by Katy McDowall and Stephanie McCauley
As the new school year approaches, teachers are anxiously looking for new materials and lessons for the classroom. But how can you make these ideas into a reality, especially if you struggle with budget and resource limitations?
DonorsChoose.org allows public school teachers to acquire funding for specific classroom projects. Teachers can develop and post campaigns, seeking donations for resources they and their students need. Then, donors, including friends, family, parents, colleagues, and corporate sponsors, can search for and support the initiatives that inspire them.
Here are some tips for a successful campaign:
- Put yourself in donors’ shoes. Donors want to feel inspired and involved in the project. Give details about your students’ interests and needs, and add a class picture. Keep your materials list short, your budget reasonable, and your description free of jargon donors may not understand.
- Be a storyteller. Paint a picture for readers. Who are your students? What are their struggles? High poverty? Limited resources? Think about adding direct quotes or anecdotes from lessons. Add a catchy title to reel readers in.
- Make your page visually appealing. Consider experimenting with your text layout. Try short paragraphs broken up with bold headings and photos. Check and recheck your work for spelling and grammar errors. A clean and fluid description can show you really care about your project!
- Stay engaged. As you receive donations, be sure to post comments thanking your donors for their time and support. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, students' parents, and community. Share your project on Facebook and Twitter. The more people you connect with, the more likely you will reach your funding goals.
Campaigns include everything from incorporating 3-D printers in science class, to innovative seating strategies for distracted learners, to books and other resources to build lesson plans and the classroom library, to professional development materials, to simple art and paper supplies for dynamic notebooks and projects. The possibilities are endless!
To help, we've set up three sample campaigns for you to peruse:
- developing nonfiction reading skills,
- implementing a growth mindset classroom, and
- creating a student-choice learning environment with menus.
Feel free to borrow ideas or use these samples as templates for your own campaigns.
Sample Campaign: Exploring Nonfiction Through Jacob's Ladder
My students need new and exciting books to spark their interest in nonfiction, aid their reading comprehension, and help them engage with both historical and 21st-century content.
My fourth-grade language arts class is made up of a diverse group of high-ability students who love to read. They are looking for challenging lessons that can stretch their brains and increase their engagement with literature.
My students face the daily challenge of finding adequate reading resources. We have been using outdated textbooks that fail to appeal to their 21st-century interests. Students have grown bored of dry, historical passages and want to find adventure and excitement in nonfiction.
I am looking to incorporate new nonfiction lessons from the Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension series. These books, from the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary, will expose students to diverse texts and ideas, and help them engage with their world through reading. Students will read and discuss passages about famous scientists like Jane Goodall and Richard Feynman. They’ll learn about supercomputers and the trials of living on just 2 dollars a day in America. This new and exciting material will help my students not only in English class, but also in their wider communities as they learn more about the world around them.
Students will then read passages from two accessible young adult history series, Stephanie Bearce's Top Secret Files, and Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. Students will pick a time period discussed (e.g., World War I, the American Revolution, the Wild West) and create their own engaging historical narratives, using the reading and thinking skills they’ve learned from Jacob’s Ladder.
Where Your Donation Goes
- Jacob’s Ladder: Nonfiction Grade 4 by Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Tamra Stambaugh
- Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #2)
- Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #4)
- Top Secret Files: The American Revolution by Stephanie Bearce
- Top Secret Files: The Wild West by Stephanie Bearce
- Spiral notebooks (3 packs)
Sample Campaign: Implementing a Growth Mindset Classroom
My students need books about growth mindset for individual reading, read-alouds, and classroom activities to aid in their understanding of how a growth mindset can help them overcome challenges in school and life.
My third-grade students come from a variety of different backgrounds and home lifestyles, but all are excited about learning. Success, however, comes more easily to others, and I want each of my students to understand how capable they are.
Growth mindset is the difference between “I can’t do that” and “Let me try to do that.” Students move away from the fixed, “I can’t do that” mindset and are challenged to change their thinking about their abilities and potential. Based on the ideas made popular by Carol Dweck’s 2006 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, growth mindset teaches students how to persevere through failures and understand how their brains work. With the right classroom resources, students come to understand that hard work and effort can lead to success.
I want several books for classroom use, including several picture books for read-alouds and individual readings, and Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom, which includes handouts and activities for students about mindsets, as well as games that boost critical reasoning skills.
Where Your Donation Goes
- Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci
- Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci
- Mindsets in the Classroom Poster Set by Mary Cay Ricci
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
- Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak
- What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
- Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
- Chocolate Fix
Sample Campaign: Creating a Student-Choice Learning Environment
My students need project plans, resources, and supplies in order to work on projects that are of their own choosing but challenge them to excel.
My fifth-grade students live in a small, rural community. They all have different needs and learn at different speeds. In order to provide each of my students with activities that challenge them, I need a variety of differentiation resources.
Student choice is essential to a successful differentiated classroom—and menus are a perfect way to provide choice. With menus, students can decide from a list which product they will develop after they study a major concept or unit. Students can select the projects that appeal to them but also provide adequate challenge.
I want several books for my classroom that provide menus worksheets and other student-choice formats. The projects in the Differentiating Instruction With Menus series are amazing, as they align to national standards and ensure that students do not spend more than a dollar on materials. They also need resources to complete their projects, including art supplies, poster board, and a class iPad to record video and use other programs.
Where Your Donation Goes
- Differentiating Instruction With Menus: Language Arts (Grades 3–5, 2nd ed.) by Laurie E. Westphal
- Differentiating Instruction With Menus: Social Studies (Grades 3–5, 2nd ed.) by Laurie E. Westphal
- Differentiated Projects for Gifted Students: 150 Ready-to-Use Independent Studies by Brenda McGee and Debbie Triska Keiser
- Crayola Colored Pencils 12 Ct (Set of 24 Each)
- Crayola Classpack 200ct Ultra-Clean Washable Markers
- Elmer’s Washable All-Purpose School Glue Sticks (Pack of 30)
- School Smart Railroad Board (Pack of 25)
- Apple iPad Air