As a former classroom teacher and current instructional coach, I can help you set up your classroom for success. The right supplies in your classroom can make a huge difference in your mindset.
It can be tempting to focus on classroom decorations and bulletin boards (and let’s face it – that’s the fun part for many of us!) But it’s just as important that your classroom functions well.
The best teacher supplies aren’t necessarily expensive, but they will make your life less stressful. Below I have included both the practical school supplies you need and also a few just-for-fun items, too.
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The Best Teacher Supplies
Here is a comprehensive classroom supply list for any new teacher. All of these are available on Amazon, but frequently check your local dollar store, too. They have a surprisingly good selection of teacher supplies. Occasionally you can find helpful items at Oriental Trading Company.
Online teacher supply stores like Really Good Stuff and others are pretty expensive, but sometimes school districts will only reimburse from select approved vendors.
Classroom Essentials List
These have so many classroom uses, and it saves paper! Every teacher in our school building uses these very regularly. They are especially helpful in math classes or spelling practice. Anytime you want kids to get plenty of practice at the carpet, this is a great way to ensure that everyone is engaged in learning.
Cordless Glue Gun
If you have cement walls or cinder block, the easiest way to hang anything will be with hot glue, and that applies to your hallways, as well. However, it’s a pain to have to use the nearest outlet, because in older buildings, there are never enough, and your glue gun won’t reach to the hallways. Cordless glue guns are the way to go! Before purchasing, ask your teammates how they hang stuff on their walls.
You’ll use these all the time in your classroom, to separate stacks of paper that need grading or flyers that need to be distributed. Your supply closet will probably have basic black ones that do the job just fine, but if you love beautiful things, your options are endless!
Electric Pencil Sharpener
Opinions are split on whether to purchase a manual or electric sharpener. Some day they prefer manual ones because electric sharpeners break too easily. Manual sharpeners are less fun, so kids aren’t constantly interrupting instruction because they want to use it. I saved ALL sharpening for the end of the day and made it a student job, so I prefer this one.
There will come a day when your campus laminating machine is out of lamination, or you don’t have thirty minutes to wait for it to heat up. For big projects, use the one in your workroom. This personal laminator is perfect for when you just need one or two sheets and you don’t feel like trekking down the hallway, only to find it broken. I love mine!
Classroom Library Books
You’ll probably want a classroom library unless you’re using a highly scripted program that doesn’t allow for extra minutes spent reading for enjoyment. There are so many ways to stock your classroom library – donations from other teachers who are paring down, shopping used book stores and Facebook marketplace for bulk books, and adding them to your Amazon wishlist.
Plastic crates don’t seem like much, but they’re so useful in a classroom. They’re sometimes used for filing. More commonly, they get turned into seating by attaching a piece of plywood and fabric to the top. Other teachers will use them as baskets for backpacks and supplies in older schools without great storage.
A Second Monitor
There’s nothing better than a second monitor for saving time on administrative tasks. Especially when dealing with student data, it’s so helpful to me to have data on one screen and email open on the other. It saves a ton of time when you’re not having to hold lots of information in your mind and can instead just glance back and forth.
You’ll likely have tons of magnetic surfaces in your room, and magnetic hooks are fabulous! I use mine most frequently in conjunction with binder rings and lamination. Emergency protocols, staff phone directories, rubrics, and any other frequently used documents can benefit from easy access.
Kids love stickers. We use them as an incentive they can earn after they accumulate 10 Class Dojo points. Kids put these stickers on their Chromebooks, water bottles, and anywhere else they please. The bulk stickers on Amazon are so inexpensive and they peel off your technology nicely at the end of the year.
Some teachers put digital timers on their Google slides, and others just use their phones. I prefer these timers the best because it doesn’t require me to pick up my phone or toggle between tabs on my smart board. Once in a while, the old fashioned way really does work best! You can also just sit this timer underneath your document camera for kids to know how much time is left.
If your campus is old, you’ll probably have lots of exposed storage that can start looking really junky over time. It’s helpful to cover it with tension rods and fabric. You don’t need to be crafty; we just drape fabric over a tension rod and add staples along the top. Kids won’t be handling it, so it won’t get torn up.
At our school, the office provides as many black dry erase markers as you could possibly want. However, Expo markers are the highest quality, and we often receive off-brand ones. For your classroom, you’ll probably want some Expo markers in fun colors. This is not a necessity at all, but it’s a little dose of happy that you may enjoy.
What do most schools provide for teachers?
Most campuses provide basic office supplies for the teacher, but they don’t usually have the cutesy stuff. Those freebies may or may not last you the whole school year.
You’ll likely have access to pretty great technology, including Smart Boards, document cameras, and Chromebooks or iPads, depending on your grade level.
In other words, you can probably visit the supply closet for basic yellow Post-It notes, manilla file folders, binder clips and paper clips, and chart paper. They will likely not provide anything FUN and certainly not all of your essential teacher supplies will be provided to you.
If this is your first teaching job, call your campus secretary and ask him or her what’s in the supply closet, so you can make preparations.
When your whole world is that classroom for 9 or 10 hours a day, having pretty things helps the mental state. Of course, you’ll want to build your classroom slowly over time because setting up a classroom can get expensive quickly. Begin with only the most essential items and take advantage of that campus supply closet and work room. Then you can set your priorities for what you’ll buy next.
Here are some cute supplies and decor that are also super functional. You may be the type of teacher who doesn’t need everything to be *fabulous* and that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes the pressure for everything to be adorable can feel like a lot, especially in elementary schools. Don’t give it much thought. Focus on what’s most important – student outcomes and managing your stress levels!
For many of us in lower income communities, it’s pretty rare to receive a gift from students. My favorite gifts are ones my students have made for me, no matter how childlike and silly they might seem to parents. One time, I got a can of Chef Boyardee from a child who wanted me to try his favorite meal for Christmas. Those are the gifts a teacher never forgets.
What do teachers need for their classrooms? Practical stuff with a dose of fun and whimsy, usually. Remember that the average teacher spends about 9 hours a day in her classroom without many breaks. We want a beautiful space that feels like home. Hopefully this post gave you some ideas!