The Target Dollar Spot: What You (Might) Need and What You (Probably) Don't

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It’s the time of year when the Target Dollar Spot begins to fill up with items that bring excitement to some and a sense of dread to others: back to school products geared at teachers. Teachergram is filled with posts of teachers showing off their finds, but also an increasing number of captions encouraging teachers NOT to “buy all the things.” Walking through Bullseye’s Playground today, I gave a cold hard look to the back to school items and am hoping I can help you discern what could actually be useful to you, and what will probably just make your room more cluttered at the expense of your bank account.

Let’s start with the items you might need!

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Bins

These sturdy, colorful bins could definitely save you some cash if you were planning on buying book bins or caddies somewhere like Really Good Stuff. Most of the Target bins are $3, whereas Really Good Stuff Bins range from around $4 to $12. If your store is sold out (or you want to save yourself the trip), some of the bins are available online in sets of 4 or 8. Here are a few of the ones I found: supply caddies, upright book bins, paper trays, and book boxes.

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Reading Trackers

I didn’t find these reading trackers (far right) at my local Target, but I’ve seen other teachers posting about them. Students that struggle with keep track of which line they’re reading can use the tracker so they’re only looking at one line of text at time. Unfortunately they’re only available online in a set with other bookmarks.

Alright, that was quick, onto the things you probably don’t need!

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Phonics Tools

Hear me out on this one: even though phonics tools like this wood spinner look fun (and I like that it’s made out of wood), I’ve found that phonics items from Target don’t really make sense. For example, I saw “cup” and “cap” on this spinner and thought it was going to be CVC word practice. But then it includes “key” and “owl,” which are way more challenging words. My students who need CVC practice can’t spell key and owl. And my students that working on vowel teams and diphthongs don’t really need CVC practice. So look closely at any phonics items before you buy and make sure they’ll actually be practical for your students!

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Pillows

This one might be controversial, because look, these pillows are adorable, especially the pencil and the apple you’ve probably seen on the ‘gram! If they really bring you joy, I say buy one, but they do NOT look durable. They look like they’re going to flatten out in a matter of weeks, and the instructions online say they’re spot clean only. If you want pillows for your library or flexible seating areas, I think it’s worth buying some for a few more dollars more from IKEA, which also has lots of fun options.

Crayon Bank

Let this crayon bank stand in for any item that’s cute and that you might be able to think of a use for. As someone who has 9 random alphabet print drawstring bags and a miniature pegboard sitting unused on my shelf, I know from experience that the clutter and expense just is not worth it! Many of us complain about cluttered classrooms, but we’re certainly not helping if we bring non-functional items into them that we may or may not use. I took pictures of way more random (but cute!) things, but I think you get the idea.

In conclusion, I think the best strategy is to consider what items you actually need for your classroom before you walk through Target, and then stick to those items.

I have pocket charts and borders that I got plenty of use out of from the Dollar Spot, but those are both items I would’ve bought elsewhere anyway. The items I didn't use or ended up giving away are the ones I just bought because they looked cute or thought maybe I’d find a use for later. I’d love to hear what items have been keepers for you and which ones you regretted in the comments!

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