make up multiplication sums together using the numbers. I set a goal, such as laying out 20 multiplication sums involving the letter 6 and photographing them then bringing the photo to me.
8. Sight Word Flashcards
There are two schools of thought in learning spelling and reading – phonics and whole language learning. Whole language learning relies on the use of and memorization of full sight words. Phonics teaches students to put together letters to create words from the base sounds.
One way you can use your laminator is to create sight words from the weekly spelling list and have students memorize them – 15 or 20 per week is standard. Once students have memorized them, you could get them to work in pairs to read out a word from a flash card and the other has to have a go at spelling it.
10. Phonics Flashcards
The alternative is phonics. With phonics, your flash cards will just have graphemes like “ph”, “sh”, “at”, “m”, “ch”, “it”, etc. Then, you can ask students to put the sounds together to create words. This is my preferred method for 5 – 7 year old students to teach them how to read. This method does require a lot of cards though, as I’ll often create a lesson where the students need to make “10 words with at in them”. So, you need at least 10 “at” cards for this task, for example.
11. Dry Erase Cards for Handwriting Practice
Handwriting practice workbooks take up a lot of paper – a student can get through the whole 50 page practice book in a few weeks and it’s time to buy another one, But with a dry erase card, you can reuse it all year – with just one piece of paper! Print out a handwriting template with four lines for helping guide the student to “write within the lines”. Then, they can use this practice card with a dry erase whiteboard marker to practice their handwriting or cursive writing each day.
12. Achievement Certificates
A paper achievement certificate feels like a throwaway gimmick. But if you laminate it, suddenly it feels like something designed to be kept and cherished. It’s also a million times more likely to survive the trip home in the backpack, so the parents will actually get to see it and know you appreciate their child’s hard work.
13. Place Mats
Laminating helps to protect paper. And it’s great for preventing mess. You can just wipe the lamination sheets with a damp cloth and it’s as good as new. So it’s perfect for creating place mats with your students! Get the students to design and color their own place mat, then take them to the laminating machine and get them fully laminated so your students can use them during lunches.
14. Autism Reminders
I’ve found many of my students with autism like cards on their desk visualizing the daily schedule. Structure and certainty in the day helps them relax into their studies. So, I’ll often create laminated cards for each activity – “Reading”, “Lunch”, “Handwriting”, “Math”, and line them up on the student’s desk so they have a good idea of the schedule and what’s coming up next.
15. Hall Pass
Hall passes are used to give permission to students to go outside of their classrooms – and often to the bathroom. I much prefer a laminated hall pass than a wooden one. A laminated hall pass can be very easily cleaned using a strong disinfectant.
Laminators are a great, versatile resource for teachers. My main problem is that I spend too much money on all my laminating sheets! These are my top 15 ways to use a laminator. Just one last note: if you want to laminate anything larger than A4 paper, you’ll need to get a larger laminator, so keep that in mind when deciding which laminator to get.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.