Whether you are a first year teacher or you’ve been teaching for years and are still trying to get organized (it’s always a work in progress), there are certain things every teacher needs to make your day-to-day teaching life so much easier!
I have tried so many things over the years, and I’m constantly finding better solutions to battle the clutter and stay organized. And after nearly a decade of teaching, I’m always finding new things. However, with all of this trial and error, some of these things have held tried and true throughout the years. So I’m sharing my best things with you!
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
I am one of those people who are now in love with a digital plan book. Why? After years of typing my lesson plans in Microsoft Word, and spending lots of hours getting the format exactly right so I could email my plans to my administrator, we had 15 snow days this year. Yes, you read that right…15 snow days!! Say what?! After 7 or 8 of them I was tired of having to copy and paste my lessons, not really sure when we would go back to school. And, we had a FULL week of school off one week this February. Next week will be the first week since Christmas break we have been back to school for a whole week. Yikes!
So, I transitioned (with not too much of a headache) over to Plan Book. It’s very inexpensive (currently $12 a year) and super user friendly. It allows you to create a template and color code different curriculum areas or grade levels so you can quickly scan your lesson plans for what you’re teaching next. It auto saves so you don’t have to worry about losing anything and you can access it from any device. (As a side note, many teachers are moving over to Google Docs to write their lesson plans because it also has these features, but you still have to copy and paste.) And my favorite part…if you miss a day of school, you can bump your lessons 1, 2, or even 5 days forward! This has been an absolute time saver this winter!
But, it all comes down to preference. If you prefer to write your plans in a plan book, one of my teacher friends recommends Plum Paper planners. They are super cute, durable and less expensive than many of the other custom teacher planners. And they are customizable too to save you time during your planning and preparation.
2. Flair Pens
One of my favorite things to use when grading papers or writing a quick note to a parent is flair pens. You could use any colored pen or fine tip marker you like, but unlike pens that I often have to try out and get to work, these always work when I need them and they last! So many other pens I have tried dried out within a few months and I had to replace them. I’ve had these for several years now and finally needs to replace them. Not because of that, but because I have lost them taking them between work and home. I really need a better system to keep track of them or just buy more than one set!
3. Whiteboard Markers
Speaking of drying out and having to replace them, Expo markers are the only whiteboard markers that will last me the whole year. I use them during my math lesson and to write my objectives on the board. If you have students use them, you might want to buy 2 or 3 sets just in case and keep a set of teacher markers just for you. I also use an Elmo and projector throughout the day, so you may need more if you like to write on the whiteboard more often.
I’m not exactly sure how to pronounce these (does anyone, really?), but Ticonderoga are the best pencils out there. We do ask our students to bring pencils in for classroom supplies, but they often come with pencils from the dollar store. And though they work for a while, they break easier and don’t sharpen well, so we often need to order more to get through the school year. Plus, they always seem to find their way on the floor or get lost somehow (where do they all go?). These sharpen great and the erasers actually work! I do buy a few back up erasers for students to use because the pencils far outlast the erasers. I also recommend these.
5. Pencil Sharpener
Another thing that will last me the entire school year is this pencil sharpener from X-ACTO. We order one with our grade level budget every year, which I know not every teacher has. We are fortunate to be able to do so, but it’s worth the cost. My students are allowed to use the pencil sharpener at the beginning of the day and after lunch. They sharpen 3-5 pencils and they’re good to go for the whole day. If a pencil breaks and they don’t have a spare, they find one in the sharpened pencil cup.
6. Hot Glue
My hot glue gun is a serious time saver…out of all of the things I use the most at the beginning of the school year, this is it! We have cinder block walls in our classrooms, which is great for helping to control those noisy days, but it makes it difficult to get anything to stay on the walls. I read a post years ago about using hot glue (which I would have never thought of) and I no longer have to keep reattaching things throughout the year when the tape or sticky tack dries out. I also use it to apply labels to all of my storage drawer systems, baskets, and lockers. And it comes right off. No fuss!
If you have dry wall instead, I recommend using Command picture hanging strips. I haven’t had any trouble removing them with tearing (if you do it carefully) or discoloration, but I would test it out in an inconspicuous spot first just to be safe.
7. Personal Laminator
It seems like I spend all summer laminating (labels, calendar pieces, bulletin board letters, name tags, etc.), but sometimes I just can’t make it into school to use the laminator or I need to laminate something small. This Scotch personal laminator lasts through a crazy amount of use. And don’t forget the to order more laminating sleeves.
8. Color Printer
I try to print at school as much as possible. Just like the laminator though, it’s not always possible to make it into school (or some schools do not allow printing in color). This is a great affordable option when you NEED to print in color. And if you expect to be printing a lot, there’s an HP Instant Ink program to have it shipped to you before you run out.
Along with the hot glue gun, one of my favorite items is this IRIS 6-drawer storage cart. No more lost papers, and I know exactly where to find all of my teaching resources for the week. To find out how I use this organization system, check it out here. I also share a few options for labels, with a freebie.
I am also on the lookout throughout the year to find baskets, bins, and jars to store classroom supplies in. The first place I always look is Dollar Tree. With everything priced at $1 or less, you can find so many supplies to use in your classroom at an affordable price. I probably go waaaaaay overboard, but I like to make sure I have plenty of storage for when I need something. And I love all of the color options available for baskets to match any color theme.
I currently use this 4-drawer rolling cart to store medals for our reading program. They were storing a caddy for pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue on top, with whiteboards and a drawer for writing notebooks, with another for math manipulatives to use during math lessons. Each cart was placed next to a group of student desks so they could access them easily throughout the day, and save valuable time passing out materials. Who knows where I’ll be next year and what they will be storing, but I love how versatile they are.
If you’d like a more colorful option, you can find it here.
10. Candy Jar
And of course, what would your classroom be without a little chocolate? When I taught preschool, we said our “safe word” phrase was I need chocolate on those tough days when we were struggling to deal with difficult behaviors and needed a break.
We all need something to look forward to throughout the day, and on those really tough days, I always make sure to keep chocolate on hand. I grab a quick piece, take a few deep breaths, and somehow manage to keep it altogether.
Hopefully these ideas will help you with your school shopping.
As I said earlier, I’m always looking for new things to try to stay better organized. If you have other supplies you absolutely love, I would like to hear about them in the comments below!