Say Goodbye to Your Laminator: A Better Way to Preserve Visual Aids in Your Classroom

Use sheet protectors rather than lamination for your visual aids .
I love my laminator. I use it often for making bookmarks and preserving posters for my classroom. But several years ago I decided for my 8.5"x11" visuals, it was better to use plastic sheet protectors. Here are my reasons why:

1. For your classroom visuals, using sheet protectors is more cost-effective.
You can purchase a package of 100 for less than $10 (for economy quality; less than $20/200 for better quality). I'm pretty sure that's cheaper than the laminator film I buy. If you use the thermal pouches, you'll save about $5 per 100, plus you won't have to cut anything.

2. Visuals store easily in a three-ring binder.
Anyone who has tried to store laminated posters in a cupboard knows what a pain it is. They slip off one another and the sizes are always odd. And I can never find the ones I'm looking for. I've tried putting them in large envelopes and labeling them, but then I have to pull them all out to find the one(s) I want to use. In a three-ring binder, I can flip through the pages quickly to find what I'm looking for.

3. Visuals store nicely--without creasing--in a three-ring binder.
Not only are they easier to find in a binder, they are less likely to get damaged. I can't count how many posters I've accidentally bent or creased while storing them. Having them all organized in a binder makes it a cinch for finding what I want and for keeping them like new.

4. Sheet protectors can be reused.
If you decide you don't like or don't want to use a certain visual aid anymore, there's no loss in money. Just slip it out of the sheet protector and put a new one in. Laminating is permanent. If you change your mind on the visual or notice a typo, you can't undo the lamination.

5. Sheet protectors won't ruin your visual aid.
How many times have you had a colorful poster or an example of student work that was ruined because you ran out of laminator film in the middle of it? Or it crinkled up while running through the machine? Or it created air bubbles on the page? I've had all these things happen and more. I've had to apologize to students for ruining their perfect collage or drawing, and wasted so much printer ink reprinting new signs that were destroyed in the laminator. I love the fact that there is absolutely no risk with the sheet protectors.

You can store all your class pictures and visual aids in a three-ring binder.
-Class pictures: I like to take a group picture of each class at the beginning of the year. I also take additional pictures during Homecoming Week (dress-up days), new semester (I always have new classes with shifting schedules and move-ins), and at the end of the year. I used to do old-school scrapbooking with the developed pictures, but with digital I just place them on a fun background then print myself. Each year I have a new crop of pictures to add to my "class pictures" binder, which is so much easier than scrapbooking! My students love looking through the pictures to find their older siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, and--in the next few years--their parents.

-Showcase student work: I like to display student work throughout the year. The sheet protectors keep their work protected from things like marker dust on the white board and their classmates writing or drawing on them. Within my individual units, I always keep a few examples of exemplary student work to show future classes. Be sure to ask permission; some students do not want theirs used, or are willing if their name is covered up.

-Visual aids by unit: I have binders of visuals for each novel unit I teach. In addition, I have one for poetry & creative writing, one for short stories, one for all my Shakespeare units (The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet), one for journalism/expository writing, one for persuasive & narrative writing, and one for miscellaneous literature and authors.

Sure, sheet-protectors definitely have some drawbacks: 
-they are limited by their size (8.5" x 11")
-they aren't as thick as lamination
-they could slide out (unless you tape the open end)
-the three-ring tab isn't the prettiest for display
 But even with these cons, I still love to use sheet protectors for most of my classroom displays. 

Do you use sheet protectors or laminate? Or something else? Feel free to comment and post a link. 
Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Orman's Classroom!

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