Since 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers (as well as every other type of teacher) have to pay for many classroom supplies out of their own pocket, you need to know what supplies are most important. What can you absolutely not do without if you want your 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 - whether you are a first year teacher or a veteran.
To create the ultimate teacher supply list, I surveyed over 250 teachers. These teachers each shared their classroom essentials - the list below contains the most popular responses.
The Top 12 Most Essential Classroom Supplies for Upper Elementary Teachers
Since pencils made the #1 spot on this classroom supply list, it's no surprise that a good pencil sharpener is 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 X-ACTO School Pro Pencil Sharpener is generally regarded as the best bang for your buck in elementary classrooms.
Teachers are particular about this essential classroom supply - most teachers think Expo Dry Erase Markers are worth the extra cost, and many teachers insist on the low odor version.
You can never have enough dry erase markers - both for yourself and for your students. To maximize the lifetime of your dry erase markers make sure you have have good procedures for managing them!
4. Colored Writing Utensils
Different teachers prefer different types of colored writing pencils, pens, crayons, and markers.
They are used for different things and different purposes including creating anchor charts, keeping students engaged, and giving feedback. The most popular colored utensils were:
Post-it Notes were the next most needed classroom supply, partly because there are so many different uses for them. Teachers' creativity never ceases to amaze me!
Some of the most common 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
It would be hard to find a classroom that didn't have a stack of Post-It Notes lying around, ready for teachers to use.
3rd grade teacher Misty Knight explains why Chart Paper is essential for any upper elementary classroom:
"Chart paper can be used to create and deliver lessons anywhere. It is the most reliable - you don't have to rely on internet or any other technology malfunctions to not take place. All I needed is chart paper, my students, and a mind for learning!"
Several teachers specifically mentioned this Post-It Chart Paper which I could never afford, but I loved when my instructional coach would splurge and buy it my 3rd grade team.
7. Individual Whiteboards / Dry Erase Boards for Each 3rd, 4th, or 5th Grade Student
A class set of dry erases boards is one of my personal 11 Must Haves for the Upper Elementary Classroom. I used them daily for quick assessments. Apparently I'm not alone!
Teacher 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 - good for first year teachers that have other things to spend their money on!
I was a little surprised that paper was #9 on the list - especially since pencils were the #1 most needed teacher supply!
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" covers a huge range of supplies. Some teachers are in constant need of copy paper, while other teachers need notebook paper/composition notebooks, and still others need 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
- binder clips/bull dog clips
- clear plastic envelopes
- Stikki Clips
- Ziplock bags
Find what works for you, and then be on the look out for deals!
11. I'm Done/Early Finisher Activities
This isn't really a teacher supply - but it doesn't make it any less essential!
And since many teachers use their classroom libraries for this purpose, having plenty of book options for students is important to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms. Being able to buy high quality books for cheap (or free) is something every teacher is constantly trying to do.
This one actually didn't make the cut for most essential teacher supplies (only 1 teacher mentioned it), but it was too good not to include!
I never actually had to have my own Advil - there were always at least 2 other teachers nearby that were well stocked.
More Essential Classroom Supplies for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Teachers
The following supplies were not essential to every teacher, but no ultimate classroom supply list would be complete without them!
- Erasers (particularly cap erasers)
- 3 hole punch
- Mechanical Pencils
- Flat Staple Remover
- Hand Sanitizer/Lysol wipes
- Label Maker
- Paper Cutter
Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!
Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!