Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may make a commission from qualifying purchases at absolutely no cost to you. Read our full Disclosure Policy here.
There are a number of first year teacher must haves that belong on an essential teacher supplies list. But there are plenty of money-sucking items that you really don’t need, at least not right away.
I remember when I first got my teaching job (many moons ago…). I excitedly ran out and spent way too much money on all the things I thought I would need, and plenty of things I just thought were adorable. If I’m honest, I did it again when I was moved from primary to junior, and again when I moved from grade 6 to kindergarten!
Let me help you make sure you have the things that will really help set up, organize and run your classroom without wasting money on ‘shiny objects’.
You’ll notice I haven’t included things like pencils, erasers, glue sticks, printer paper, crayons, etc…. because, 1) I’m hoping that is blindingly obvious and, 2) I’m really hoping your school has a storage closet with all that ready for you purchased with school funds!
New Teacher Must Haves for Elementary
I have divided this into 4 sections:
- First, must haves for new teachers includes items to help you plan, organize and create effectively.
- Secondly, you’ll find a first year classroom essentials list that will help you teach your students easier.
- The third list are teacher splurges! If you have a little extra money, a classroom budget, or a birthday coming up ;), then we’ve got some great ideas to make your job so much easier and more comfortable!
- Finally, we’ll point out a few things that you shouldn’t bother buying either at all, or until you’ve figured out just how your class runs and what isn’t already available in your school.
Essential Teacher Supplies List
I’ve gone through a lot of planners over the years but ultimately decided to create my own as nothing ever quite did all the things I wanted it to. Plus, it drives me nuts having to fill in my schedule each week so I spend some time in August/September creating it for the full year then just print.
Take some time to make sure that your planner has room for the things you need: weekly schedule, monthly overview, daily lesson plans, student information…
Coloured pens are a classroom essential to keep notes, grades, student feedback and more colour-coded, organized and fun! I find fine-liner pens write so much better than ballpoints.
These journal planner pens come in 18 colours and are perfect for writing in planners and notebooks.
Every teacher needs permanent markers and, ideally in a variety of thicknesses. They are perfect for labelling all manner of things that might otherwise get rubbed off.
Teacher Tip: Did you know that you can remove permanent marker on plastic with a dry-erase marker??
While every school I’ve taught at has heavy-duty hole punches at the photocopier or in the staff room, having one on my desk is a big time saver. This one has a 10-sheet capacity but is plenty for those few sheets I forgot to hole punch when I photocopied, or the odd sheet of notes I want to add to my binder.
One of the most basic must haves for teachers is a stapler. Whether you are putting work on a bulletin board, making mini books or attaching rubrics to student work, you’ll be using this daily.
3-ring binders are one of the absolute first year classroom essentials! Think beforehand what you’ll want them for and what size. I have a large binder for my teacher binder that lives on my desk, then smaller ones for different subject areas, IEPs, guided groups, etc… I also have a large binder for math centres and one for literacy centres that I can store all the instruction cards, task cards and sheets in…
As mentioned above, binders are my favourite way to store materials for centres. I have a section for each centre type then use page protectors to store all the task cards, laminated instructions, extras sheets etc… that can’t just be hole punched.
Page protectors are also really useful for notes and random items that I need to keep in my teacher binder too!
You’ll want some page dividers or tabs to keep those binders organized! These large, erasable tabs are a perfect option so they can be changed as needed.
I also really like these repositionable tabs that stick onto existing pages. These are perfect if you want to mark spots in an existing series of pages and don’t want the random page divider in the middle. NOTE: This is actually one item I’ve had success with good quality from the dollar store.
We all want fun, engaging, colourful resources in our classrooms. Especially things like task cards that you should laminate and reuse. But colour ink is expensive. Cue coloured paper.
Money-saving tip: Instead of printing in colour, print B&W on coloured paper!
Astrobrights is the gold standard for coloured paper with a variety of colour combos so you can find your favourite.
There are different options to organize papers and files so it may take a little experimenting to figure out what works for you. I use a hanging file folder box like this for items such as extra sheets by subject (perfect for lost copies or absent students) and stackable letter trays like these for plain paper, lined paper, scrap paper, etc…
Another one of the must haves for teachers. I like to have a really high quality set for my use on the whiteboard and a collection of cheaper and thinner dry erase markers for students to use on personal whiteboards during guided groups and small group activities.
