I have a confession to make. I’m a little bit of a supply hoarder! Sound like you too?! I’ve learned over the years that most of the cute stuff I see and purchase as an impulse buy are things I will never use. So today, I am sharing with you my 25 must-have teaching supplies for the elementary classroom.
Whether you are stocking up for Back to School or shopping throughout the year, we can always use more teaching supplies! Some people find some amazing things from the Target Dollar Spot that they use all of the time. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “Where was that when I was shopping at Target?”
But for me, saving these items for that ONE TIME I think I might use them is a waste of precious cupboard space in my tiny classroom. It took me 7 years to realize this, but last summer I finally went through my cupboards and got rid of the just-in-case items. And you know what, I haven’t missed them!
I will say though, I know having a lot of resources makes teaching easier. You just have to find out what works for you (and is necessary) and stock up on a lot of those items.
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Must Have Teaching Supplies EVERY Teacher Needs!
Before I begin, I want to add that all of these must-have teaching supplies link to Amazon. You’re more than welcome to shop elsewhere or price match. And you don’t have to shop online. I know a lot of stores have great deals right before school starts, and Teacher Appreciation sales in May. So, if you’re looking for a great deal, you could start there. However, I LOVE being able to order everything late at night in one place whenever I need it and having the benefit of getting it shipped to me 2 days later in a pinch.
You could also add these items to your student’s school supply list (if your school allows) or ask for donations from parents that are interested in doing more to help you in your classroom. Perhaps they are unable to come in to volunteer their time, but are able to donate supplies. Help comes in different shapes and looks different for everyone.
Amazon Prime has been a lifesaver for this teacher, who lives out in the middle of nowhere with two young children, and has to pile everyone into the car and drive 60 minutes to the nearest Target. These are just suggestions. If you do follow these links, please know that I do make a small commission from your purchase. I appreciate your support. Thank you!
1. Pencils & Erasers
The first in a long list of must-have teaching supplies, I need approximately 3-4 of these 6 packs of pencils every year based on the number we use. We ask parents to send in pencils for their supply list, and we get all kinds. We go through TONS of them, and the cheaper the brand, the faster we go through pencils! I recommend the Ticonderoga brand because the pencils sharpen better, I find the lead in them breaks less often, and they also have the best erasers (you know, the pretty dark pink kind!). I just haven’t found good luck with the tiny erasers students can put on the end of the pencil. These are a little pricier, but you will be glad you did!
(Click the picture or any of the pictures to snag these items for a great deal!)
And if you are a little tight on budget, don’t mind asking parents to send in the supplies you need. You will always need pencils. Someone is always willing to pitch in a hand (some families more than others, and that’s okay). Plus, if you’re specific, they appreciate knowing exactly what you are looking for.
2. Pencil Sharpener
Another thing that will last me the entire school year is this pencil sharpener from X-ACTO (going on two years strong now!). It has held up well and it’s reasonably priced. We order one with our grade level budget every year or so, which I know not every teacher has. We are fortunate to be able to do this, 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.
3. Glue Sticks
Glue sticks are great for art projects, but also for gluing things into interactive notebooks. This is another thing we ask our families to send in for must-have teaching supplies, but I do buy an extra box of these just in case, and my favorites are these disappearing purple glue sticks.
It helps young children see where they have put glue so they can (hopefully) know if they’ve put enough on or need to add more…so they’re not reattaching things that fall off – or out of their notebooks – later.
The younger the grade level, the more I find I use crayons. Each student comes to school with their own box of crayons. However, it’s nice to have extras (sorted into small 3-drawer bins by color to save time finding that ONE precious pink crayon!) for students who need them or for Center activities elsewhere in the classroom so they don’t need to carry their supplies from their desk or table caddy with them.
The best, of course, are Crayola brand and I don’t buy anything else. They just don’t hold up with the same quality. If you need a classroom set, you can get them here.
My students use markers to make posters for different projects. Otherwise, we use crayons due to bleeding through the paper. Again, Crayola is the best and all I buy.
Once in a while I will take a chance and try something else and am sorely disappointed. I don’t know what it is. They just know how to make coloring supplies.
If you’re looking to switch things up for your Word Work or Writing Center, these Mr. Sketch Markers – or smelly markers as my students call them – are a fun way to get students engaged in their work. I always have a few packs on hand.
6. Construction Paper
Look for a multi-color pack of 12×18″ construction paper if you can’t afford to buy each color individually. The larger pieces of construction paper are nice because they can be cut into smaller sizes as needed.
If you do want to stock up on a few colors, I suggest blue, green, and red. These cover just about every holiday for those special projects.
