20 MUST HAVE Items to Start Your Classroom
As teachers, we are under this crazy notation that we need TONS of supplies to teach. Although having loads of resources at your fingertips may make some of your job a little easier, most of them are not required. Believe me, there is such a thing as having too much!
If you’re just starting out, money is scarce and buying TONS of resources for your classroom seems daunting! Believe me, we’ve all been there. Resources, room décor, books, office supplies… it can all add up QUICK! Especially if you’re are just starting out.
Please note this post contains affiliate links to Amazon. I’m a huge fan of Amazon Prime and LOVE their 2-day shipping. Sometimes it’s just easier to order it late one night when my toddler is sleeping then drag him all over town trying to find the best deals on school supplies. Please don’t feel that you have to buy your supplies online. These are just suggestions. If you do follow my links, please know that I do make a small commission from your purchase. This helps to keep this blog running.
My first year, I started the first week of October. I was hired because of increases enrollment at my school. It also meant that the students in my new class were handpicked by the other teachers to come to my room. I won’t dwell on that aspect, but I will say… I HAD nothing! I was hired on a Friday and expected to have my room ready for the kiddos the following week. (Insert panic mode!) To fuel my panic, on top of starting late and inheriting students from other classrooms, my new friends weren’t coming with school supplies. Just the treasures in their desks. Which, by the first week of October, equals a half-a-pencil, a box of broken crayons, and a glue cap. Did I mention I had 13 boys and 5 girls? I had no clue where to start!
Here’s the thing… teaching is all about the kids. It is about creating lessons to engage and teach those students. You don’t need much to do that…but you do need some. If you’re like first year me and have limited funds to start a classroom (and too many boys to count!), you really only need to buy 20 things. The rest will come as the years progress.
(Click the picture or any of the pictures to snag these on Amazon for a great deal!)
and TONS of them. I mean like make a stockpile! Do yourself a favor, buy a few boxes of the fancy Ticonderoga ones. They’re a little pricier, but they last! Also, if you have parents that ask if you need any supplies, always nod and say pencils. There will come a time in the not so distant future that you will need pencils. You will always need pencils. #allthepencils
- Pencil Sharpener
You gotta keep those pencil sharp! I suggest you splurge a little here and get a NICE electric sharpener. Please understand that your pencil sharpener will be used every day in your classroom. Spend a little bit more upfront to get one that has a warranty. They tend to last longer and usually can be replaced by the company if it dies before the warranty is up. I love my Bostitch SuperPro like the one pictured above! So far it has lasted 3 years. That’s like 100 years in pencil sharpener years! I also had this X-Acto Heavy Duty School Sharpener for a few years. It held up pretty well and was reasonably priced.
- Glue sticks
If you ever plan on doing any sort of project in your classroom, you’re going to need glue sticks. If you know you’re going to do Interactive Student Notebooks, then start stockpiling now. This is one of those supplies where kids will bring a few, but that stash will be gone by Thanksgiving. Do yourself a favor and start buying glue sticks in the summer when they are on sale. Sometimes office supply stores will have them marked on a penny deal. If you’re not sure how many to get, multiply the number of students you have by six. Got that number? Now, triple it.
- Construction paper
Look for packs that have multiple colors if you can’t get a ton of different packs right away. I also suggest getting the 12 by 18 pack of paper. This size can be easily cut in half and now you have 2 pieces of paper for the price of one. #teacherhack
If you do want to stock up on a few colors, I suggest blue, green, and red. Those always seemed to cover our basis in our second-grade classroom for projects throughout the year.
Another item you’ll want to stockpile. It is also an item that if often featured as a penny deal. Look for brand name Crayola crayon boxes of the 24 count. These are usually the truest colors. If you teach in a primary grade, you know there is nothing more frustrating than 18 littles crowded around a crayon bucket trying to find “red” when all there is pink, purple, and violet red knock offs…
- Lined paper
Now, this type of paper really depends on the age of students you teach. If you’re in K-1, you’ll probably want to look for primary lined paper. I know Walmart and Target have sold primary lined notebooks in the past. In second grade, we used wide ruled notebooks. The point is, you’re kiddos are going to need a place to write and line paper is usually an easy supply to keep on hand.
