Tips for Livening Up Your Classroom on a Budget

By Tessa Judge

February 2, 2018

During your Costa Rica TEFL training, you’ll have access to a plethora of useful resources to liven up your lessons, including construction paper, markers, balloons, a color printer, and much more. Though these tools may seem like a given, teaching abroad with your TEFL certificate can sometimes mean landing a job in a school that has eager students but very few of these resources. Here are a few things you can do for your classroom even if your school has a limited budget.

Save everything.
You have so many materials right in front of you! Paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, empty water bottles, soda cans, cereal boxes, newspapers, 6-pack holders, magazines. These daily household items can be put to great use in the classroom. Hunt down a bin or box and tuck things away as you acquire them for reuse.

For example, a fun and effective classroom game is bowling. Don’t have bowling pins? No problem. Take the plastic water and soda bottles that you’ve saved, put a little water in the bottom of each bottle, screw the lids back on, and set up your new bowling pins. To create more of a challenge, fill some easy-to-hit “pins” with more water to make them harder to knock down.

Use music.
Music is both an effective way to keep students engaged and to teach them English. Choose songs based on their skill level and play a few rounds of Bingo or Lyric Grab. Always remember: your students are learning English. If you think the song is too slow, it’s probably still too fast for them. Be patient, let your students concentrate on listening, and don’t be afraid to play the song a few times. Using music will keep costs at a minimum while improving your students’ comprehension skills.

Involve your students.
Have your students bring in things from home! Plan a role play scenario for the end of the week and remind your students throughout the week to bring things in from home for it. This will keep your students engaged and involved in their own learning while taking some of the heat off of you to provide materials for your students.

Host a supply drive or fundraiser.
school supplies
I currently volunteer teach with Abriendo Mentes, a nonprofit that provides free English classes for local communities in the beach towns of Potrero and Brasilito here in Costa Rica. The organization relies strictly on donations to keep things running smoothly. Hosting a fundraiser or supply drive is an excellent way to get the community involved with your organization or school while providing you and your students with tools for making learning more enjoyable.

Today’s global climate and culture of digital nomads has created expat communities all over the world. In addition to reaching out to the local community, seek these pockets of people out and get them involved in your school’s drives and fundraisers. Oftentimes they’ll be thrilled for the chance to contribute to the community that they now call home.

Your training with Costa Rica TEFL will teach you how to build a lesson from scratch, allowing you to teach in any learning environment. Don’t let finding a job in a low-income area or in a school with few resources dissuade you from teaching – put your new skills to work! Stretch and flex your creative muscles, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, and do the best with what you have. Your students are there because they want to learn from you, and I have a feeling you’ll learn a thing or two from them as well.