Teacher Tips - How to Reuse Used Paper In and Out of the Classroom

Written by: Mike Turner



Time to read 2 min

Whilst you can do lots of lessons and activities without using paper, it isn’t always possible. Before you screw up your paper and throw it away, why not get some added value from it first – it costs nothing and is great for the environment.

Here are our top suggestions:

  1. Never throw away paper before you have used both sides: either re-use for printing on the blank side (but make sure it’s the right way up!) – or for rough work.
  2. Organise a paper-based challenge. For example, students work in groups to design the best paper aeroplane or the tallest (Sellotape-free) free-standing paper tower.
  3. If one side of the paper is still blank, cut the sheets into squares or strips and use them for classroom activities such as quick dictations, description and drawing, bingo, brainstorming or jotting down answers to pre-mingle questions. Using scrap paper in this way is perfect for quite a few activities in our Fifty Bright Ideas card pack...just saying!
  4. Cut into squares and use for papercraft, bookmarks, paper chain decorations, mobiles, papier mâché or origami activities – if you don’t do this kind of thing in your classes, check with other teachers – maybe create a scrap paper resource box in your staffroom (or in your classroom, for the students to use).
  5. If you have any sheets with any kind of text on them, cut each into 10-12 pieces. Divide your class into pairs or small groups and give each pair/group the pieces from 2 or 3 texts, mixed together. Have them race to reconstruct the texts. Fun – and great reading practice!
  6. Shred plenty of paper and place it in a box or sack. Add random items and have students reach in, find an item and describe it for other students to guess. Although you can do this without shredded paper, it adds an extra sense of excitement when students have to feel around to find an item.
  7. Use for a ‘find the word’ activity. You need sheets of paper that have some text on them. Hand out a sheet to each student. Call out three numbers from 1 to 20. Students underline the words at these positions in the text. They then must come up with a sentence using all three words. Go around the group, with each student reading out their sentence. The rest of the class try to guess one or more of the three words from the original text.
  8. Outside of the classroom, there are plenty of other ways you can reuse or re-purpose scrap paper – particularly if you check it has been printed with non-toxic ink. Old newspapers or brown paper bags are perfect for a range of uses. Here are just a few:
    • Pet bedding - just put it through your paper shredder
    • Packing material – either scrunched up or shredded
    • Seedling pots – use egg cartons, toilet rolls, or folded newspaper
    • Compost it – shred or cut it up first
    • Use it to light your stove, open fire or wood burner
    • Window cleaning – newspaper plus vinegar will leave them sparkling!

These are just a few ways in which we can do our bit for the environment and work towards being greener teachers. If you have any more ideas we would love to see them! Leave us your suggestions in the comment section and share them with other teachers.