- Printer Paper
White and colored. Most schools provide teachers access to a printer. If you’re lucky, they may even provide a *limited* supply of printer paper. But, you’ll need some of your own too. With the rise in access to online resources, it is so easy to just click the “print” button for your next lesson, but you’ll need paper to copy it on to. I also suggest a pack of colored printer paper. Use this to send home important notes to parents. Yellow, blue, and green always stand out against a sea of white school papers.
Books are a teacher’s lifeline. But know you do not need a full class library to start a classroom. Yes, you want your students to have access to books throughout the day, but this is not something you need to spend tons of money on your first year. Here are some tips for building your classroom library on a budget:
* Ask other teachers– Over the years, teachers change grade levels and classrooms. This means that they have to box up and move their book stash. If they’ve been teaching a while, it can be huge! I’ve found that most teachers are happy to give a few old cast off books to the newbie to start her year off. SCORE!
*Garage Sales– My first year, I searched garage sales for books for my class. I was usually able to find series of books in relatively good condition for bargain deals. If I mentioned I was a teacher, most people either brought out more books or offered a further discount.
*Good Will and Salvation Army– This is also a great place to find relatively good condition books. I had the best luck finding chapter books at places like these, but it is always worth a trip to check and see what they have. It doesn’t hurt to call before you head down there. Most employees are happy to spot check their collection and tell you what they have a majority of.
*Library- The wonderful thing about the library is that the books are FREE! Yes, you do have to return them eventually, but you can check out and recheck out books almost as often as you like. My first few years, I used our school’s library books to supplement my wanting book collection. Each week, I dragged a crate to the library on my planning time and pulled 15-20 new titles. I kept the books in the crate away from the classroom library so they wouldn’t get mixed in with the books on my shelf by accident. On Friday, I’d have my classroom librarian make sure that all the books were collected from desks and I’d return the crate that afternoon and refill it for the next week. This also worked great to pull books to match our theme that week.
You could also check out books at your local library. My team did this a few times when we needed multiple copies of the same book. Just be sure to return them! Also, some libraries have library sales on their old books, so keep an eye out!
*Scholastic Book Clubs– Sign up for Scholastic Book Clubs! Your kids will get access to quality literature at reasonable prices and you can earn FREE books! Plus, in almost every catalog there is a dollar deal. PERFECT for snagging class sets of certain titles!
Pages in books will rip, important papers will tear. Get a few rolls of scotch tape. The Target Dollar Spot usually has a combo pack of 2 or 3 rolls for a dollar.
Bulletin boards, printable books, and so much more all need to be stapled! This is another high use item and worth a little splurge. Look for a heavy-duty design with a 15-20 page count. Buy a couple boxes of staples too. This is an item I do suggest you buy a few of. For some reason, you can never have too many staplers in your classroom. I like to keep 3 at all times. One that could open flat for bulletin boards, one that has an easy stapler for stapling pages and one everyday stapler at my reading group table.
- Sticky Notes
These are the chameleon of the classroom. They can be used to write a quick note to the teacher down the hall, or as writing pads for your kiddos when using your interactive anchor charts. The point is, you need them. And quite a few. Buy some fun brightly colored ones! I prefer the Super Sticky Post-it Notes. They just stick better!
Folders help keep you and your kiddos organized. Usually, this is a standard item on your school’s supply list, but not all folders are created equal. I like to get the thicker 3-prong poly kind. I also like to get class sets of one color. This helps manage your transitions. Having students to pull out their green center work folder is a lot easier than waiting 15 minutes while your friends dig through every folder they have in their desk to find the one with center work in it. They are often part of a penny deal, so keep an eye out!
If you’re wanting to find homework folders that will truly last all year, I highly suggest Nicky’s Folders! Their communicator folder comes in tons of colors and if you can convince your team to all use the same kind, the price is pretty reasonable! I can attest that those folders truly last ALL YEAR and I love the clear pockets on the front and back for homework sheets and school calendars.
