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What to Do When Your School’s Printers and Copiers Are Out of Toner and Paper

When toner and paper are in short supply, it’s time for teachers to get creative and figure out ways to teach without using copies.

If your school is struggling to keep ink in stock, here’s what to do when your school’s printers and copiers are out of toner and paper!

What to do when you're out of toner and paper

Teaching Ideas for When You’re Out of Toner and Paper

Making copies and printing out activities has become a staple of the teaching profession. The struggle can be seen in the mad dash for the copier between classes, standing in line to print before school, or begging the school secretary to just let you make 10 copies during lunch.

The printing, copying, paper, and toner struggle is real!

But what do you do when there’s no paper or toner to be had? When the wells have dried out and the empty paper box sits forlornly on the copy room floor? You get creative!

Here are five ways to make teaching a blast – even when your school is out of toner!

1 – Put the Precious Copies in Page Protectors

Chances are that you have at least one or two copies of the activity that you want to use. In that case, place one of the copies in a dry erase sleeve or page protector and break out the dry erase markers. Instead of every student having their own copy, use the activity as part of a center and have students rotate through.

They can take a picture of their answers using an iPad and then upload it to the platform that your school uses. Or, to make things even easier, make the activity self-checking by having an answer key available!

2 – Try Boom Cards

Boom Learning is an online platform that features teacher-created digital activities. The activities are completed on the Boom Learning site. Teachers can monitor which activities their students have completed and how they did. It’s a fun, interactive option to using copies or paper activities.

3 – Use Digital Activities

Digital activities are the perfect alternative to print ones when you’re out of toner or paper. Activities that are based in Google SlidesTM or PowerPoint can be used on your students’ individual tablets or the class tablet if your school is not 1-1 with devices.

Here are some digital activities that are great for the special ed classroom:

Find more Digital Activities HERE!

4 – Stand Up/Sit Down Games

If your students need some movement to keep them engaged, stand up/sit down games are a fun way to add it in. The idea is that you have a set of questions and the students who agree with the answer stand up while those who disagree sit down. You can tailor the questions to everything from general interests to math to science review to spelling.

This will be one of those activities that your students enjoy so much that they’ll hope the school stays out of toner for a while!

5 – Hands-on Activities with Dry Erase Boards

Traditional hands-on activities are always a great option for those times when paper activities are not available. From hands-on science experiments to using resources you already created to using manipulatives to solve math problems and then recording the answer on dry erase boards, these are the types of activities that your students will engage with and want to do more of.


While it is frustrating to be out of toner or paper, look at it as an opportunity to break out those manipulatives and use technology to make learning different and fun during the interim. Chances are that your students won’t want to go back to the paper and pencil activities at all!

How do you cope when there is no toner or paper at your school? Share with us below!

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I'm a special education teacher, presenter, curriculum writer, and educational blogger behind Mrs. D's Corner.
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