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Since 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers (as well as every other type of teachers) have to buy most of their own classroom supplies, it's important to know what supplies are the most important. What can we absolutely not do without if we want our students to be successful?
This is a hard question, and varies by teacher. However, there are some classroom supplies that are almost universally acknowledged by teachers as being essential.
I surveyed over 250 teachers to see what classroom supplies teachers all over can't do without. The list below shows their answers, listed from most common responses from teachers to least common responses.
The Top 12 Classroom Supplies Mentioned
In order from most essential to least essential, based on over 250 teachers surveyed.
Pencils were the most mentioned must have classroom supply! Pencils are used daily in the classroom for all sorts of activities. When you don't have pencils, it can cause all sorts of disruptions!
Since pencils were the #1 must have, it's no surprise that a good pencil sharpener was the next most important classroom supply! Having a quick, durable pencil sharpener can save you all sorts of headaches later on in the school year.
This was also one of my 9 Must Haves for the Upper Elementary Classroom!
You can never have enough dry erase markers! And teachers are particular about our dry erase markers - several teachers mentioned that Expo dry erase markers are mandatory because they just work better than other brands. Some teachers also prefer these Low Odor Expo Markers.
I loved reading how different ways teachers used these in their classrooms. My favorite response was from a teacher that turned her desk into a whiteboard! She used dry erase markers to help her students out during small group instruction.
4. Colored Writing Utensils
This includes colored markers, colored pencils, colored pens, and crayons. I lumped all these together because they are similar, but different teachers used these in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.
The most common reason teachers needed colored writing utensils was to create anchor charts. Other teachers liked colored utensils to help get students more engaged, while still others used them for student feedback.
Several teachers mentioned their preference for Mr. Sketch, while others really like these Flip Chart Markers. One teacher can't live without these Twistables Colored Pencils, which I have never used before - but they look fun! And of course Sharpies, Flair Pens, and Ink Joy Gel Pens also made the list!
Post-it Notes or sticky notes were the next most needed classroom supply, and almost every teacher used them in a different way! Teachers' creativity never ceases to amaze me!
Some of the uses of Post-it notes in the classroom were:
- taking notes about student behavior
- making observations about students during student conferences
- for students to use to for note taking while reading
- reminder notes
- positive notes to students
- as place markers in journals for students to correct mistakes
- word study
- creating graphs
- finding literary devices while reading
Many of the teacher surveyed said that chart paper was a must in order to make anchor charts. Several mentioned this Post-It Chart Paper which I could never afford, but every now and then my instructional coach would splurge and buy it for us.
I love what 3rd grade teacher Misty Knight said about chart paper and chart markers: "These resources could be used to create and deliver lessons anywhere. They are the most reliable - didn’t have to rely on internet or any other technology malfunctions to not take place. All I needed were these, my students, and a mind for learning!"
7. Individual Whiteboards/Dry Erase Boards for Students
This is one of my personal 9 Must Haves for the Upper Elementary Classroom. I used them daily for quick assessments. Apparently I'm not alone!
Lesley Pratt said she couldn't do without student whiteboards and dry erase markers because, "They are awesome for quick checks for understanding and can be used for quiz games in small groups. They can be used for spelling practice or even to cover up answers."
Another teacher said, "We use these for almost every lesson. It’s a good way for students to work out problems without wasting paper, they hold up their boards so I can do a quick assessment and correct if needed."
Another teacher also mentioned how you can also use plastic sleeves in the place of whiteboards for a cheaper alternative!
If you don't have easy access to a school laminator - or your school's laminator is always broken - then you know why so many teachers listed a personal laminator as a classroom supply that they couldn't do without!
I was a little surprised that paper was #9 on the list - especially since pencils were the #1 most needed supply according to my survey!
Perhaps it is because students don't destroy our paper like they do our pencils - and paper doesn't need to be constantly sharpened and replaced!
"Paper" covered a range of supplies. Some of the teachers absolutely needed copy paper, while other teachers needed notebook paper/composition notebooks, and still others needed cardstock.
10. Organizational Supplies
In order to stay sane, teachers MUST have some sort of organizational system - even if that system looks like chaos to everyone else! Teachers that took this survey mentioned organizational supplies like file folders, turn in trays, supply containers, magnets, binder clips/bull dog clips, clear plastic envelopes, velcro, Stikki Clips, and Ziplock bags. Find what works for you and then look for deals at Walmart and Target!
11. Early Finisher/"I'm Done Activities"
Having set procedures and activities for students that finish up their work early can make your life so much less stressful - and means fewer disruptions from those fast finishers. The teachers I surveyed knew how important early finisher activities are to a well run classroom.
Even though only one teacher mentioned this, it was too good not to include! Although I never had to have my own Advil - there were always at least 2 other teachers in my hallway that were well stocked and would let me have some!
Other Supplies Teachers Couldn’t Live Without
The following supplies were mentioned 5 times or less by the teachers surveyed, but I thought they were still worth including! In order from most mentioned to least mentioned!
- Glue (either Extreme Glue Sticks or white glue - not glue sticks!)
- Books - including class sets (Not really a supply, but definitely a must have!)
- Erasers (particularly cap erasers)
- 3 hole punch
- Mechanical Pencils
- Art Supplies
- Staplers/One Touch Stapler
- Flat Staple Remover
- Hand Sanitizer/Lysol wipes
- Random Number Picker
- Interactive Notebooks
- Break Cards (for students with IEPS/special needs that can use the cards to take a short break)
- Books (including class sets) - not really a supply, but definitely a must have
- desk corrals
- Label Maker
- Paper Cutter
Technology That Teachers Can’t Do Without
Teachers usually have to depend on their districts for what technology their students have access to. If you are lucky enough to have some say in what technology will be available to you, then take a look at what other teachers have said they can't live without!
In order from most mentioned to least mentioned:
- Document Camera
- Teacher/Student Computers
- Color Printer
- Google Docs, Drive, Slides, etc.
- Set of Speakers
What do you think? Is there anything missing from these lists that you can't live without?