In an ideal world, every teacher’s classroom would be fully outfitted with everything they need to teach in a way that’s fun and engaging and helps young learners meet all their educational and personal goals. As a truly exceptional teacher, you’re of course doing everything possible to create your own version of this ideal classroom!
You can get your classroom even closer to the ideal by spending your official classroom budget (and your personal classroom budget) on the things that every teacher needs in their classroom. This list starts with the basics, then covers the things you might not think of but definitely want and ends with the “nice to have” things that are worth splurging on or adjusting your budget for.
If you can only get one thing on this list, an extra supply of (preferably sharpened) pencils will go the furthest for the least amount of money. You probably already know how fast your students can go through pencils—and having extras that are already sharpened can help avoid line-ups (and traffic jams) at the pencil sharpener. This also avoids the issue of students “forgetting” their pencil so that they can chat with their friends while trying to find someone to borrow a pencil from.
Keep two containers of pencils freely available for students—one container for sharpened pencils, all set and ready to go; the other container has dull pencils, ready to be sharpened for a new day. Ask for volunteers to sharpen pencils during the day. Make a game of seeing who can sharpen the most pencils in 1 minute and those pencils will be sharp again in no time!
This covers a broad range of supplies and what you need depends on what you use most often in your classroom. Some teachers need spare notebooks or composition books; others are constantly in need of more blank copy paper, while many rely on cardstock.
Keep track of what you use most, and make sure to get more of that! If you somehow have a surplus of any supply (how?! Please teach us your secrets!), reallocate the budget you would have spent restocking that supply to purchase something else you need.
3. Colorful Writing Tools
Whether your heart sings for colored pencils, pens, crayons, markers or something else, make sure you have lots of them!
You can use your own stash of fun colorful pens to write in color on your students’ assignments to help them stay engaged and more interested in getting essential feedback. You can provide a wild array of colorful writing tools for your classroom to work on projects and assignments—bonus points for finding unique colors the other teachers don’t have!
4. Dry Erase Markers
One lesson every teacher learns fast is that you can never have too many dry erase markers. Seriously. However many dry erase markers you have, it will never be enough, and you could always have more just in case!
Considering how often you use dry erase markers every day, and your students probably use them almost every day, it makes sense to keep your collection stocked up—and you won’t go wrong keeping a few extra in one of your desk drawers for when you need them.
Make sure your classroom knows the proper way to take care of dry erase markers to maximize their lifetime—always put the caps on when markers aren’t being used and store markers with the tips down whenever possible.
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5. Sticky Notes
You can do a million things with sticky notes, and since teachers need to do a million things, this is a perfect match! Most teachers use sticky notes for the usual things, like recording student behavior and observations or giving them to students to use for note taking or writing reminders. Some teachers also use sticky notes for more creative things, like using them to create graphs or timelines, giving them to students to keep their place while reading or for playing games.
6. Individual Whiteboards
A classroom set of dry erase boards is one thing every teacher needs in their classroom. They are ideal for quick assignments and knowledge checks, a more environmentally friendly strategy than using scrap paper to work out problems and can be used in games that require students to write down answers.
7. Antibacterial Wipes
Having antibacterial wipes on hand and using them for a regular classroom scrub-down will help keep you and your students healthy. Ideally, you want to plan some time for students to wipe down their desks, chairs and other nearby common surfaces with antibacterial wipes to make sure everything is germ-free (at least until someone touches something again!).
This can even be a fun activity at the end of the week when everyone’s ready to go and just waiting for the bell: distribute the wipes and spend 2 minutes cleaning everything. Try it once and you might want to do it every Friday!
8. Tissues and Hand Sanitizer
Trust us. You’re going to want both of these things. Tissues are essential. They’re so essential that they go on every classroom supply list, and even then, no teacher we’ve ever met would even think of saying no to extras. Hand sanitizer is nearly as important as tissues—especially to go with the tissues! Remind your classroom to use hand sanitizer after using a tissue because some of the germs travel through the tissue and onto their hands.