You can’t beat Expo Markers for your teacher set. They write better, last longer and erase cleanly. For students, these colourful, fine tip markers are perfect for small whiteboards or laminated paper.
This is another one of those items on every teacher school supplies list with so many options. Personally, I like to have a desktop organizer like this with space for pens/pencils, scissors and a small notepad or stickies.
I then have all the other stationery (paperclips, erasers, thumbtacks, elastic bands, staples…) in divided sections in my top desk drawer. You could use containers like these or, do like I do and use the empty box from a classpack of Crayola markers. Free if your school buys the markers!
However you choose to organize your stationery, I will say this is one you can almost certainly pick up at the dollar store!
Extra large, lined sticky notes are my absolute favourite! Perfect for writing lists (another personal favourite), notes to parents, students or teachers and anything else you can think of.
“Don’t you have a pile of student scissors?” you may ask. And you’d be right but, trust me, you will want a pair of sharp scissors that you can always find for so many reasons.
Hook and loop has so many useful purposes, I recommend always having some in your desk. I love the adhesive strips so I can cut it to any size I like but I know others prefer the little dots. Dealer’s choice!
Between this and a Sharpie, you’ll be able to fix, label and generally transform just about anything. I’ve fixed broken books, created booklets from papers (like Readers’ Theatre scripts), labeled bins and boxes and so much more.
I get headaches a lot, so this is a must for me. Even if you aren’t dipping into the medicine cabinet regularly, you’ll have a class of 25-30 kids so there will be noise. And chaos. And drama. What you don’t get to do as a teacher, is take a break if you’re not feeling great.
Stash of Small Treats
Maybe less of an essential on the list of must have teaching supplies, but highly recommended. Skipped lunch to prep for math? Staying late to catch up on grading? Had one of ‘those’ days? A group of students were awesome helpers today?
Whatever the reason, having a stash of small goodies, whatever your preference, is always a good idea!
One of the most important first year teacher must haves? A comfortable bag to transport everything between home and school. Lunch, drink, laptop, sweater and, yes, student work.
Trust me, just skip all the cute trends and choose a bag that is comfortable and has pockets.
I have mostly used my hiking/travel daypack out of convenience but a good friend showed up to a conference last month with this backpack. She raved about it and I fell instantly in love. Stylish, comfortable and a compartment for everything!
Classroom Must Haves for New Teachers
You’ll see below that I don’t recommend buying any bigger classroom furniture items right away but this is an exception. These rolling storage carts are on the classroom supplies list for teachers everywhere because they are so versatile.
Whether you store centres, craft supplies or papers, this will definitely come in handy. The fact it’s on wheels means you’re not committing to a classroom layout either.
I have the 10-drawer one that most teachers have but I actually wish I had this one!
You’ll want a few different types of magnets. Make sure you have strong ones to hold up papers, anchor charts and posters. I also like to have a few magnetic clips like these. One of my favourite things is magnetic adhesive sheets. I print off a list of student names, stick it on and cut it up. They’re perfect for any kind of student tracking – attendance, work completion, you name it.
Having a timer is perfect for keeping your lessons, centres and activities on track. It can also be a handy strategy for specific students who need accommodations to complete their work. Look for a timer with a magnetic back so it can live on the whiteboard.
Unpopular opinion: do not buy an electric pencil sharpener (or even a mechanical wall one). The noise is obnoxious, students will magically find reasons they need to sharpen their pencils and they will break. All the time.
If you want one for yourself, go for it, but keep it just for you. I actually prefer to have one or two regular sharpeners available near the bin, or at their groups.
Students love to have mini whiteboards. They are so much more motivated to work on one rather than paper. Plus I love saving paper! My kids use these flexible dry-erase boards every day during guided groups and they are perfect. One side is blank and the other has a coordinate grid so they are super versatile too!
I just discovered these a few years ago and they are awesome! You can slip any sheet of paper inside and turn it instantly into a reusable, customized dry erase board. They are perfect for desk games, centre activities and much more.
As a teacher, anchor charts are an essential teaching tool so you’ll want a good quality set of markers (not permanent) that students don’t get to use.
Mr. Sketch markers write really nicely, don’t bleed through and smell great! The chisel tip means you can make thinner or thicker lines when you need to as well.
