Do you get all giddy when it’s time to buy new school supplies too?! There’s just something about being a teacher surrounded by pencils, pens, and post its. It’s a happy place.
Once all the beautiful supplies make it into the classroom though, it’s a new ball game. What do we do to store them all? How do we effectively teach students how to use them all?! Talk about a cringe moment! Whether you have brand new kinders, who REALLY need support, or younger students that just need some extra help, there are ways to tackle this issue! We’re going to talk all about the MUST KNOW tips to effectively teach students to use all those amazing school supplies!
Systems for Storage
First things first- where will it all go? Thinking about the fact that we probably bought more supplies than we need, then adding that each student will bring in their own, we definitely need a system for storage.
There are some things to think about when coming up with your storage system. How would you like the supplies to be accessed? Will you do communal supplies or everyone will have their own set individually? Those storage systems will look a lot different. You could also choose to do a combination of both, as there are benefits of each. You must decide which is best for your class and with brand new students, it may take some trial and error to see what works.
Once you’ve got things stored how you want, you have to let students where they are. You can foster independence by having a scavenger hunt of supplies! Not only is this a fun activity for students to get up and move, but it also helps them learn their room and where to access supplies when they need them. Don’t forget about the excess materials that will need a home! Sterilite bins are my favorite way to store supplies that aren’t needed on a daily basis or extras that we can pull from to refill what we need in our classroom.
The Power of Labeling
There is a secret key that helps not only your students access their own material, but also helps your classroom *almost* run itself. The KEY:
allowing students to have the power and autonomy to do it all.
Sounds scary huh? It absolutely is! But one SUPER simple way to empower students to have more ownership of the classroom, is by labeling absolutely everything. Not only is this a great way to develop more natural ‘sight words’ for their classroom, it creates the autonomy for students to be able to navigate and learn independently. Students CAN and should have access to ALL supplies and labeling creates independence for them and more time for YOU. You’ll be amazed to simply watch the shift!! Don’t be afraid to spruce up your labels with visuals AND words! Organizing spaces FOR students is one of the most crucial things you can do to start having your classroom *almost* run itself.
Let me paint a picture. Imagine you have a classroom, beautifully labeled in every way, and your students can use those labels to freely get what they need. This means, no more getting crayons or Band-Aids for them, no more whole group instruction interruptions for a broken pencil, or students wasting time because they can’t find something. Why? Because their classroom is set up for THEM! They can do it and it’s time for us to let them step into their power! With THESE editable labels, you can design and organize your space so that your students own the room.
Giving ownership to your students is one of the most powerful things you can do in your classroom. It may seem scary at first, but ask yourself- What can THEY do? Give them access to ALL the things they may need so that they can meet their own needs. Create a well organized space for you and your students. Help them build that confidence in their independence. Check out how to set up your classroom for THEM and watch magic happen. Organizing spaces FOR students is one of the most crucial things you can do to start having your classroom *almost* run itself.
Pictured below, you can see classroom supplies, where students can get anything they need without assistance. You simply teach the procedures for accessing the materials and give them the autonomy! You can learn more in-depth details about setting up these expectations and procedures with THIS post.
The First Week of School
Let’s talk about the first week and what it looks like to be using supplies. You might think it’s okay to just hand over the supplies and say ‘use them wisely’ and expect that to be enough. On top of the already overwhelming first week of school, where you’re trying to learn names, build community, and of course begin to set a foundation for expectations. Now we have to throw in explicitly teaching how to use school supplies too?! If you want to have your classroom run smooth as butter, yes. And let me be the first to say, it’s OK to go S L O W with students.
What I mean by that is, introduce a few supplies at a time. You don’t have to hand over everything all at one. Depending on your age group, I would recommend putting a few supplies in their own pencil cases. This might be things like their own pair of scissors, a set of crayons or markers, and glue or glue sticks.
So what do we do on day one? Well, typically during back to school night, and likely also on the first day, you’ll receive an overload of school supplies. I typically organize those supplies into categories; ones that will be divided out throughout the year, and their personal ones, such as pencil boxes and scissors. The first day, ease them into their supplies and how they will be used. Then I will introduce and allow time for practice with pencils and crayons and/or markers. This may look like making a school portrait or drawing a picture of how you feel on the first day of school. They are easy, quiet, and calming activities to complete and they can take them home to show their families. Alternatively, you can hold them and begin to build a portfolio! Introduce supplies as you see fit and that would be appropriate for your grade level. Maybe some can handle most of their supplies day one in the upper grades, but maybe you hold off on scissors if they’re in primary grades and you don’t think they can handle it on day one.
As the first week goes on, there will be many natural opportunities to introduce and practice with each of their school supplies. They don’t need them all on day one and I definitely wouldn’t recommend introducing them all at once for kinders. Instead over the week, plan activities for students to learn about each of the expectations and build in time to practice with each.
Determine Your Priorities
What are the priorities for teaching supplies to your students? Well top priority is safety. We don’t ever want kiddos running through the classroom with scissors or eating glue. This becomes a priority over all others and students need to be EXPLICITLY taught how to safely use all of those supplies they will be using on a daily basis, especially the younger ones.
