You were just offered your first job as a classroom teacher. Congratulations! After you have had a few minutes to let it sink in, your mind starts racing about all that you need to do to prepare for the first day of school. You finally get to go out and buy things now that you know the grade and/or subject you will be teaching. But where to begin? I have created a list of school supplies for teachers that would be helpful for new teachers looking for essentials on Amazon.
You could wander aimlessly through Target or Staples picking up one of everything in their Back to School aisles, only to discover that:
- School supplies get really expensive really quickly!
- You won’t have room to store all of it.
- Some of the supplies you bought are available to you through your school’s supply closet, so you just wasted your money.
- The items you bought were inexpensive because they turned out to be of poor quality.
- You stashed it in your classroom closet for “someday” only to unearth it five years later, never used.
As a new teacher, you might be thinking that the classroom that is assigned to you will already come stocked with supplies from the previous teacher. That is possible, especially if the previous teacher just retired. But, more likely than not, you will be walking into a classroom that contains chairs, desks, tables, and some textbooks.
In one school that I worked in, I was hired a couple of weeks into the school year because the grade level was split when several new students registered after the first day of school. When I walked into my classroom, I found that the previous teacher had taken all the supplies to her new room, including the chalkboard erasers and garbage pails. Naive me thought I would be able to get what I needed from the main office.
The supplies available to you through the main office varies from school to school. Typically, you can get basics such as paper clips, staples, tape, pens, and pencils. There might be a stash of bulletin board paper to use, but it probably will not be the fadeless type. This means you will probably have to replace it each year.
Depending on the policies of your school, teachers might be given a budget to use to order classroom supplies. You might be given a catalog from a particular vendor that you have to order from. But if you were hired at the last minute, there is a good chance that you “missed the boat” for the deadline to use those funds. Even if there is still money left in the budget for you, the amount teachers are allotted generally is not anywhere close to what you need to stock your classroom for the year.
This means whether you are a new teacher, or one that has been teaching for years, you will most likely be purchasing some supplies on your own. While local retail stores will have the typical back-to-school aisles stocked with notebooks, crayons, and the like, teachers will need some items that either require a trip to the teacher supply store or need to be ordered online.
When I began teaching eighteen years ago, there were about a half dozen “brick and mortar” teacher supply stores within a half-hour drive of where I lived. Now, there are only two. The seasonality of their business simply makes it too difficult for them to pay their rent year-round.
Keep It Simple
With only a few days left before the school year begins, you might be anxious about getting supplies in time. Keep in mind that you do not need a fully decorated and stocked classroom on the first day of school. You will be introducing classroom routines to your students over the course of several days. It is okay to have some areas of your classroom with “Coming Soon” signs on them.
Please don’t feel the need to decorate every bulletin board and every square foot of wall space in your new classroom. You need to leave room to display student work and anchor charts that you create during the year. Also, keep in mind that students with sensory issues find highly decorated classrooms distracting. Walking into a classroom with decorations hanging from the ceiling, or multiple store-bought bulletin board sets on every wall may look “Pinterest Perfect” but are stress-inducing for children with attention issues. (Not to mention, they could be in violation of local fire marshal regulations, so check with your custodian for any rules that you need to follow.)
Online Shopping to the Rescue
The good news is that you can get all of the items on this list of first year teacher classroom essentials online through vendors such as Amazon. Over the years, I have purchased and used each of the items on this list of school supplies for teachers and can attest to the fact that they will definitely be used by you and your students. Each item is well worth the money, as most of them are not consumable (which means you can use them year after year).
As a brand new teacher, you will most likely be spending more money on classroom supplies this year. The good news is, you will typically only need to buy the consumable items in future years. I recently read online that “Teacher Showers” are now a thing. Friends and family members help out by purchasing classroom supplies for new teachers. This is a fabulous idea!
I also saw one enterprising teacher created an Amazon wish list of school supplies. She then created a QR code that linked to this list. She displayed the QR code in her car window with a request to help a teacher out. Her entire list was taken care of by the kindness of strangers!