For hands-on activities that are going to be used often by your students, or for those you would like to use for several years, cardstock comes in handy. Print and laminate your resources for extra durability so the cards last longer.
And if you’re planning on using it for your math and literacy centers, you’re going to need a LOT!
Also, if your school doesn’t let you print in color and you want to save on buying a TON of color ink to print your resources (which can get pretty pricey), colored cardstock needs to be one of your must-have teaching supplies. Astrobrights come in so many amazingly bright colors and help make activities more engaging for your students.
All of the math and literacy resources I create in my Tacky the Teacher TpT store have a blackline master for this reason! I want you to be able to get exactly what you need for your classroom needs.
You can learn more about how I use unicorns (and other interesting topics) to increase student engagement in this post.
Pages in books will rip and important papers will tear. I don’t use a whole lot of tape throughout the year.
I use it mostly to tape pages together when I am making signs for my bulletin boards that need to be taped before laminating. But a few rolls of Scotch tape (and a dispenser) come in handy.
For large rips in the pages of books or for loose binding, I use packing tape or book tape. This can be a bit pricey, so you could get some at the dollar store if you wanted, but the quality can be a little lackluster. Nevertheless, the tape helps to prolong the life of your classroom library and every elementary teacher should have this as one of their must-have teaching supplies.
One of my must-have teaching supplies, if you’re going to use your stapler to put up bulletin boards, is this Bostitch Stapler. I found mine jamming a lot, and I would waste a lot of time removing bent staples that would get stuck in the stapler. Until I invested in a good one!
10. Sticky Notes
Sticky notes can be used to write a quick note or for your students to use for interactive anchor charts. Buy some fun brightly colored ones just because or to differentiate instruction.
If I’m lucky enough to catch a penny sale or get them at Wal-Mart for 15 cents each at the beginning of their Back to School sale I stock up on folders (without prongs).
I use them for student take-home folders and for writing. I glue a cover with their name on the front and laminate them so they hold up longer. Some years I only have to give students one and they last the whole year. Some years, my students are harder on them and I have to replace them mid-year.
I also like to get the same color, so I can tell my students to pull out their green folder, and it makes it easier for them to find it in their desk.
Some teachers like to use folders with prongs instead and put papers in the middle with sheet protectors to store work students haven’t finished or stories they are writing.
Again, students bring their own pair of scissors, but these are great to have on hand for lost pairs (there are always a few) or for table caddies at a center.
Or these scissors with a caddy if you’re purchasing student scissors for the first time or need to organize them.
And don’t forget about scissors for you. These titanium scissors are one of my favorites from my list of must-have teaching supplies (I am cutting something constantly!). I’m a leftie, so it took a few tries to find a pair of scissors that were comfortable to use. They can be used for either hand, so that’s a plus. You can also find these at Walmart, but I definitely recommend buying a few pair.
13. Dry Erase Markers
Expo markers are the only whiteboard markers that will last me the whole year. These are my teacher markers, and my students know not to use them. 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.
One of my favorite must-have teaching supplies 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! Another brand I have found that I love, with a more affordable price, is the Amazon Felt Tip Marker Pens. So many other pens I have tried dried out within a few months and I had to replace them. I’ve used both of these brands for several years now and they last the whole school year.
15. Clear Page Protectors
These are so versatile. Use them for classroom books, in student folders, or for your objectives display. Attach them (sideways) to a bulletin board or tape them to a whiteboard. I keep all of my objectives for each topic in one sheet protector and switch them out as needed. Easy peasy!
Or, use sheet protectors for center activities students can write on but won’t be collected. This is a great trick if you are limited on copies too! Copy 5 or 6 of the same sheet and students can complete the activity and wipe it off when they are done (socks make cheap whiteboard erasers).
16. Paper Clips
I use paper clips all the time to organize my papers at the copy machine. And I only use the jumbo ones. The small ones slip off of my copies and get lost.
You can buy paper clips anywhere and they are very inexpensive, so here are some colorful ones you can use to separate by subject or center to help when it comes time to sort your activities for the week. A simple thing that’s such a BIG time saver!
17. Disinfecting Wipes
A must-have for cleaning up all of those little messes and for keeping your students healthy throughout the year. Another thing we ask for from parents to send in with their child, but we always need to have a few extra disinfecting wipes on hand. The teacher that cleans their classrooms a few times a week (or daily) have students that are absent less often.
My Favorite Must-Have Teaching Supplies to Make Life Easier
18. Glue Gun
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 drywall 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.
