Get on your bargain bin diving gear – Carol Allen raids the petty cash for her new column
logo Pound Shop PedagogyYou don’t have to be a 1970s disco victim to be transfixed by glitter balls. I love them, and so do many of the children I work with. And the High Street electrical chain Maplins literally sparkles with them.

If you are within reach of one of their stores it’s worth dropping in to see whether any of them are on offer – there are regular discounts – but all of the ones below are available from their website.

And before you dismiss these suggestions as frippery, here are five good reasons why they can be effective with learners:

  1. Setting the scene! Why not create an atmosphere for the students as they enter your room? A dramatic change from the usual strip lighting will signal that something magical and different is about to happen.
  2. The majority of us are visual learners and it is estimated that roughly 80 per cent of our learning input is via vision. Why not use a light display as a creative prompt for poetry, prose or drama?
  3. Voice Control. The Sound-to-Light Sensor Ball has an excellent setting which makes the strength of light display respond in proportion to the level of sound input – so perfect for voice control work!
  4. Control at a cause-and-effect level. By using a Powerlink Control Unit students with complex needs can explore cause and effect and control their sensory environment.
  5. Create a mini sensory den, either using a commercially purchased dark den or a white or black umbrella, or even an old sheet draped over a table with cushions underneath!

Maplin 1The most serious investment would be the ProSound Lighting 7-Inch Disco Ball (left) at £24.99. The specs are beguiling: "Shoots beams of coloured light in all directions; Spins 360 degrees on a vertical axis; Medium sized- 18 cm in diameter."

And the online review is worth sharing too: “Really liked this product! I brought it for my car to spruce it up, i enjoy driving along whilst listening to Westlife with the disco ball going for it! If anyone in the west midlands would like to disco with me then please feel free to get into contact with me.” Now there’s an offer.

Maplins 2Lower down the price scale is the ProSound Lighting LED Colour Cloud, at £14.99, which projects coloured light patterns. Reviews are mixed but it’s clear that these products are being bought by parents of children with disabilities. 

Glitterball 3And there are numerous other variations on the theme. If you are really strapped for cash, however, there is always the Sound-to-Light Sensor Ball (right) at £5.99. 

And for those who think that price is a steal, you can purchase a flashing blue Mini LED Police Beacon (left) at £9.99 and make a citizen’s arrest! 

Carol Allen"Pound Shop Pedagogy" is a regular column focusing on great value classroom resources for children. Carol Allen is a consultant for inclusion and special needs and is well known for her innovative approach and for helping learners "by any means necessary" (see "The Innovators - 4 Carol Allen" by Sal McKeown)

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