With a marketplace of over 7 million educational resources, Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is unlike any other educational platform in the world. And knowing that you can find anything and everything you are looking for in the TpT search results is both exciting and exhausting.
What teacher has time to filter through millions of products to find “the perfect” one? The truth is, you need to have a plan or you’ll find yourself lost in a sea of products.
Because it’s so vast, there’s no way to see everything offered on the site just using a traditional search. So to make maneuvering it more manageable, we’re going to discuss…
- the four questions you need to ask yourself BEFORE you hit the TpT site, and
- how to use the various search functions on the platform to uncover the best TpT search results.
Shopping on TpT: The 4 Essential Questions
Before we jump into searching the TpT platform, I want to make sure you have a solid plan and stay focused in order to find exactly what you need. So you need to start by asking yourself these four questions.
Why are you shopping on TpT?
Let’s face it. If we aren’t careful, searching TpT can be a real time waster (just like social media). So understanding why you are shopping is a great way to stay focused…as opposed to distracted for 3 hours.
That way, you aren’t left asking yourself, What in the world was I looking for?
Maybe you need…
- a specific resource,
- review materials,
- ideas for an evaluation lesson,
- an entire curriculum, or just
- some inspiration.
All of these reasons are completely acceptable; in fact, just stopping by to “window shop” is fine as long as you understand why you are shopping and give yourself a specific amount of time to accomplish this task.
If you go to TpT knowing why you are there, it will make your experience so much more enjoyable.
Who are you shopping for?
After you nail down why you’re shopping, you need to know who you’re shopping for. This may sound like an odd consideration, but it will make a huge difference in how you filter your search.
For example, if you’re shopping for products to help a struggling reader in 3rd grade, don’t assume you need to start with reading products in 3rd grade.
In all likelihood, your search needs to begin one or two grade levels below that his current grade to find the best resource to meet his needs.
But make sure the resources (including the clip art and design) aren’t too “baby-ish” for him.
A struggling child is probably quite aware of the fact that the activities you’re having him complete are below his grade level, and purchasing resources with adorable clipart designed for younger children is only going to make that child feel frustrated.
So, just be mindful of who they are, and what they need.
What are you shopping for?
While you may have a fairly good idea of what you are looking for, there are a few areas you need to evaluate including grade, subject area, price, and type of resource. The more areas you have determined in advance, the better TpT search results you will yield.
For example, simply narrowing down your search to 3rd grade English and Language Arts still returns over 1.2 million resources. So, being able to additionally refine your query by price range and type are imperative.
You and I both know that finding the perfect product is less difficult than finding a perfect product for the perfect price.
I can go to the high-end clothing stores and drool over all of the fabulous clothes, but if I only have $50 to spend, I will end up either leaving frustrated and sad with no clothes, or having purchased something using my credit card with a price tag that rivals my mortgage!
So do yourself a favor and determine (before you start looking) how much you can spend. Then narrow your search accordingly.
Type of Resource
If you have narrowed down all of the other areas, not knowing which type of resource you want is ok. This is usually the category with the most “wiggle” room, and you certainly don’t want to miss an amazing product because you didn’t leave a few of your options open.
Personally, I enjoy looking at a variety of resources before I make my decision because I want to simply see what’s available! There is nothing wrong with this IF you already know the other three components that the resource must have.
Just make sure you understand that NOT narrowing down the type of resource will give you many more search results through which you will need to filter.
If you are short on time or would like to lessen the number of results you get, consider asking yourself a few questions like these…
- Are you looking for Task Cards?
- Are you in need of worksheets?
- Do you want to implement Interactive Notebooks?
- Will the resources be used with one child, a small group, or a large group?
- Do you need a resource that spans a year?
These questions will hopefully provide a springboard from which you can start your strategic search plan!
Is now the best time to buy?
This is the last big question for you to answer before you log on to TpT. The obvious answer is to always shop during a sale, but it never fails that you don’t realize you need something until AFTER a sale.
If you find yourself in need of a resource immediately because one of your kids is struggling or you need to reteach a specific concept, just make the purchase. Yes it will cost you more than if you wait, but sometimes waiting isn’t an option.