[My blog posts contain affiliate links. These don’t cost you anything, but they allow me to continue running this site and providing free content for my readers. Full disclosure here.]
Tried & True List of School Supplies for Teachers
- Throughout the school year, you will be making many anchor charts, so you will need wide markers. I always buy a new set of Mr. Sketch Scented Water Color Markers each year, as they are a favorite amongst my students as well. You can sometimes find a sale on these in stores like Target in the weeks before school starts.
- However, not every child (or adult) likes scented markers, so I also have a set of the Sharpie Flip Chart Markers.
- Flair pens seem to be the overall favorite of teachers. They write smoothly and come in variety packs to suit all your needs. We use these when the students make birthday posters, as they like to write messages to each other. The thicker chisel markers end up taking up too much space on the chart paper if two dozen children all want to write lengthy messages. (Pro Tip: Write your initial on the cap of each Flair pen. That way, if a student “borrows” your pen, you will know it is yours.)
Supplies for Students
- If only one student sits at a desk all day, it is a good idea to have some type of nameplate on it. I like these Student Nameplates With Cursive Alphabet, Ruler, Fraction Chart, and Multiplication Table for my 5th graders. I often refer to it during math lessons, as it has a place value chart too. When the students take tests, they cover up their nameplates by laying a folder on top of it. To make these more durable, laminate them after you write the student’s name on them.
- To attach the nameplates to the desk, I use heavy-duty packing tape. I used to tape them down on all four sides. However, Ifound that the students would pick at the edges of the tape and slowly peel the lamination off day by day. About half of them would be destroyed by mid-year. Now, I only put tape on the two short sides. The kids have found that they can slide papers under the name tag to keep them from blowing away. I thought that was pretty ingenious of them! Best of all, I typically only have one or two ruined nametags by the end of the year, since there is less tape for the students to pick at. Win-win!
- To celebrate students’ birthdays, I give them a birthday pencil and sticker badge. My school does not allow students from other classrooms to roam the halls giving out treats to other teachers on their birthdays, so I only need one class set of these per year. But if your school allows the children to visit other teachers, you might want to stock up on more of these.
Bulletin Board Essentials
- The Art Teacher in your school might have large rolls of poster paper for teachers to use as bulletin board backing paper. In some cases, those rolls of paper might be older than you are and are discolored and warped. If you have more than one day to set up your classroom, consider putting up fadeless paper. It is a better quality paper that comes in wider widths. You can sometimes cover an entire board in one sheet with no seams. This is great if you like neat appearances on your boards! Plus, since it is fadeless, you typically can use it for several years, as you will not be able to see any shadows of where things were hung on it. The only time I have needed to replace this is on the boards nearest the sink. Splashes of water will change the appearance of the paper. This paper comes in a variety of solids and patterns to go with any color schemes you have in mind.
- Elementary classrooms should have some type of calendar displayed. I have used this monthly calendar, and have laminated each piece for more durability. One of my classroom jobs is Calendar Monitor. That student sets up the calendar at the beginning of each month by putting a birthday cake for any birthdays that month, as well as the holiday and special event pieces. The Monitor then puts up the individual date card each morning. I prefer doing this instead of putting up all the dates at the beginning of the month. It is easier for students to figure out what today’s date is since they just have to look for the last date displayed. (Bonus item: I now use this chalkboard-themed calendar set since I currently have a chalkboard-themed classroom. However, I still use the holiday and special event cards from the other set since they fit the new calendar too.)
Bonus Tip: If you are looking for a bulletin board set that can be used to take attendance and do the lunch count at the same time, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to get this printable version.
- I attach the calendar pieces to the calendar with these Velcro ¾ inch Dots. I used to use poster putty, but the pieces would fall off and get thrown out by the custodians. The Velcro is much more secure and easy enough for my students who are Calendar Monitors to use. Some teachers use these Velcro dots to attach pencil cups to students’ desks so they don’t keep falling on the floor.
- Sometimes you will luck out and the supply closet will have pushpins, but if not, these basic ones will do the trick.