Storage bins are definitely on every elementary teacher supply list. You will need one for students to hand in completed work for sure, along with a few others for storing various student materials, manipulatives or classroom supplies.
Check out your local dollar store first as these can get pricey. Just make sure they fit a duotang or large envelope, not just a piece of paper.
General Games or Activities
Have a few old board and table games on hand for indoor recesses, early finishers or even just a Friday afternoon treat.
Go shopping in your local charity shops, garage sales or even your basement!
Splurges for Teachers
The following items aren’t perhaps on a classroom essentials list, but they will absolutely make your days at school more comfortable and efficient!
One year, my school decided to purchase really nice office chairs for every teacher/classroom. I was actually annoyed that they had ‘wasted’ money that could have been spent on teaching resources.
A few years later, I transferred schools and was met with a very cheap, very old, almost broken desk chair and, boy did I miss that comfortable chair!
We spend a lot of time in a chair at school, no matter how much you’re up and moving about the classroom. Marking, planning, writing report cards and all the paperwork – not to mention sitting at the horseshoe table with a guided group during centres. It really does make a difference to be comfortable.
If you’re lucky, you will have access to a large one through your school so wait to find out before spending any money. However, if that’s not the case it really does come in handy and, over the long run, will save you time and money.
Resources that can be used repeatedly such as task cards, centre instructions and posters will last so much longer laminated.
Document cameras are extremely useful to demonstrate just about anything to the class that isn’t digital. Show something on a piece of paper or in a book without having to scan and upload. Demonstrate with math manipulatives without having to juggle and drop the pieces. Students can easily share their work with the class.
I recently got a pair of Airpods Pro which was a major splurge. But what a game-changer for concentration! They have a noise cancelling function that would be perfect for trying to get work done in class on your planning time, or trying to concentrate in a busy staff room.
Plus wireless headphones are great to have outside of school too!
The only way this is recommended on a classroom supplies list is if the school is footing the bill. If not, then I believe you would want to be a fairly crafty person who has an interest in this stuff anyway because it is by far the most expensive item on this list.
Having said that, I love my Cricut Maker. I’ve used it for personalized clothes, home decor, wine glasses, jewellery and more. In the classroom, it is perfect for bulletin board and decor pieces, student gifts and preparing pieces for art activities.
Classroom Supplies You Shouldn’t Buy Right Away
The items below are things that you will probably need or want at some point, but I would recommend waiting until you’ve been in your classroom and grade for a while to see how things are going.
We’re bombarded with Instagram-worthy images of classrooms every day and we want our classroom to look just as wonderful. However, until you know how you will be using the walls/spaces in your class and what areas you really need, I’d urge you to hold off!
It’s also, I think, lovely to let the walls be filled with a) student-created work and b) relevant learning materials. Let students arrive to blank walls and spend the first week of school creating artwork and ‘all about me’ type projects that will fill the walls rather than spending money on themed, matching yet meaningless decor.
Name Plates for Desks
I have purchased these before, and they’re great. They are a helpful resource for students and they look good. But they are a lot of work to prepare, they’re expensive, and they get ruined (students love to pick at these things).
In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed having my students create their own nameplates instead!
Cut large pieces a cardstock that fold in thirds to make a triangular prism. Students can write their name on one side and decorate with things that have meaning to them so you can get to know your new kids a little better (and their names). Plus, it’s free!
More than once, I’ve had to switch grades after one or two weeks. Or my split has become a straight grades. Or vice versa. The lower you are on the seniority totem pole, the more likely this is to happen, so hang tight on spending a bunch of money of materials that will only be good for that one grade.
Extra Binders or Storage Items
As I mentioned above, you will definitely need some of these things from before day one. However, don’t buy more than you’ve already figured out you’ll need. I’m guilty of buying x number of something because I figure they’ll be good for something, then having empty ones lying around.
Figure out exactly what you want to start. When you realize you need another binder for guided math groups or a container for broken crayons, buy it then.
Anything from the splurge list that your school might have!
Unless you have lots of extra cash lying around, hold off on anything expensive until you know you can’t get it for free at school!
Ask if your school has a laminator. Ask if you get a classroom budget and what rules are attached. Is there a nice chair collecting dust in a storage room somewhere?