Over years of teaching I have identified the essential supplies that I use in the classroom every day. A lot of my supplies support the classroom systems that I put in place, like how to turn in work, and organize lesson plans. Teaching is so fast-paced that I need to have good systems in place. If not, I will lose my dang mind! My teacher supplies allow me to be prepared and execute lessons seamlessly. My classroom systems help things move smoothly, and help with classroom management. I rely on these supplies and systems to manage the mountains of grading and paperwork that are involved in teaching.
It’s easy to lose track of time. 2 minutes to glue something in, or a 30 second turn and talk can become a lot longer if I am not careful. So I definitely use a timer. I display the timer for all to see and it helps my students stay on task. I started with a kitchen timer that changes green, to yellow, to red as the time runs down. Helpful visual for everyone! Magnetized kitchen timers can stick to the whiteboard and are great! Now I pull up an online digital timer for free. After a few years of practice I am pretty good at multi-tasking. I can use the clock in the classroom and give verbal time reminders to students as I also do other things.
#2 Wire Paper and Folder trays
The schoolyear moves a mile a minute, and I get 150 of everything. If I don’t put an organizational system in place, it’s going to get messy real fast! It’s helpful to have a main system for collecting work. I utilize a Turn in bin, or metal paper trays labeled by period. Sometimes the “Ticket out the Door” is to hand in their work. They can place it directly into the bin on their way out, or if they hand it to me then I make sure to keep each period’s work together. I also collect work by table. Each table makes a pile in the center and I scoop them up.
#3 Folders and an Extra Copies Bin
I keep each period’s work separate by using different folders. I can take a folder or 2, or 5, home to grade and the papers stay smooth and neat. Separating work in folders by period makes grading more efficient. Grading one period at a time is more manageable than a giant stack. It is easier to enter grades separated by period in the gradebook later on. Even better if they are all alphabetized by last name!
I also like the hanging folders and I use them to sequence and store extra copies of handouts. I write the page numbers of handouts on plastic index tabs on the folders. Extra copies go in numbered folders in sequential order. When we update our Table of Contents, students who were absent can identify a missing assignment and help themselves to the Extra Copies bin. If I stand near the Extra Copies bin I can fill the student in on what they need to know from missing class.
#4 Dry Erase Markers
When I was in grade school the teachers wrote on blackboards. Students took the erasers outside and banged the chalk dust out as a reward! Nowadays the classrooms have whiteboards and dry erase markers. I use dry erase markers to write the agenda, homework, and vocabulary on the board. I add announcements, draw examples, and present information on the board as well. I use electrical tape on the board because it comes off of the whiteboard amazingly. I remove the tape and clean and redo it each year so my whiteboard stays in good shape. I find it’s best to wipe down with a microfiber cloth each day and sometimes use the cleaning spray.
I secure my dry erase markers to the board with electrical tape and adhesive Velcro. I use the soft side of the Velcro on the markers (one year I had very pokey markers!) and the spiky side on the electrical tape. I attach the markers cap down and gravity keeps the ink in the tip. My markers don’t dry out and they last so long, like 2 years! My dry erase marker system helps me be prepared when I am prepping the board before class and while I am teaching because I always have a marker available.
#5 Lab Supplies
Everyone loves science for the cool demonstrations and hands-on experiments. It’s a different kind of learning from any other subject! Lab supplies are so important to my teaching that when I interview for a job in the future, I need to know what supplies will be at my disposal and whether there is a science budget for lab supplies and consumables. I can only scratch the surface here because Lab Supplies also deserve their own blog post.
The essential Lab Supplies depend on what subject I teach. For Biology, some of the essentials include class sets of safety goggles, eye dropper bottles, chemicals, microscopes, slides and coverslips, prepared slides, dissection kits, test tubes and test tube racks. For Earth and Space, some of the essentials include class sets of safety goggles, meter sticks, beakers of varying sizes, hot plates, heat lamps, thermometers, a globe, and consumables like vinegar, baking soda, cooking oil, and food coloring.