Classroom Organization and Management
- Displaying a daily agenda is beneficial for students with executive functioning issues. It can give them structure for their day. It also helps to alleviate the anxiety of students who do not deal well with the unknown. I use this pocket chart by hanging it along the side of my chalkboard. (Yes, I have the one classroom that still has a chalkboard instead of a dry erase board.) I printed up the names of all of our subjects and specials and glued them onto sentence strips to quickly set up the schedule each morning. Alongside the pocket chart, I will write any pullouts on the chalkboard. That way students can visually see during which subject they will need to excuse themselves.
- Label wooden craft sticks with your students’ names and put them in a mug. Randomly pull sticks when calling on students to answer questions. (Pro Tip: Use a tall mug. Put an empty toilet paper roll inside the mug. Put the sticks of your struggling learners within the cardboard tube. That way, you can choose to narrow the group of students to call upon based on the type of question you are asking.)
- We use a bathroom signout book in each classroom. Students have to list the time they left the room and the time they returned. To speed up the process of filling out the book, I keep a small digital clock next to the book. What I like about this one is that it also has a thermometer on the display. This comes in handy when you are having a discussion about temperature during math or science lessons. It also is useful if you have to get the custodians to check out a problem with your heat, as you can give them concrete data instead of just saying that you think you feel colder than usual.
- Out of all the items on this list, this is the one that is in constant use in my classroom. This 24 slot mailbox unit is made of wood. It is much sturdier than the cardboard ones sold in teacher supply stores. My first year as a teacher, I bought a cardboard unit that looked great once assembled. However, by mid-year, it was so grungy looking. The edges became dirty from my students grabbing at it to get their mail. Even though this wooden unit is about twice the price of cardboard units, it will last you for YEARS. My advice would be to put a sign on it at the end of the year that it should only be lifted from the bottom. A few years ago, when my room was being cleaned over the summer, someone apparently picked it up by lifting it from the top, causing the top piece to come off. Rather than attempting to fix it, they decided to throw it out without telling me. I was not a happy camper. Now I put the sign on it each June so they know how to keep it in one piece if they have to move it.
- I have a 5 Slot Vertical Desktop Organizer on my desk. Each slot is labeled with the day of the week. Any photocopies for that day are stored in the slot. This makes it so much easier if you have a substitute when you are out, or if you have other staff members that work in the room with you.
- You will need a Substitute Teacher Folder that contains your roster, classroom procedures, seating chart, allergy list, and emergency procedures. I keep mine in the Monday slot of my desktop organizer. That way, if I am ever out unexpectedly, I can just send in a message to the sub to look in the first slot.
General Teacher Classroom Must Haves
- Every classroom needs a pencil sharpener. Yours might have an old-school crank one attached to the wall. But if you need to sharpen a class set of pencils before the state tests you will definitely want an electric pencil sharpener instead. When I first became a teacher, I bought a less-expensive sharpener. However, the students jammed it up within a few weeks to the point where it could not be fixed. I then bought this one, and it is fabulous. It has a large receptacle so it does not need to be emptied as often. It rarely jams. When it jammed one time and I could not figure out how to access the blade to fix it, I emailed X-Acto. They replied and asked for my address, so I figured they were looking up if I was a customer. Within a couple of days, a brand new sharpener arrived on my doorstep, no questions asked! Talk about wonderful customer service! (Pro Tip: I hang a sign next to the sharpener with a drawing of the minimum length of pencil that should be put into the sharpener. Ten-year-olds have a fascination with seeing just how tiny of a pencil they can write with. But if the pencil is shorter than the tube it goes into, it’s not coming out without some major finagling!)
- If you read my post about my teacher toolbox, you can see that I have a drawer with two staplers for my students to use. One is a Compact Desktop Stapler that can handle 25 sheets and is jam-free. Its smaller length is easier to handle by children than a full-size stapler.
- One of the most unique items on this list is this stapleless stapler. This magical little sorcery device cuts a slit in the paper and simultaneously creates and folds down a tab to attach sheets of paper together. It is perfect for when students want to “staple” two sheets of homework together before turning it in, such as when they used scrap paper to do their math homework, but need to also hand in the original page with it. Children LOVE to use this nifty little device.
