Using Bottle Caps to Increase Student Engagement

If you are a teacher, chances are that you have been buried alive under a mound of laminating on more than one occasion.  I love laminating as much as the next teacher but sometimes you just need to be able to quickly get a meaningful learning activity into the hands of your students without a lot of prep time.

A couple of years ago, the need for highly engaging, low-prep math centers….along with a large stash of bottle caps in my cabinet (doesn’t every teacher have a stash of bottle caps in their closet) led the to creation of this activity that my students have enjoyed month after month.  

Simply adding bottle caps to the math center makes it more fun and engaging for students without being extra prep work for the teacher.  

Ask parents, family, and colleagues to save their water bottle caps for you and you should have plenty for your class in just a couple of days.  You will need to gather 10 bottle caps for each student in your class and it is nice to have a few extra to make replacements as needed.  

Separate the bottle caps into groups of 10.  Next, simply use a Sharpie to write the numbers 1-10 on the tops of the caps.  This is a great job for a parent volunteer or even a responsible student with neat handwriting.  

My students have individual math supply tubs where they keep their bottle caps so they are always easy to get to.  If your students do not have math boxes, the bottle caps can easily be stored in their regular supply boxes or in another easily accessible area of the classroom. 

To change things up a bit, you can use fun, seasonal erasers in place of the water bottle caps.  You can typically find a large selection of these erasers at the Dollar Spot at Target or at Dollar Tree.  My students often love using fun erasers so much that they start bringing them to school for the class to use 🙂

In order to save time on lamination and cutting, the center pages can be placed in folders with sheet protectors or in dry erase sleeves.  Students can use their math journals to show any work they might need to solve the problem.  By not having students write on the actual center pages, you can use them over and over and reduce the number of copies you need to make.  I like to keep copies of previous months’ activities ready and available for early finishers to use.  They are also great to pull for small group intervention and reteaching of isolated skills. 

The monthly centers in my room are designed to allow students to gain meaningful independent practice.  Once students become familiar with the routine and expectations, this will allow the teacher uninterrupted time to work with small groups and individuals to provide targeted instruction.  The use of bottle caps is helpful to the young kinesthetic learners in my class and helps to increase the overall level of on task behavior.   

After students have completed the center, I like to make the answer keys available so they can check their own work and receive immediate feedback.  The answer keys also come in handy during partner work where each student is working on the same set of problems independently and then they check their answers together.  I teach my students how to discuss any answer they did not get correct with their partner to determine where the error in thinking occurred.    

 Here are few more picture of my students using bottle caps during math.

If you would like to try out this activity in your classroom, check out the FREEBIE SAMPLER by clicking on the image below.

 I would love to hear about any success stories you have from using this activity in your classroom!


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