6 Ways to Reuse Magazines and Junk Mail

Teaching in Room 6  5th Grade
With Earth Day just around the corner, I thought I would join up with Leanne at Teaching Tales and share a few ideas.

If you are anything like me, you have an entire crate full of old magazines and junk mail.  Everyone I know collects their magazines and hands them over to me to use in my classroom.  I LOVE using the pictures in magazines and ads in the junk for classroom projects and activities.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  Name Tags

Teaching in Room 6  5th Grade
At the start of the year (usually the first day of school) I have the students cut out WORDS from magazines that describe themselves.  These can be any words that "speak" to the student.  Students choose adjectives that describe their personality, cut out letters to create words, or find words of objects and other things they just like.  The name tags become a reflection of themselves.  I then laminate them (using the hard lamination) and stick them on their pencil boxes.  These name tags stay with them the entire year. 

2.  Scavenger Hunts

Teaching in Room 6  5th Grade
One of my favorite things to do is have the students search through magazine looking for examples of things we are studying in class.  Here is a math scavenger hunt that I had the kids do (there is also a rubric).  I wanted them to look through and find any and all references to each of the math terms listed.  Some of the kids got REALLY creative! You can open any unit with this same idea, where they look through the magazines for evidence of things from a science topic (one year I had them find all of the "space" themed objects....they loved finding ads from Starbucks or Milky Way bars) or a the beginning of a language arts unit.  Just breaking out the magazine crate and scissors gets the kids instantly interested.

3.  Collage Portraits

Magazines are filled with colorful ads.  These are great to create pictures with.  I have the students create a basic picture or even a self portrait.  Then, cutting or ripping (which I actually prefer) solid colors out of the magazine, the students piece them together to form the picture.  The variation in colors provide a really nice contrast and make the artwork stand out!

4.  Borders for Writing Projects

Teaching in Room 6  5th Grade
I had my students create "Where I'm From" poems (which were about their own family heritage...the original can be found here).  To accompany the final draft, and to give them a little bit of a different look, the students created a one inch frame around the edge of the final draft paper.  They then cut out pictures and words that went along with the story they wrote about (in this case, things that told the "story" of their family)

5.  Budget Planning with Circulars

Junk mail comes to my house on a regular basis.  Included in the pile of papers are ALWAYS supermarket circulars.  Real Estate magazines are also in the fold.  I use these to teach math concepts, such as budgeting, adding and subtracting large numbers, rounding, place value, percentages, multiplying decimals, etc...  One of my favorite projects is when the kids go shopping for houses, write checks for those houses, and keep a register for them.  They get so many great math skills in, all from old magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the trash!

6.  Rebus Puzzles

The students LOVE creating puzzles for others to solve, and one great way to do that is through Rebuses.  You know these...they are the puzzles where words are broken down into their parts and, using pictures, are  "added" together.  If a student wanted to say, "I hear you", they could cut out a picture of an eye from an ad then the letter h + an ear and a picture of a lamb (ewe).  The kids LOVE making these, and they become a great interactive bulletin board.

So there you have it.  A few easy, fun, MEANINGFUL activities to get your students reusing old magazines and junk mail, instead of just tossing them in the garbage.

How have you reused these old items in the classroom?


  1. I use cardstock ads for bookmarks - I just cut them into 1" wide strips and put them in a container by the library checkout. Sometimes kids use them as jigsaw puzzles, but mostly they just take what they need. If my address is on the cardstock, I black it out with black Sharpie, otherwise, I just cut. Free bookmarks! Not maybe the cutest, but free!

  2. Love this post!! I'm going to have to print it!!
    Thanks so much!

    Ann Marie Smith @ Innovative Connections

  3. Great ideas...now you have me thinking!!!!! What can I plan?????

    I have had kids pick out a magazine picture and write the four types of sentences about it...declarative, imperative, interrogative and exclamatory.

  4. I especially love the kids' name tags with the words from magazines - super cute! Great post for Earth Day.

    Teacher Talk

  5. Great ideas! I use old magazines for writing workshop picture prompts. We also use them for illustrating our books and other little projects, like Grandparents' Day. Your name tags are super cute!

    Christi ツ
    Ms. Fultz’s Corner

  6. Thanks everyone! I am glad you were able to find something useful here :)


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