#6 Binders and Sheet Protectors
This is my go-to organizational system for my teaching materials. Each unit gets its own binder. I make a hardcopy of every assignment and put it in the binder in a sheet protector. It’s great to have this level of organization and there are so many benefits. It is easy to make extra copies. I can readily look through assignments and lesson ideas while I lesson plan. I bring my binder to science collaboration meetings and share concrete ideas. I use my binders to reflect on past assignments and improve them for next year. Don’t forget to save examples of completed work and the answer keys! I was also always so grateful to have my Substitute Binder ready when I really needed it. It has all of the information about my classroom as well as emergency lesson plans.
When I grade for completion, a stamp is a quick way to mark it. I can stamp the whole class in less than 5 minutes going table by table. I just jot down the names of any students who need to finish for homework and show it to me next class. Stamps help with grading efficiently. I like to stamp things like warm-ups, homework, and notes. These are things we go over together, so it should be completed by the time I stamp it.
#8 Science Notebooks (or binder, your choice!)
I like to keep track of what I do in class each year by creating and maintaining a notebook like the students. At the beginning of the year, I show students How to Set-up a Science Notebook. Then each day I write in my notebook like the students, and explain things using the document camera. I may not fill everything in, but I can see what warm-up, worksheet, lab, or notes we did on what day. Students borrow my notebook regularly to check their organization and when they come back from being absent. I don’t want students to simply copy, so I keep the completed examples and answer keys separate in my teacher binder.
A notebook supports the organizational system I use in class, and is part of a daily classroom routine. I display the directions and students get to work updating their Table of Contents (TOC) in the front of their notebook, handing back papers, gluing in, and checking their grade online. If students are missing a page, they can go to the Extra Copies bin to get caught up. Usually we do this when they come into class, but it can be done at any time in the lesson. This is also a good time to connect with students that need a little extra attention, like if they have missing work.
My Class Points and Raffle System is indispensable to my classroom management style. I need to dedicate an entire blog post to it! But the gist is that I use raffle tickets and prizes as motivation for academic performance and good behavior. When the class reaches 20 points, we have a Raffle.
I buy prizes that are fun and inexpensive. Some of my students’ favorites are slap wrist bracelets, bouncy balls, rubber poppers, stickers, pencils, erasers, and Late Homework Passes. I have spent a pretty penny on prizes (say that 5 times fast!) over the years. I can’t help myself when I see a prize that I loved or wanted when I was a kid. For extra special prizes, I buy things at the Dollar Store (like Uno and magic towels) or on Amazon (like Emoji keychains and Iwako Japanese Puzzle erasers). I can even do a Raffle for free and just give away Late Homework Passes. I guarantee students will love it!
Something else I do with prizes is give one away at the end of class. “For a bouncy ball, who can summarize what we learned today about DNA?” It’s a fun way to end the class and bring things full circle. With any prizes, I tell my students they can play with them in my class during the raffle, but after they need to put them away and enjoy them at home. If students are at school playing in class or throwing things, they will come after me and I won’t be able to give out prizes any more!
I use several clipboards in the classroom. One is for my teacher materials and class records like the seating charts, attendance, checking work, and recording grades. I carry it around the classroom and mark things down as I go table by table. On this same clipboard I attach my Teacher Script and answer key for the lesson. When my papers are attached to a clipboard, it is easy to keep track of them amongst the hundreds of other papers floating around the classroom. My clipboard allows me to be mobile and facilitate the classroom management strategies of breaking the plane and proximity. I use a second clipboard for the Sign Out Sheet. I keep it by the door and attach a pen to it with yarn. Clipboards are also helpful when I’m on the go for fieldtrips, assemblies, and to take my classes outside.
