Back-to-school shopping for cute bins, colored markers, and decor galore is something a lot of teachers love to do, but dealing with the 27,596 classroom supplies that kids bring in on the first day of school can feel super chaotic!
My first year of teaching, I quickly learned that I needed a plan for community school supplies organization. As we inch closer to the back-to-school season, I thought I would share a few tips for dealing with school supplies on the first day of school and still maintaining your sanity!
Tip 1: Make a plan ahead of time.
Before the first day, you need to know what supplies students will be bringing, how you want to collect them, and where in the room you want them to eventually go.
- What supplies are on the grade-level supply lists?
- What supplies (if any) do you want students to keep? What supplies do you want to collect to be used by everyone?
- How and where can you easily store supplies you’ll need to replenish frequently, like pencils?
- Where will you store bigger items like disinfecting wipes and boxes of tissues?
- What will you need to label with students’ names?
I had student desks in my classrooms, which held their binders, folders, and notebooks. I used supply caddies on top of desk groups and also had bins around the room with additional supplies. If you have tables or if you’re using flexible seating, you’ll definitely need to think about how you’ll store materials.
Tip 2: Get your bins ready.
Prep your bins and boxes ahead of time. I liked to use the same ones to collect the supplies as I do to store them. Otherwise, it’s just more work for me.
I prefer clear, labeled bins in a bunch of sizes. The bigger the item, or the more of it I had to collect, the bigger the bin.
Tip 3: Tell students to keep everything bagged/boxed until you’re ready to deal with it.
This is especially important if you have students dropping off supplies during your Meet the Teacher or Open House event. Many students are psyched to show you their folders and notebooks and pencils (oh my) as soon as they arrive on the first day. I had them keep all of it packed up until I was ready to dive in to the supplies.
When should you have them unpack? Up to you. I didn’t have lots of room to spare in my classroom, so I tackled supplies early in the morning. Plan on maybe 20-30 minutes depending on how many students you have. When it’s go time, it’s easy to grab your labeled bins and set them up assembly line-style.
Tip 4: Have students unpack their school supplies in groups.
Instead of every student taking out supplies at once, I’d give students something to work on at their seats. In the past I’ve used a coloring page, a word find with all of the students’ names, and left out play-doh. That freed me to go from group to group to help students with their materials.
I’d have them take out the larger items that would stay in their desks, and then show them the bins for all of the other supplies. In just a few minutes, backpacks were emptied, and students could go right back to their activity.
Tip 5: Decide what you want to do with personalized items or supplies that weren’t on the list.
There are lots of ways to handle this. You can keep them to put out with the regular supplies, save them for a VIP table or star of the week, allow the students who brought them to keep them, or send them back home. I figure that parents spent money on those items, so I usually returned them to the students or asked their permission to save them for something special.
Tip 6: Do a mental inventory as you go.
Some students won’t bring everything on the list, and others might have extra. As you go from group to group, you can see what you still need to buy.
Tip 7: Pull any supplies you’ll need for the next few weeks.
Before you start packing away your bins, especially if they’re going to go in hard-to-reach places deep in the recesses of your teacher closet, I’d pull what you think you’ll need for the first month or so.
Tip 8: Wait before you put it away.
You’ll get some supplies trickling in through that first week, so if you put all of the bins away on the first day, you’ll probably have to haul them back out. I stuck the tops on and moved them out of the way but kept them handy just in case.
Here is what students generally kept in their desks:
- one package of lined paper
- binder dividers
- composition notebooks
- assignment notebook
- pencil boxes, pencils, and erasers (pencil boxes were optional for my students)
Most consumable school supplies went into clear, labeled bins:
- colored pencils
- dry-erase markers
- clear tape
- glue sticks/glue
- index cards
- sticky notes
Bulkier items would usually go directly into my teacher closet or on top of cabinets:
- sandwich bags
- disinfecting wipes
- extra packages of lined paper
I hope you found some helpful tips to help you organize community school supplies for kids so they don’t control you!