Make sure your class follows good hygiene practices like coughing and sneezing into their elbows, washing their hands throughout the day (especially before eating and after using the bathroom) and keeping their hands away from their mouths (and their friends’ mouths! You know how kids can be).
9. Small Rewards
The days of passing out literal handfuls of candy throughout the day when students got the correct answer is a forgotten relic of the 90s, but positive reinforcement in the form of small rewards for a job well done can make a huge difference for young learners!
Stickers, mini erasers in fun shapes, bookmarks and other little treats that can be distributed during special activities might be just the trick you need to increase your classroom engagement, keep your students on track during a challenging lesson or just cheer someone up when they’re having a tough day.
10. An Extra Clock
If you want a simple way to keep track of the time in your classroom more easily, the answer is a second classroom clock for the wall opposite your current classroom clock.
Does this sound excessive? Maybe a little, but it also sounds like being able to see the time (without turning around) from anywhere you’re standing in the classroom. Teachers know every minute counts, and having a clock in view at all times is one of the best ways to make sure you’re not distracted away from valuable learning time!
11. A Timer
Young learners are still figuring out how time works, trying to calibrate their internalized understanding of how time passes and beginning the very first steps towards a successful time management strategy that will benefit them throughout the rest of their academic career and beyond.
One easy way to help them is with a physical timer you can use during assignments, activities or special projects. Use a digital timer that can be displayed on the wall or go old school with a classic egg timer.
12. Organizational Supplies
It seems like every teacher is born with the gene for a well-organized classroom, and having organizational supplies you like will make your system easier to use!
This includes turn-in trays, file folders, binder clips, supply containers, Ziplock bags, magnets, colored tape—even a label maker if you want one and think that it would help you stay organized. Though it might look like a clutter-void of pure, unrelenting chaos to the uninitiated, this is your system, and you get to organize it how you like!
13. Electric Pencil Sharpener
Having a quick electric pencil sharpener in the classroom that’s also durable enough to withstand years of daily use is a “nice to have” that’s worth stretching your budget for. Not only will this make the chore of sharpening classroom pencils into a fascinating experience for most students, it will also lead to shorter lines at the pencil sharpener—even if some students seem to be sharpening their pencils more often than usual!
14. Personal Laminator
If you don’t have easy access to a school laminator, your school’s laminator always has a long line or it keeps getting broken, it could be worth the investment to get your own.
Having the freedom to laminate what you want when you want and quickly return to the important business of teaching is hard to put a price on—and if the price is too steep for you alone, think about sharing the expense with a colleague or two so that you can all live out your laminating dreams together!
15. OTC Meds
Not for the kids—this one’s for you and your colleagues! The most popular person in any teacher’s lounge is whoever is known for having some Advil, Ibuprofen, antacids and any other little extras for when you’re not sick enough for a sick day but could benefit from something to make the day pass a little more comfortably.
If your teacher’s lounge already has a shared stash of these essentials, it’s a good idea to periodically make sure it’s well-stocked or have your own just in case.
16. Fast Finisher Activities
Avoid distractions by having activities available for students to work on once they’ve completed their assignment. Activities can range from jigsaw and slider puzzles to activity books and fidget toys. There are no wrong answers, and whatever works best for your classroom is the best option.
Don’t forget to invest in your classroom library! Students who finish the assignment before the rest of the room can choose a book to read quietly while the rest of the class catches up.
Help Your Students Become Published Authors!
One more thing you could add to your classroom (for free!) is a hardcover copy of a book that you and your students created together. You can help your class create their very own classbook and become published authors by using one of our FREE classbook publishing kits! Simply sign up online, and we’ll provide everything you need to publish your students’ writing and illustrations, including any help you need along the way.
Nearly any classroom subject or area of focus is the perfect place to start brainstorming about your classbook project! Each of your students will contribute one page of text and one page of illustration to help create something so much more than the sum of its parts—you’ll get a free classroom copy, and parents can also order copies to keep at home as a literary time capsule and keepsake for the future.
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. Now that you have a comprehensive list of things every teacher needs in their classroom, you’ll be better able to assist your students and they’ll benefit even more from your leadership and commitment to their future success!