- For your own desk, this Full-Size Desktop Jam Free Stapler is definitely better than the standard staplers that your school’s office might give to you. Kids tend to jam up traditional staplers to the point where they cannot be fixed. But this particular stapler is sturdier than most. When it does jam, it is much easier to fix than cheaper staplers. I used to go through at least two of the basic staplers each year. But ever since I got this one, I haven’t had to replace it in over four years now!
- You will definitely need a staple remover (or two). I prefer these over the “claw” style. They easily and cleanly remove staples from bulletin boards without damaging the student’s work or the backing paper. They are easy enough for students to use, so they love to volunteer to help switch out the bulletin boards.
- The walls of your classroom are probably not sheetrock. You might not be able to nail anything into the wall. Instead, use Command hooks that stick to the wall. I use these to hang anchor charts on the walls. They are pretty sturdy. I have been able to hang a set of six laminated posters from two hooks. That way, I can switch out the posters each week without having to go back into my storage box to get the next one. The adhesive tabs remove from the wall cleanly when you don’t need them anymore. They won’t leave a hole or mark.
- Magnetic hooks are perfect to use on a chalkboard or dry erase board. I like the extra strength ones because they can hold up a pocket chart. I used to use push pins along the narrow cork strip above my board. But those are never long enough (or strong enough) to support a pocket chart the whole year. (Pro Tip: Do not hold a magnet near your interactive whiteboard unless you are expressly told it is okay. Magnets can permanently damage certain types of electronic whiteboards.)
- When I need to hang a sheet of paper on the board, I reach for my set of multicolor magnets. You get 30 assorted magnets in different sizes.
- This next item is not one that you will need the first week of school but can come in handy later in the year. I keep a ream of white cardstock paper in my closet. It is great to print certificates, as they come out looking “fancier” than on just regular printer paper. It is also good to use to print or photocopy any type of manipulatives that they will be using more than once.
- I keep a flat head screwdriver in my pencil mug on top of my desk. It comes in handy to fix jammed staplers, as well as to fix any wiggly furniture in the room.
- Find out if the school nurse has any alcohol wipes to give you. I use these to wipe down the keyboard and mouse instead of using baby wipes. I find that baby wipes leave a residue. Disinfecting wipes can be in short supply as the year goes on. I find myself using these little alcohol wipes instead for small cleanups.
- Keep a clipboard near the door. Post your roster and emergency procedures on the clipboard near the door. That way, you can quickly grab it on your way out the door during a fire drill. This is also a good place to keep a list of the students’ bus numbers and dismissal notes. At dismissal time, you can refer to it or bring it with you.
- Your main office will probably have a stash of 3 inch by 3 inch sticky notes. I like to also have some 2-inch square ones as well. We do some projects throughout the year that involve sticky notes. Sometimes they are used to cover up smaller boxes in a display.
- Chances are you will need at least one set of bookends for your teacher’s manuals. These are also good for oversized picture books that don’t fit in your shelves.
- If there is a mousepad already in your classroom, there is a good chance it is grungy or crumbling. This Mouse Pad with Stitched Edges is washable. Consider getting one for each desktop computer in your room. Plus, get one to use with your Chromebook or laptop.
- Another tool that the students love to help you with is this label maker. I use this to create labels for their mailboxes and coat hooks.
- Finally, these printable address labels are great to use to quickly print out sets of name labels to put on the students’ workbooks and folders. They are also useful when a student brings in black folders. They can’t see any writing that they put on dark folders. I always make sure to have these on hand the first day of school as we set up their school supplies.
While this might seem like a big list, keep in mind that most of the items on it will be used year after year. So, yes, you are making an investment now by buying quality items rather than buying cheaper versions that end up in the trash after a year (or less)!
What are your suggestions for other things a first year teacher needs for the classroom? Let me know in the comments below.
To get to know your new students better, give them this back-to-school survey. This resource includes one survey for the students and a different one for their parents. They are in Google Slides format, so you can assign these digitally, or print them out and photocopy them. I refer to mine throughout the year. I keep them in the back of each student’s folder in my desk for quick access.