However, if you aren’t in desperate need of a specific product, consider waiting to make the purchase. Buying last-minute purchases usually results in in a product that is good, but isn’t exactly what you really wanted or needed.
I know this because I’ve done it. You end up buying the first thing you see and not taking the necessary time to compare the options.
More than once in my teaching career, I have been found frantically printing and laminating task cards 3 minutes before I was due to pick up my class from lunch.
So before logging onto the website, take just five minutes to consider the four questions we have examined. Then once these questions are answered, you’re ready to start working through those TpT search results.
How to Effectively Search on TpT
Obviously, when considering ways to search on TpT, this is where most people begin. I typically use this search bar when I’m simply browsing, or when I’m curious about the number of products available for a given topic.
Unfortunately, this will most likely yield a ridiculously large number of TpT search results because it’s just a GENERAL search. So if you’re limited on time, this is definitely the LEAST effective way to explore your resource options.
You will find this search bar at the very top of the TpT webpage, and you can access this from any page within the TpT database.
If you are looking for one of your favorite shops or sellers, you can type the name in the general search bar, and find the results you need.
As soon as you get to the homepage of your favorite store, you can move on to the next type of search!
Specific Store Search
If you have a particular shop you enjoy perusing, this will be the best way to search on TpT for you.
To explore any specific store, go to the shop’s page, and about halfway down on the right, you will see another search bar. This is the shop search bar.
From here, you can analyze any product that particular seller has available. But remember, these search results are ONLY for this store.
If you want to search a specific TpT shop by category, you can select from the “Custom Categories” located on the left-hand side of the page.
This is an excellent place to start if you really like the resources from a specific seller because it provides you with the opportunity to quickly scan the groups of resources offered.
But just as with the shop search bar I mentioned earlier, these categories are ONLY for the particular shop you are browsing. These categories do not include products from other sellers on the TpT platform.
Of course, once you’ve finished looking at everything in a particular shop, you can simply return to the general search at the top of the page. Or, you can choose to see what other TpT search results you can uncover with the last option.
Specific Criteria Search
This type of search will be most effective when you’ve taken time to refine exactly what type of resource you want based on what we discussed at the beginning of this article.
(If you skimmed over that part, just make sure you go back and give it a read!)
Once you’ve narrowed down the various aspects of the “perfect” resource, you can explore several different ways.
Within the search bar at the top of every page on the TpT website is the option to narrow down by grade level, subject, and price.
We already took a cursory glance at the general search section earlier, and I showed you how to search by shop name. But you can do the exact same thing for specific resources. (I will show you an example once we look at the other sections.)
When you click the “grade” section in the search bar, checkboxes will appear that will allow you to select the appropriate grade level(s) for which you are seeking resources.
While you can choose more than one grade level, I would suggest ONLY choosing the specific grade you teach so that it limits the numbers of TpT search results you get.
When you select the “subject” section, you get another menu with circular radio buttons that include all of the different subjects.
One thing to note here is unlike the “grade” section (where you can select multiple options) you can only select one subject at a time.
The last section in the search is price. Just like the “subject” section, you will see price ranges with circular radio buttons, and you can only select one price range to search at a time.
While I wish we could search more than one price range at a time, just consider your initial budget and stick to it.
Example of TpT Search Results using our formula
Now that we have discussed how to find the best resources, let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you want to find resources related to compound words. You want the resource to be less than $5 and you’re doing a construction classroom transformation at the same time.
Using our formula from above, you can type in “compound word construction” to see which results appear.
As you can see, I left the grade and subject empty because we were searching for a fairly specific resource. However, we still ended up with 462 results.
But the coolest part is that we revealed additional search options in the left-hand menu. These were not available on the homepage, but once we did a search they populated.
As you can see, we can now search by format, Common Core State Standards, and resource type in addition to grade, subject, and price.
To see the additional search options (as well as the more traditional ones), simply scroll down the page within the TpT search results.
When you already have in mind what types of resources you’re looking for, you can use these searches to your benefit. The next time you visit TpT, give a few of these suggestions a try.
Incorporating these practices will maximize your TpT search results while minimizing the time you spend filtering through products.