Now, I’m not a fan of letting my seconds color with markers. I have the rule: “outline with marker, color with crayon”. Why? Because soaking wet marker papers annoy me. And because marker goes through paper leaving marks on desks, clothes, last nerves… anyways… I like to keep a healthy marker pile of about 15 boxes of the Crayola Classic 10 Count (not the skinny kind!) and a few boxes of fun color packs like bold or brights. Markers are great for writing projects, making exemplar posters, and interactive anchor charts.
Now if you really want to live on the edge, buy a pack of Mr. Sketch Scented Markers. I like the fatter style. Save them for grading or for marking planners. The kiddos LOVE to smell their grade after I’d check over their work. PS- I NEVER shared my smelly good markers. These were teacher’s markers only. Kinda like my flair pens LOL!
This seems like something you think most kids would come in with, but seriously, like clockwork, I have kids every year who don’t seem to have scissors. I usually keep about 10 pairs in a container in my manipulative tubs. If kids lose, can’t find, or for whatever reason need a pair, they can just grab them from that bucket. Save yourself from buying scissors each year by having your class donate their old pairs to students for the next year. I’m usually able to score about 5 new pairs this way.
Also, don’t forget to snag a grown up pair for you! Don’t try to cut out freshly laminated centers with safety scissors. I like these from Westcott
- Dry Erase Markers- Skinny and Chisel
These can be a little pricey, but please splurge on “Expo” brand. You will thank me when wiping them off your whiteboards and anchor charts is a breeze. You can never have too many boxes of them, especially if you like for your kids to use them, so grab as many as you are comfortable with purchasing. I like using the fat chisel edge ones on my teaching board and leaving the slender ones for when we play wipe away games at center time.
This is an adult thing. Don’t write notes to parents in pencil. Just don’t. Pens are for official teacher things. I like to buy a pack of basic ballpoint pens for everyday use and some flair pens for me. Color-coded assessment checklists, anyone? #alltheprettycolors!
- Clear Page protectors
This seems like a strange thing, but hear me out! These make the cheapest, easiest, and fastest white boards ever! Just slip a white sheet of paper in there and BAM! Insta white board. Or if you’re low on copies, print off a few sheets and slip into the sheets, now instead of wasting paper on 18 copies for center work, you can copy 6 and still have all your kiddos complete the center and wipe it off when they are done.
I also used page protectors as mini wipe off boards for my learning objectives. Made updating my objectives each week a breeze. Just wiped off with an eraser and updated what I needed!
Now, I love a classroom calendar, but unless you’re a kindergarten teacher doing calendar time, you don’t have to have a fancy classroom calendar. But, you do need something. Preferably something you can write important dates and times on and refer back too. As a teacher, you are required to attend endless amounts of meetings (no joke!) and you don’t want to every have to say… “ I didn’t know about this one…” to your admin because you didn’t have a place to write it down.
I like a large desk calendar or a larger planner that I can bring back and forth from home to school. I’d bring it to meetings and write down our pacing, upcoming assessments or field trips in it. Everything! Stay organized and invest in some sort of calendar for you!
- Paper clips
They don’t have to be cute, but they are a necessity in a classroom. From keeping important documents together to suspending art projects from the ceiling, paperclips are a must. Buy the larger size because those are the most versatile.
- Wet Wipes
Let’s get one thing straight, as a teacher you work with kids every day. Kids are messy. They are germy. Wet wipes are your saving grace! Need to wipe up after snack? Pull out the wet wipes! How about clean up the marker from someone’s desk because they didn’t follow the “outline with marker, color with crayon” rule. Baby wipes to the rescue! Most schools won’t officially allow you to have cleaning wipes in your classroom, but baby wipes are allowed! Buy a few boxes and store them somewhere out of little hand’s reach. You’ll be thankful after your favorite student accidentally spills his entire lunch on your floor during lunch bunch.
So that the 20 MUST HAVES for a classroom set up. Yes, bulletin border and pre-cut letters are nice, but they are not essentials when it comes to teaching!
Do you have something to add to this list? Comment below!
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