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15 Essential Classroom Items For First Year Teachers

first year teacher must have / first year teacher checklist

It’s that time of year! Back to school is right around the corner. I’m joyously entering my second year teaching 3rd grade, 4th year teaching all together. I remember (not too long ago) how incredibly overwhelming it can be planning your first classroom. It’s exciting, but nerve wracking at the same time, and not to mention could be a huge blow to your wallet.

If you’re new to my blog, you may not know what I’m all about. So let me catch you up to speed; I’m quite the frugalista 🙂 I would NEVER recommend something for you to buy unless I thought it was something you could truly benefit from. In this blog post, I’m sharing 15 essential classroom items I used daily last year. I know you will use these classroom items often for maximum organization and preparation. 

Of course, if you’re teaching high school, your classroom might look a little different than the classroom home my 8 and 9 year olds inhabit. However, I’ll do my best to share items you could use in any grade.

Theme/Decor

I think it goes without saying, if you are teaching elementary aged children, you should have some type of classroom decor or theme in your classroom. I’m an advocate for bright, cheerful decor that is SIMPLE. It can be overwhelming walking into a classroom that has a million different things going on.

My students really enjoyed the adventure theme I had in my classroom last year. I’ll insert a few pictures so you can get an idea. It wasn’t cluttered, it was affordable, and it was perfect for third grade. You can decide what is best for your grade level/students, but I highly recommend doing some type of decorations or theme to make your classroom an inviting, warm place for your students. That way they’ll look forward to coming into their classroom each day.

So, here we go!

15 Essential Classroom Items You Need For Your First Classroom

This page contains affiliate links, but I would never recommend something I don’t love and use myself. If you want more information, please visit my disclosure page. 

1. Dry Erase Circles/Dry Erase Boards

 

If possible, individual dry erase boards for each student is best. I love when my students can use whiteboards during the whole group math lesson, spelling lesson, etc so they can easily show me what they know on their whiteboards. But I understand that purchasing that many individual whiteboards can be expensive. So if that’s not an option for you, these dry erase circles are awesome.

I have my students use both individual whiteboards and dry erase circles when I’m teaching. These individual dry erase circles are great to put at a small group learning table. I use them often when doing small groups with math and reading. My students also love to do “math facts” or other practice on these dry erase circles at the back table when they’ve finished their work early.

 

 

View more details/purchase here

2. Socks (free) or Mini Erasers

I personally was going to use old socks for my students whiteboard erasers, but somebody purchased these mini erasers for me from my classroom wishlist and I love them. They are magnetic as well so the students love to stick them to their desk legs when they aren’t using them. 

If you want to go to the free route, a sock is great because students can store their dry erase marker inside of it when they’re not using it. Just simply include one “sock” on the students’ supply list and you’re done!

View more details/purchase here

3. Rainbow Cart

I love my rainbow cart (I actually have two) because I use it in so many ways!

In one cart, I store work for the week. Each drawer is labeled for one day (example Monday-Friday). I store all the materials/worksheets/etc I need for Monday in the Monday drawer, and so on for each day. It’s great for planning ahead so when you come into school each morning, you don’t have much preparation left to do. I use the leftover drawers for papers I need to copy, paperwork for my T.A. to help me with, etc. 

I use my other rainbow cart solely for my students’ use. They love having their own cart. I store paper, pencils, pens, notecards, colored pencils, colored paper, word searches, etc in each of the drawers and they know that everything in that cart is free for them to use. 

View more details/purchase here

 

4. Mailboxes

These mailboxes are one of my FAVORITE and most used items. Once work is completed and it’s “O.K.’d” to go home, students slip their papers/projects into their mailbox with their name and number labeled on their slot.

After I’m done grading papers, I can easily slip each student’s paper into their mailbox so it doesn’t get lost.

It’s also great for my “Friday Folder” helper because she can easily slide each student’s work from the week from the mailbox slot into their folder effortlessly. No more filing through hundreds of papers at the end of the week!

View more details/purchase here

 

 

Need classroom management tips for your first year?

Check out this post on my BEST classroom management tips that worked like a charm for every class I taught!

