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Organizing Community Supplies on the First Day of School

July 14, 2018 No Comments
Alyssa shares tips to help you organize those community school supplies on the first day of school!

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 school supplies that kids bring in on the first day of school can feel super chaotic! My first year of teaching, I quickly learned that having a plan to deal with community school supplies is key to getting everything organized without feeling overwhelmed. As we inch closer to the BTS 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 most of their personal paper products (like binders 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 where you’ll store supplies (book boxes, bins with drawers, seat pockets, etc.).

Tip 2: Get your bins ready.

Prep your storage bins, boxes, and baskets 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 mostly used clear bins, which I’d label with a word and picture (you can use nice, fancy labels or just throw a post-it on there). The bigger the item, or the more of it I had to collect, the bigger the bin. Keep the tops in a corner of the room to grab when you’re done.

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 rather than tiptoe around huge backpacks all day long, I preferred to tackle 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: Help students unpack their school supplies in groups while the rest of the class works on something else.

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 supplies.

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. {Scroll to the bottom of this post to see what I kept in desks and what I collected.} 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.

This is another reason why having students organize their supplies in small groups as helpful. Some students won’t bring all of the supplies, and others might have extra. As you go from group to group, you can see what supplies you still need and what you won’t 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 a few days before you put it all 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.

Alyssa shares tips to help you organize community school supplies on the first day of school!

Here is what students generally kept in their desks:

  • binders
  • one package of lined paper
  • binder dividers
  • folders
  • 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:

  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • markers
  • highlighters
  • dry-erase markers
  • Sharpies
  • pencils
  • pens
  • erasers
  • clear tape
  • glue sticks/glue
  • scissors
  • rulers
  • index cards
  • sticky notes

Bulkier items would usually go directly into my teacher closet or on top of cabinets:

  • sandwich bags
  • tissues
  • disinfecting wipes
  • extra packages of lined paper

I hope you found some helpful tips to help you control community school supplies so they don’t control you! Comment below to share how you deal with supplies on the first day of school!

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Alyssa Teaches

Alyssa Teaches


I'm Alyssa! I've taught first and fourth grade and am now an elementary school librarian in Virginia. I have a teacher husband, three kids (6, 5, and 2), and a new pup! I love creating resources, Coca-Cola, and chocolate!


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