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July 16, 2019

Back to School: Organizing Supplies

It's really the little things that make me feel all warm and fuzzy - like a neatly organized supply drawer.  Throughout the last 20 summers, I have been a collector of school supplies.  Kind of crazy to think about the amount of supplies that passes through a classroom.  I've done independent, and I've done collaborative, and here's what I've learned works for me in the classroom.  

Collaborative items - I store these in drawers by my sink.  I have large baskets that are kept on top of the counter, and when students need something for their group they go "shopping" in the drawers, taking what they need, and then putting them away when done.  

Independent items - Students store these in pencil pouches.  For years I bought pencil boxes and just about had a heart attack with all the banging/falling/noises that came from them.  Since switching to 5th grade, I bumped to pencil pouches and that holds everything they need at their desks.  The first week of school I pass out the black sharpies and they label everything (and their pencil pouch) inside with their class number, so it's easy to trace the random floor supplies back to the correct owner.  

Let's talk supplies - the links on here are NOT affiliate links, it's just what I found that I want to share with you that have worked great.

Markers - Collaborative
Markers are kept in quart size plastic bags in our drawer.  I get a mixture of both the thin and thick markers at the back to school sales.  We only use them for our group projects, and we switch classes, so it's easier for me to glance at them after a project to see that all caps have been put on.  I only put out half our supply of markers at the beginning of the year, and save the other half until January.  

Crayons - Collaborative
Crayons are kept in those little Dollar Tree soap boxes.  They seem to hold up better when they are in something sturdy.  Same thing - I save half of them until January.  At that point all the "old" markers and crayons go into a tub that are used when needed.  

Sharpies - Collaborative
These I keep in a separate box (away from the group supplies).  I pass them out when needed.  My colorful ones are kept separate than the black only ones.  Every year I always get myself a new pack of colorful sharpies, and I add my old set to the big tub.  It's been a way to save from replacing it all at once.  

Pencils and Erasers- Independent 
I started up the Great Pencil Challenge years ago.  I give the students 2 pencils at the beginning of the year and it's the challenge to keep them as long as possible.  I only give students a new pencil at the beginning of each trimester, and I have a tub of lost pencils that students can use when they misplace theirs.  They learn pretty fast that they have to keep track of their stuff. 

Whiteboards - Independent
For a long time I kept clipboards in a tub on the side of the room, kids grabbed one when needed.  Then I switched to these whiteboard clip boards that have a very small profile.  Since they are used also as our whiteboards, they slide in their desks for a moment notice.  Kids have to be in charge of them, or else they lose them (and just use their folder and a piece of paper instead).

Expos - Independent
They get a total of up to 3 markers through the year, one per trimester.  They keep them in their pencil pouch.  I give them one at the beginning of the year with the knowledge that they have to keep it until 2nd trimester, then 3rd.  If they run out early, they just switch to paper and pencil during whiteboard time.  It's not a big deal, and it saves me a lot of money. 

Rulers - Collaborative
Rulers are not toys.  Rulers are not swords.  Rulers are not light sabers.  There's a lot of things I say throughout the year.  They are kept in the drawer and are pulled out when needed.  

Scissors - I have had the same class set of scissors since my early days of teaching.  Switching to 5th graders, I am in the process of bumping them to the adult size.  They are kept in the drawer too - same thing:  Scissors are not toys.  We do not cut our arm hair.  We do not play with them.  Since the classes switch, I wanted to keep them handy for all classes.  

Tidy Tubs -  Collaborative
In the drawers I have a stack of little nesting tubs (Dollar Tree) that the kids pull out when they are cutting little pieces.  It makes clean up so much simpler.  

Glue Sticks -  Independent and Collaborative
Each of my students have a glue stick in their pencil pouch.  Last year I turned it into another challenge and I refused to give out new ones until the end of the trimesters.  For back to school I tried out the Target brand jumbo glue sticks - Up and Up brand.  They worked PERFECT and most lasted the entire year.  I'm going BIG again this year.  I keep a class set of glue sticks for the other classes that come in too.  

Highlighters - Independent
Each of my students get a package of 5-6 colored highlighters at the beginning of the year - the brand changes based on what's on sale - I don't want to spend more than $2.50 per set.  This is where I spent the most of my supply budget, but I really believe in the different colors for different purposes.  We use them for Rainbow editing, for vocabulary, for notes, for our Sense making Science notebooks...  so many uses when you have multiple colors available.  

I hope this helps someone with all the stuff that kids use on a daily basis.  Just my thoughts on how to organize the chaos.  Have a great day!

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