 

5. Colored Construction Paper

If you’re teaching elementary school, or even middle school, colored paper is a must. We use colored paper throughout the year for projects, cards we write for people, writing “books” (the kids LOVE that one), and more. Trust me, you’ll get good use out of colored construction paper. 

View more details/purchase here

6. “While You’re Waiting” Bin

I unfortunately don’t have a picture of my while you’re waiting bin, but it’s essentially a bin that looks like the ones pictured below and it’s labeled “While You’re Waiting”.

I fill it every other week or so with new worksheets and fun crafts that pertain to what we’ve learned that month. It’s great for reinforcing skills and knowledge the students have learned but the papers/crafts are often times more fun than the normal, every day seat work the students have. They love it! And I can always direct the students towards the “while you’re waiting” bin when they finish their work early and say “I’m bored!”. 

 

View more details/purchase here

7. STEAM Kits

I absolutely love doing STEAM in the classroom with my students. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. It engages the students in creative ways that requires them to think critically and solve problems in groups. It provides students with valuable skills they will need both in their adolescence and adult life. And the best part, it’s FUN for them! I used to scour Teachers Pay Teachers for fun STEAM ideas to purchase until I came across Green Kid Crafts.

With Green Kid Crafts, you’ll have fun, creative and eco-friendly craft and STEAM activities delivered to your school with their subscription program. Each month’s Discovery Box has 4-8 unique and engaging activities. I use these by pairing my students into groups and have them accomplish their STEAM activity with teammates.

If you’re not interested in a subscription service, you can purchase individual science kits, craft kits, and discovery boxes individually. I find these kits so valuable because it drastically reduces prep work time, requires the students to think critically and work well in teams, and they LOVE them. 

View more details/purchase here

8. Tongue Depressors

I use tongue depressors to write my students names for our class job chart and for my cup of “sticks”.

I use my cup of sticks to draw students’ names for whole group lessons to call on a variety of students in a “fair” way. I always let my students say “pass” if they don’t want to answer. That way, students won’t have anxiety about getting called on if they don’t know the answer when they see me use the cup of sticks. I find that over time, because there is no stress/anxiety involved, the shy students feel more comfortable answering and are less likely to say “pass”. 

You can use popsicle sticks as well, but tongue depressors are bigger for writing student’s names. 

View more details/purchase here

9. Lunch Chart

This lunch chart has saved me a lot of time each morning. When the students come into the classroom each day, the first thing they do before getting started on their morning work is put their name on the lunch choice they’d like that day.

Hot lunch is whatever the kitchen is serving hot that day, cold lunch is a ham sandwich the kitchen offers, milk is a carton of milk or a water bottle from the cafeteria, and home means they brought their own lunch.

At the top where it says Lunch Choices, I use a dry erase marker to write what the kitchen is offering that day.  I laminated the chart so I could write on it/erase and it won’t get ruined. 

It makes taking attendance and the lunch count so much easier because whoever didn’t move their name off the top of the chart each day was absent, and then I could easily mark down the choices the kids chose for lunch. 

View more details/FREE DOWNLOAD here

10. Clothespins

I use clothespins with the students’ names on them for our lunch chart and for our “making good choices behavior clip chart”. They come in handy for things like that. 

View more details/purchase here

11. Job Chart

I love having a job chart for three reasons. One, the kids love it. Two, the jobs teach them responsibility within the classroom. Three, it helps me out big time! Our classroom runs smoothly each day because each student has a job and helps keep our class orderly, clean, and efficient. I switch the jobs each week on Monday so students are never stuck with a job they don’t prefer for a long time. 

View more details/FREE DOWNLOAD here

12. Name Plates

Every desk (or seat at a table) should be labeled with a student’s name so the student has a “home” they can call their own. I am blessed to have desks, but even if you have tables, I think it’s important for students to have a place that belongs to just them in the classroom. Name plates are great for this. 

View more details/purchase here

13. Storage Cubes

I use storage cubes at the front of my classroom to store community items such as glue, dry erase markers, erasers, notecards, math manipulatives, paper sleeves, and more. The students, just like with the rainbow cart, know they are allowed to use the items from the crates whenever they need to. 