19. Storage Bags
There are sooo many different storage options for your center activities out there. I have seen them all. I have several of my center activities in bags or boxes in a small crate for my students to use. They choose an activity to complete from the crate and take it back to their desk, or wherever they are working in the classroom.
I actually invested a little and went with these large photo and craft keeper boxes to hold all of my task and flash cards. They’re a heavy plastic and hold up well for repeated use.
The various colors means you can separate by activity, subject, or skill. If you can wait, Michaels has these on sale frequently for a steal (just over $10)! I bought a set and then bought another set the next time they were on sale. It was worth the wait!
I switch out the activities every month and put the old activities in shoe boxes in the cupboard or in copy boxes above the cupboards. I had our school janitors save them for a few months for me – 1 for every month of the school year and attached paper to the front to match my classroom decor.
20. Storage Boxes
No more open baskets and bins of different sizes in my cupboards. They’re difficult to stack, take up a lot of space, and pulling them out to access materials is a complete nightmare!
For another classroom organization tip, place smaller items you put in your cupboards – like manipulatives, games, and task cards – in shoe boxes. These IRIS 5 Quart containers can be quickly labeled and stacked on top of each other. This makes finding materials more efficient and convenient. You can also purchase clear shoes boxes with lids individually at Dollar Tree.
Both are affordable options that I recommend, depending on the needs of your classroom. And the clear color will coordinate with any classroom theme.
When you need to access them, they are easy to pull out and you don’t have to worry about materials falling out all over the place. Then, they can quickly be put in any area of your classroom for you or your students to use without having to find another basket or bin to put them in.
Another solution for storing center games or small activities in the classroom for your students to use are these mini crates. They’re also great for book boxes if you have chapter books you need to separate by series. You can get them for $1 during Back to School at Wal-Mart if you only need a few.
Whether it’s for lesson plans, keeping track of data, guided reading or math, you’re going to need a few notebooks. For meeting notes for professional development or parent communication (newsletters, copies of notes you send home, etc.), you could probably use a 1/2″ or 1″ binder.
I’d rather have them a little larger than not big enough, so I err on the side of about 2″ for each one.
22. Drawer Storage Carts
One of my absolute favorite must-have teaching supplies is this IRIS 6-drawer storage cart. I use it EVERY DAY! No more lost papers, and I know exactly where to find all of my 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 have 3 of these 4-drawer rolling carts in my classroom and they store a little bit of everything! They have had storage for my students – 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.
I also currently use one to store my hot glue gun and other supplies I myself use often. Who knows where I’ll be next year and what they will be storing, but I love how versatile they are.
Lastly, I recently purchased this 10-Drawer Rolling Cart to organize more resources by month of the year. I’ve seen other teachers use them for options during centers where their students practice the same skill but in different ways at the same center. It keeps their students interested in what they are learning by allowing them some choice in how they practice the skill. I love mine, so I plan to buy another. Investing in good storage solutions that will last years is something I have never regretted.
I will also add that I started ordering all of my organization in black, white, or clear containers so I can change classroom themes every year and don’t have to worry about things not matching.
It helps to make your classroom look more organized and less cluttered when everything coordinates.
23. Teacher Toolbox
If you’re like most teachers and got rid of your teacher’s desk to save that valuable space for your students to use, a teacher toolbox comes in handy. It also helps if you need a storage solution for all of those items that end up stuffed in drawers, making it time-consuming to find something whenever you need. I have to say I have been guilty of this, which is why I got rid of my teacher desk last year. It’s all about finding ways to be more efficient so we can spend more time teaching.
I created these teacher toolbox labels at the request of one of my followers. They coordinate with my Shiplap & Denim classroom decor. You can find them here or click on the picture.
24. Address Labels
I use address labels for locker tags, book boxes, and to label all of the materials that go in their desk (folders, handwriting notebook, writing words book, etc.). I start the year off printing their names with 6-8 copies so I have a few extra to stick on whenever I need them. Something always comes up!
You’ll have these for years, but they’re definitely something you don’t want to forget.
25. Portable Project Cases
And last but not least, I started using these slim portable project cases to store my son’s important papers and art projects he brought home from school. I have one for each year he’s been in school. They’re nice and big so they fit odd sized papers, and they stack and organize easily.
I have also used these in my classroom to store monthly materials in, including art projects that don’t fit well in my filing cabinet. The latches lock tight, so I don’t have to worry about papers falling out when I’m pulling them down from the top of my cupboards. And it’s another investment that has lasted me years!
So that’s the 25 MUST-HAVE teaching supplies for the elementary classroom. Have other items you’ve found you absolutely cannot live without? Share in the comments below.