I enjoy decorating my classroom. I’ve been in classrooms without decorations and they can feel dull and lifeless. My students appreciate the extra effort, I guarantee it! There’s no better decoration than student work! I like to showcase student work by hanging it around the classroom. I add color to the room with decorative borders. It looks great if I have cabinets or sinks around my classroom. It’s a lot easier when everyone knows where things go. I label important things in the classroom like the sinks, pencil sharpener, tape, and stapler. Group roles are posted at each sink, and we practice the roles often. I use chalkboard letters to be clear and organized on the board with the Agenda, Homework, and Vocabulary. I put chalkboard letters on cabinets to organize student notebooks, and I always have a No Name area.
Posters also add color and can be really fun. Students enjoy things like Science Joke of the Week (I always forgot to change it!). Memes can be informative and humorous. I have one with Grumpy Cat that says, What I look like when you don’t put your name on your paper. I have another with Beyoncé and it says, If you liked it then you should have put your name on it. Haha! Posters can be educational and science related, or inspirational and motivational.
#12 Push Pins
I almost took this one out but I’m going to leave it in here because I use push pins all the time. They help me decorate the classroom, which I’ve explained is essential to my classroom systems. They are reusable, unlike staples and tape. Hopefully I have at least one bulletin board in my classroom. I use push pins to display student work each unit. It always adds nice pops of color to the classroom, and students look at them a lot. It’s easy to pin up No Names in a designated spot on the bulletin board so students can claim them. I hang handouts and school announcements for students so they can stay informed. Push pins worked great to decorate the ceiling tiles with DNA paper models and reinforce the decorative boarder around the room.
#13 Resources from Teachers Pay Teachers
Some of the hardest times in teaching for me are when my school or district does not have a solid curriculum together. I need to spend hours each week lesson planning. I know I’m not alone in this. This is a recipe for Teacher Burnout, and I have felt it set in before Thanksgiving break. I have found some great resources on TpT, some even for free! But I have actually spent just over $1,000 of my own money on lesson resources. Some of my favorite purchases are Bill Nye video guide worksheets, and station labs from Kesler Science. Resources like these created by other teachers save me hours of time lesson planning, and lots of stress. This is the reason behind why I write my blog. I want to help teachers out there!
#14 Teacher Scripts
Hands down the most essential supply on my list is my Teacher Scripts. I think my students deserve the best, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet all of their diverse academic and social emotional needs. I feel tremendous anxiety if I feel underprepared to teach a lesson. So I need to have explanations, questions, and examples ready to go. My Teacher Scripts allow me to have structure in my lessons, but also allow me tons of freedom to engage with my students. My scripts are thought-provoking, and my students have a lot of life experiences to share. I’ve had some of the best class discussions while I follow my Teacher Scripts! I can keep my lessons moving through all of the big and tiny disruptions that happen every hour. Like when someone raises their hand to answer a question, but they actually ask to sharpen their pencil. I can shake it off without missing a beat. Best of all, my scripts help me sleep better at night, haha!
I never thought I would have a photoshoot for office supplies in my garage, but there you have it! These essential supplies help me manage my classroom and deliver my best teaching. It was actually a challenge to make my selections and explain how I incorporate them into my classroom because there are so many things I need to do my job as a teacher. Some other supplies that are important but didn’t quite make the list are: my classroom library, tissues, sharpened pencils, pencil sharpener, sturdy 3 hole punch, whiteout correction tape, colored pens for grading, copy paper, Elmer’s glue, binder clips, paperclips, bendy rulers, tape dispenser and tape, stapler, staples and staple remover, lined paper, equity sticks, and class supplies of markers and colored pencils. I have a whole bag full of different kinds of tape: clear packing and shipping, painter’s, electrical, Velcro, masking, scotch and duct. That’s a lot of tape!
I hope this list of essential classroom supplies is helpful to you in setting up your classroom and implementing classroom systems. Let me know what supplies you can’t do without for your job and what else you want to read about by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you! If you want to read more about me and my classroom, check out the blog posts below!
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