View more details/purchase here

14. Schedule And Magnets

The students LOVE knowing what’s ahead of them each school day. It especially helps the kids who may have anxiety at school to know what they can expect each day. They will most definitely let you know if they think something is wrong with the schedule too, LOL 🙂

I use magnets (linked below) that I glued to the back of these schedule cards so they’d stick to the whiteboard and I could easily change the schedule each day. 

 

Free Daily Schedule: View more details/FREE DOWNLOAD here

Magnets: View more details/purchase here

15. Indoor Recess Activities

It’s SO important to have some sort of indoor activities for rainy day recess, etc for the kids to use. I didn’t link any items for this one because the options are truly limitless. My classroom has board games, computers, colored paper for drawing, crafts, word searches, flash cards, a fun library with comfy chairs, and more for the students to use during free time. They also LOVE to play teacher up on the “big whiteboard”. Students will get creative if you let them, but it’s good to have some type of guided activities for the students who prefer that over making up games. 

That’s a Wrap!

Before you go, check out this post on my BEST classroom management tips that worked like a charm for every class I taught!

Those are my top 15 essential classroom items you need for your first year teaching! Of course there many other helpful items you can use in your classroom, but these were my “holy grail” last year that helped make my first school year teaching third grade run smoothly. Let me know in the comments below what you will use from this list in your classroom! I love to know what items you all like best 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and be sure to come back soon for more teaching tips. 

Check out my other teaching related posts here!

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Comments

  1. Belinda Burks says

    I’m a teachers aide/sub working towards my certification. I love the way this first year teachers room is set up and all the suggestions you recommended. I will definitely use these examples.

    Thank You so much

    • MeredithH says

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad my suggestions are helpful for you! I’m excited for you as you’re working towards your certification. God bless your journey!

  2. Jared Zieser says

    Starting my first teaching job this Fall. Thank you for this list, it was very helpful! So excited to meet my fourth graders.

  3. Heather Voyer says

    I am a part time ELL teacher (1st year) working with K-2 kids. I inherited a room with cabinets and drawers full of curriculum, worksheets (some very outdated), and lots of partial/mismatched wall decor. I am completely overwhelmed. I was a late hire, and I just have so much Stuff to go through. How would you suggest tackling this mess?

    • MeredithH says

      Hi Heather, I know this can feel very overwhelming. I too had a similar situation with a classroom full of cabinets upon cabinets of curriculum and outdated worksheets when I was hired for my first full time teaching job.

      What I would do if I were you is:
      1. tackle the decor/walls/”theme” of the room first since that’s the environment the students will be learning in and what will make the room feel like “home” to them. They won’t see all the overwhelming stuff in the cabinets and drawers but they will see what’s in the classroom and on the walls. Remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top! Pick a color scheme (my classroom color scheme was blues and greens) and/or a theme (mine was adventure) and work from there.

      2. Pick a cabinet or bookshelf to store all the items you plan on using in your daily teaching. Once you have a place and a plan for what you’ll be using to teach, you will feel better and can somewhat ignore the other left behind items until you have time to go through them. Handle what you’ll be using first, and you can handle the left over stuff later on. You don’t want to waste your time going through all the old stuff and not use your time wisely to plan for what you’ll be actually using/teaching in the first few weeks/months.

      3. Finally, once you feel ready and have accomplished the necessary things first, do a quick “sweep” of the cabinets and drawers. Don’t look at every single paper or you’ll be there for weeks, but try to do a general thumb through to get an idea of what’s in each drawer/cabinet. Make a pile of stuff that seems very outdated/unnecessary, and keep in the cabinets/drawers what could be useful to you. The truth is, 95% of the stuff you will actually use will be given to you by the school and will be their current curriculum. The majority of the stuff that is left behind you won’t use because it’s not the school’s current curriculum or what aligns with their current teachings. With that being said, don’t toss everything. Try your best to keep what is relevant and what you could picture yourself using to support a lesson you might teach. If you couldn’t see yourself using it, talk to your principal and/or other teachers to see if there’s a place you should donate or store outdated classroom curriculum and items that you won’t be using. In my situation, my principal had me give her the outdated curriculum and I was able to recycle a lot of the old worksheets and things that were left behind in my classroom.

      I hope this helps! I know it feels overwhelming but you’ll be okay and will get everything under control, I promise! You got this 🙂

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