George Lucas Educational Foundation

Classroom Hacks: The Rubber Band Control Valve and the Duct Tape Anti-Clicker

Classroom Hacks: The Rubber Band Control Valve and the Duct Tape Anti-Clicker

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The Rubber Band Control Valve

On the third day of school during pack-up, a usually stressful, loud adventure, I spied a student across the room taking a Purrell bath. He squirted a healthy glob of hand sani into his palm and then proceeded to moisturize his face and arms. To make a long story short, (ouch) he didn’t exactly enjoy (burn) the classroom cleanse for obvious reasons (sizzle). I had a long talk with him and then with his mom. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen again with him, but what about other students? I definitely didn’t want another “event.”

Sanitizer with rubber band control valve

What should I do? I didn’t have to think long. That day after school I went into a friend’s classroom and noticed she had a rubber band wrapped around the hand sanitizer-pumping dispenser. Bingo! The rubber band stops the pump from pumping all the way down, which gives a nice little smidge of sanitizing goodness –– a little droplet.  She didn’t create this idea. I think she credited Pinterest. Genius!

The Duct Tape Anti-Clicker 

This idea is for the student who cannot resist the temptation to click pencils. It’s like he’s constantly counting off the encore song at a Van Halen concert. He’s the kid that I like to call “reminder-proof.” Reminders just bounce off. He’s also a magician because no matter how many pencils I might take from him, he always has more. Perhaps up his sleeve. Clicking, clicking, clicking. And when you think he’s not paying attention and zing him with a question mid-click –– he knows the answer.

He’s hyperactive?


He needs to click?

Of course.

Does it mess with his learning?

Not really.

Does it mess with his peers?


Two duct taped pencils

That’s why I needed to silence the click. I called upon the most versatile Macgyver-like substance on earth. Duct Tape. Yes, I duct taped his pencils, which allows the clicker to click without the click. Muted. Silenced. It’s working for now. We’re all happy.

Share your ideas that help all students succeed. 

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

I started doing the hand sanitizer hack this year- cuts our use in half and less drippy mess on the carpet. Another hack is to put stickers inside the desks on pencil tray. The one on the left says "BIG" and the one on the right says "small." The Students organize their desk based on the size of the items....folders and journals on the big side vs. smaller reading books on the right. Pencil box goes down the middle. When we organize desks they move everything to the top of the desk separating big from small. Then they just put the two stacks inside the desk.
A hack I did when teaching 2nd and 3rd was to help students learn how to understand written content on tests, math problems, etc. I provided students with three colored highlighters. Each one used for a specific purpose- namely how to categories and understand the written text provided. Information, Direction, Question. The text fits into those three categories. Yellow was for text providing information, blue for directions, and green for questions. It really helped students make sense of large amounts of information and identify the necessary directions, refer to the information, and make sure all the questions are answered.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Thanks for the tips, John. That's a lot of highlighters! I can see how that would be a good text organizational tool. Might try that next year.

stewart12's picture

those are helpful tips are there any tips to help keep kindergarteners organized?

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Stewart12....that one may be a bit more difficult to accomplish. Even in my first grade classroom organization is relative. To help students get organized I believe it helps to start with their morning routine at home. I encourage my student's parents to involve their child in the getting ready for school process. (How often do we have kids tell us "My dad didn't pack it." So I do this with a note early in the year titled "Ways to help you and your child (and you) begin each day in a good mood." I suggest to parents they NOT pack it in the am. Instead make it a bedtime routine to pack backpacks, shoes and clothes laid out, etc. This is a way to help parents have mornings with fewer surprises (note- every morning with a kindergartener has surprises.) Then, I work with students to understand why items go certain places in the pack so they can learn to be more independent as the year goes on. (Because a lunchbox shouldn't get stuffed in the SMALLEST pocket- I know this seems to be a daily occurrence in my room for the first three months of the year.) As far as the note home, keep in mind I work in a very small school and most all the parents know me very well so I can be more suggestive in my notes home and no one believes I'm telling them how to parent. That being said, I believe a carefully worded note home of encouragement and support can be well received by all.

Cheryl H.'s picture
Cheryl H.
Second grade teacher from northern Maine.

To keep the desks of my second graders neat at all times, I start the expectation on day one and never waver.

1. I ask students to provide five folders. I provide for those who cannot. I label them: Morning Work, Work, Literacy, Writing, and Math. (Put the labels on the lower right of the folder so they can be seen without taking the folders out of the desk completely.) The school provides a "traveling" folder that the children take home nightly and (hopefully) bring back each day.
2. No paper EVER in the desk. Each piece has a home in one of the above folders.
3. All folders, notebooks, and anything that they can "write" in goes on the "right" along with one (and only) pencil box.
4. Everything else goes on the left.
5. Student are allowed to have only one of our classroom library books in their desks (on the left, of course) at a time.
6. Students are allowed to have only one pencil, one correcting pen, one eraser, and one chapstick outside of their pencils boxes. They cannot use more than these at one time, and they quickly become toys if out. If they have a ruler, it goes between the two stacks.

At the end of the day I ask the students to look in their desk to make two neat stacks and to take any garbage out (tissues, sticker papers).

This really does work! Of course, there are students who try to do their own thing. It doesn't take long to conform them. For those students who, due to emotional or intellectual reasons, cannot do this, I assign a buddy who will help.

I have used this method for 20 years. I NEVER have desk clean out time, the students can find their papers because they are in the proper places, and it saves time.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Thanks for the detailed post, Cheryl. I think organization of the classroom and student desks is all about persistence until the kids know the routine-- like breathing. Just like you did it.

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