Taking care of supplies is the next priority to focus on. We only have a limited amount of those precious school supplies and it’s important for students to learn how to care for them properly. I’m sure you can relate to experiencing those tiny nubs trying to disguise themselves as pencils, or seeing marker caps all over the floor and silently hoping they aren’t dried out. All these things CAN be avoided with EXPLICIT instruction.
This leads us to the final priority of school supplies, use. Students must learn how to use each of these school supplies effectively and efficiently. You may have students who have no experience using things like scissors or markers. You will likely have students who have not had explicit instruction on how to use these supplies or they may have had different expectations than YOU want students to have.
So what’s the secret to teaching students to use these supplies effectively? One word: procedures.
This section is your bread and butter for communicating your high expectations and implementing smart practices so not only can your students SAFELY and independently use their supplies, but they will also stay organized and be cared for appropriately.
To effectively teach procedures for each supply here’s the steps I would recommend. Create an anchor chart WITH students, that contain the do’s and don’ts of each supply. I like to use THESE. You can read each card with students and have them paste it under the category it belongs to. For example, scissors DO cut paper and Scissors DO NOT cut hair.
We usually start with the supplies that will be used first, such as pencils and crayons/markers, then moving onto things like scissors and dry erase markers. Some of the cards are going to be silly, but they will all be purposeful for students. Focusing on both, what they CAN be used for vs what they are NOT used for, sets up explicit parameters for students to understand exactly what they are used for. Check out the anchor charts below that I love to use with students! They show exactly what it looks like and sounds like to use every supply. You can learn more about the “looks like, sounds like” method HERE!
While teaching about the do’s and don’ts of each supply, this is where you will spend explicit time discussing how we care for materials. We cover things like using pencils, as shown in the picture above, and how we sharpen them so that they last longer. You can use THIS pack to help get all those expectations set up and running! It has procedures for pencils, crayons, dry erase markers, glue, highlighters, books, and more!
It is my recommendation that we DON’T bust out scissors on the first day! Save those for later in the week or at least until you feel like your students are ready to learn about those expectations. When you are ready to introduce scissors, be sure to be just as explicit as when using other supplies. One important thing to reiterate to students is that scissors are used for cutting paper ONLY!
It’s inevitable to have school supplies end up on the floor. We’re talking about missing marker caps, pesky pencils, and broken crayons. We can limit these instances with clear expectations, but we can’t eliminate it completely. These are small humans and things like this are bound to happen. So what do we do when it does?
Remember the Sterilite bins I mentioned for the excess materials? They are also a really great option to deal with those supplies that end up on the floor. During your end of day clean up, students can pick up things like crayons or markers that end up on the floor and stick them in the bin. Students will have access to those bins daily, so in the instance they lost their crayon the day before, they can go back in the bin and grab what they need! It’s easy and simple. Think of it as a lost and found for supplies! And you can label it as such using this FREE Lost and Found Label!
Here’s a hack for glue stick lids! One way to mitigate lost lids can be labeling the glue sticks and their lids with either a matching number or color. That way if number 4 lid gets lost, it can be easy to replace if you find it on the floor! It’s simple and easy.
Put Those Skills to Good Use
Now that students have learned those expectations, it’s time to PRACTICE! You want students to get ample practice with all those important supplies. It also provides all the opportunities for you to create and model appropriate behavior. So how can students practice? Check out these fun activities below!
- Read the Legend of Rock, Paper, and Scissors by Drew Daywalt – this is a great introduction story to enjoy before practicing or teaching any supplies!
- Check out this cute craft to practice cutting and gluing!
- Color by Code – Perfect relaxing activity for crayon and/or marker practice!
- Trace the path – This is a fun way to practice those expectations for using pencils.
- Self portrait – I love using this as a first day activity to practice tracing with pencils, makers, and crayons!
- Supply Sorts – Sorts are a great way to practice procedures and how to use our supplies appropriately. Students sort the ways we use them and don’t use them!
- Practice worksheets – Sometimes you need a little simple worksheet practice for each school supply. These cut and paste sheets and cutting strips activities are easy practice whenever you need it!
Now that you’ve learned TONS of great tips for teaching school supplies, are you ready to dive in? How do you feel excited? Overwhelmed? Unsure where to start? Well I have some news for you…
I have taken YEARS of learning, hard work, mistakes, and activities to compile this amazing tool to help plan out your entire first week of school with NO hard work for you. You’ll walk into your classroom day one with an overabundance of activities and plans so that you know exactly what to do. This way you can focus on what really matters- spending the time getting to know your amazing new group of kiddos. I have thought through ALL those procedures that need to be taught, rules, first day/first week plans… ALL of it so YOU don’t have to! Check out the must have First Week Kit!
This First Week Kit is an absolute MUST HAVE!! It has been designed to include EVERYTHING you need for the first 5 days of school. We’re talking
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Want Even More Support from Me?
I strongly encourage you to join the Building a Student Centered Classroom course that will have you totally planned for your first six weeks of school with everything thought through. Get in the course and you’ll also have access to the Beginning of the Year Teacher Survival Guide at a discounted rate as well as some other amazing bonuses including a supportive teacher community. The course goes into extensive detail on how to successfully set up your classroom for the entire year. You’ll learn how to successfully set up your classroom in a way that flows and stays organized, strategies for building a positive classroom community, and all kinds of information on classroom management and instruction! The course will have you SET and help take some of the stress and pressure off.
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