5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital

Struggling to get the powers that be onboard with NON-digital learning? Those copies are expensive, but sometimes you need them! Here are 5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.

Struggling to get the powers that be onboard with NON-digital learning? Those copies are expensive, but sometimes you need them! Read on for 5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.

I was sitting in a faculty meeting the other day and the principal brought up a major issue at our school. It’s a big one. It’s a tough topic to broach with teachers. It’s highly controversial. It’s highly contentious.

“We’re making way too many copies. We need to talk about copy limits.”

When she said these dreaded words, it was like the air was sucked out of the room.

I looked around. Some teachers sat back, smug in their knowledge that they’re 100% paperless–I’m talking about you, Graphic Design and Computer Animation guys.

Others began to turn various shades of red. I could almost see minds spinning arguments and retorts. The math department was close to an all-out revolt.

Trouble was imminent.

Does this sound familiar? It’s not surprising if it does.

One legacy of quarantine is digital burnout. Teachers and students alike realized that some lessons are better learned in a more traditional manner. There’s something irreplaceable about holding the assignment. About putting pen to paper. About manually annotating. About working through problems with a pencil and eraser.

My principal could feel it, too. She immediately said, “I’m not telling you not to use copies. I’m saying we need to get creative with alternatives.”

I think that’s fair, but I also understand the other side. Teachers want to be given the freedom to teach as they see fit (We are professionals, right? Trust our judgment.). We shouldn’t have to make the choice to do without in our classroom or pay for it ourselves. But the reality is that administrators have a limited budget to work with and my school has a copy allotment.

That paper and ink are pricy.

This got me thinking–what are some creative (and uncomplicated) ways to keep the tactile experience of pen and paper while still meeting the copy allotment? I’m going to share links here. None of them are affiliate links, so I’m not making a profit if you click and buy. For better or for worse, here are…

5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital

1. Dry Erase Pocket Sleeves

These are affordable. You can purchase a set of 30 on Amazon for about $20. When I bought them two years ago, they were $14.99. Thank you, inflation. But they’re sturdy and you can use them again and again.

I permanently keep a class set of maps in mine with a blank back so that students can free-write on the blank side. These are good for quick checks at the end of class.

A box containing dry-erase sleeves. It's 1 of  5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.
See the sleeves in the box? I have a box for every table. They also contain markers and mini erasers. Ignore the sanitizer–it’s just bombing the photo.

You can also make classroom sets of handouts, place them inside the sleeves, and have students do their work with dry-erase markers. They can take pictures of their work and load them to your LMS (Schoology, Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classroom) or a designated Drive folder for you to check later. A warning here–make sure you’re walking around the room and observing the actual work to ensure that students don’t share images.

2. Laminate Classroom Sets

I use this option for stations and primary and secondary sources that I intend to use again and again. Students can mark on these and annotate with dry erase, as well. A good idea is to have students respond to larger prompts about the sources on “big paper.” This can be pricy chart paper (if your department has it) or even butcher paper from the media center.

I like this because you can hang the paper up and have students walk around and respond and offer feedback on each other’s work right on the chart paper (again, give them clear guidelines for the feedback and be very present yourself to keep shenanigans at bay).

Chart paper with student work. It's 2 of  5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.
Collaboration with plain old chart paper. Students annotated laminated primary sources and collaboratively planned essays. They even snapped images so they had access to the info outside of the classroom.

3. Don’t Forget About Notebook Paper!

Sometimes we forget about this, but if it’s a writing prompt that students are completing in class, or a short series of questions, why not project them and have students respond on notebook paper? They can either turn the paper in or take a picture and load it to your LMS. This won’t necessarily work with complicated math problems (try the sleeves above), but it works for a lot.

Image of an assignment that students can easily complete on notebook paper. It's 3 of  5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.
I was assigning SAQs this way for AP World History. I wanted them to write because the exam is on paper. It finally dawned on me that I could project the prompt and have students answer on notebook paper. Note the expert blurring of the peer-reviewer’s name at the bottom.

4. Smart Notebooks

Did you know that Mead’s 5-Star Notebooks are now smart? Students can take notes on the pages, scan them, and the notes go into a free Mead’s Study App. The app will even generate flashcards that students can edit based on their notes. Students can get a 3 subject one on Amazon for under $5.

This, of course, only works for students with good note-taking skills. That’s something we’re working on with our students across our department. Also, if a student’s IEP calls for note outlines or a printout of the notes, this won’t work. But I found out that at my school, the copy limit is different for special ed. Collab teachers may be able to print these modifications out for you. I’d definitely check.

5. Share Printed Manipulatives Across PLCs

A couple of years ago, our US History PLC worked together to print, laminate, and cut out class sets of manipulatives (diamond puzzles, true-false-fix, card sorts, visual flashcards, hexagonal thinking, etc.) for each unit. They share these sets across the PLC (just be sure to check the Terms of Use on resources purchased on websites–they may require additional licenses for multiple classroom use). It saves so much time (and so many copies) when you think about each one of those teachers copying one for each student (or even for each of their classes) each year.

A card sort to laminate and reuse. It's 5 of  5 Simple Ways for Teachers to Save Copies without Going 100% Digital.
During quarantine, I digitized card sorts. It’s just not the same. Students much prefer holding the cards and collaborating. Why not laminate them and use them again?

How Will Students Stay Organized?

At the beginning of each unit, I print out a Table of Contents (with both digital and paper activities listed), a unit organizer (with standards, learning targets, and topics), a vocabulary list, rubrics, and a study guide. Students set up a section of their notebooks for each unit. I have these templates in my free resource library. Sign-Up for my email list and you get access to everything there. I try to limit my handouts to these things. I also try to assign the rest digitally or by using one of the methods above when an assignment just works better traditionally.

What do you do to limit copies in your classroom when digital doesn’t work best? Reach out to me and let me know. We need each other’s help here!

Copy Machine Image by Michaela Pereckas in creative commons, flickr.com, here modified with text overlays

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