Friday, July 1, 2011

Oh, the Supplies!

Tips for Collecting Supplies on the First Day of School

Despite having a slightly unhealthy love affair with shiny new school supplies (just typing those words makes me float off to a happy daydream involving pointy crayons that reek of Crayola newness and unsharpened pencils with perfect little erasers), I despise the chaos that they can evoke on the first day of school.

If you have been teaching awhile you know what I mean.

If you are new to the classroom this year, you will thank me for sparring you the headache.

Here’s how it plays out: A classroom of kids enters wearing their spiffy new duds, modeling their stylish new haircut and sporting their brand-spanking new backpack full of the bounty you enlisted them to acquire via your annual “supply letter.”

They are excited and they can’t wait to force upon you said backpack. Those who elected not to adhere to the list that specifically said 24 yellow, #2 pencils are especially excited to show off their collection of Mario Kart pencils with (gasp) scented erasers.

Yeah, I get it. I’m not so far removed from my own brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper excitement days to have forgotten the glee it brings. But, as ring master of this circus it is important to have a plan.

A good plan. A damn good plan.

The first day sets the tone and it is doubtful that you want that tone to be “crazed lunatic who breaks down on day one when the Rosearts, Sharpies and glue sticks start coming out. So I have a few options for you.

I’ll start with the best one. Because it is the most efficient and organized way I know.

Start by schmoozing with the teenage bagger at your local grocery store. If you can’t butter him up then just go straight to the head Honcho and play the teacher card with the store manager. However you go about it, you need to get a large paper grocery sack for each child in your class. If you aren’t in the business of begging for free goodies then just answer “paper” to the “paper or plastic” question for the next few weeks and you should be all set when school starts.
Write the children’s names in big, bold letters on the front of the bags and then place them on their desks.

Make a copy of your supply list for each child and staple it to the back of the bag. Write their name on that as well.

When the students arrive, instruct them to put all of their supplies into the bag on their desk quickly and silently, hang their bag onto their chair and sit quietly.

Collect the bags and put them out of the way. Go about your first day plans. Then after the kiddos are on their way home (or if you are lucky enough to have an aide or a student teacher she can do this), sort through the supplies. Use the checklist on the bag to make sure that everything is accounted for.
If you are going to use community supplies then put them where you want them.

If you are going to have them be responsible for their own supplies then print out a sheet of labels with each child’s name on it and stick them on.

I suggest recruiting a parent volunteer or a former student to help with this task.

I also print out a list of the supplies w/ each child's # and check off each item as I organize.

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  1. Great suggestion...just the first day piles of community supplies...tissues, wipes, cups, makes my organized room look like a food pantry!


    A Time to Share & Create

  2. We are lucky to have "Meet the Teacher" two days before school begins. We encourage the parents to bring in all the supplies that evening so we have two full days to sort and label!
    Mrs. Lochel
    Keeping Up With The Kindergartners

  3. Meet the teacher as been such a help for me as well. Come by and check out my post about how I organize my supplies too :)
    Curls and a Smile

  4. You are so right about the brown paper bags. I started doing this a few years ago and it makes it soooo much easier to organize and collect their supplies. I do like the idea of stapling the supply list to the bag so you can check off what they have brought in. Thanks for the idea!

  5. GREAT suggestion. Organization is my BIGGEST weakness when it comes to teaching (errrr...make that LIFE!) so I will definitely give this a try. I'm with you on the love of school supplies, I just can never seem to keep track of it all! :-)

    Blue Hen Teacher

  6. This is a great idea! I'm a new teacher so I'm sure I would have found out how chaotic this could have been. Thanks for sharing. :)

    Magnificent Multiagers!

  7. Simple and brilliant! Thank you!

    You always impress me! :)

    -Mrs. Kincaid
    Mrs. Kincaid’s First Grade

  8. The paper bag idea is wonderful! Last year I just told the kids to leave everything in their bookbag (which was so hard for them to do). Then, my assistant went through each bookbag to take out and label supplies. This worked okay, but I would've rather had my assistant helping me with the kids on the first day than juggling supplies in the hallway! Paper bags, here I come!

  9. I love using paper bags and a checklist too! We also have a "meet the teacher" day, the Thursday before Labor Day (when school starts on Tuesday). I always include in my "welcome to kindergarten" note to bring supplies then... it helps so much!! Then, not only do you have the bags, list, and supplies--you have the time to organize it!!
    Karen :o)
    Mrs. Stamp's Kindergarten

  10. Last year in my 16 yrs. of teaching was the worst when having a meet the teacher night. The families let their younger children go "through" my room as I was greeting parents/children and checking off their supplies. Literally-it took me over 45 minutes to put my room back together and there are still puzzle pieces missing..

  11. Hi! I am an English teacher from Argentina. The first day of school (which is in March, btw), they have to bring THREE different sets of supplies: for English, Spanish, and Arts. So we ask the parents to send 3 separate bags, clearly labeled with their names and subjects. We do end up with 20+ bags full of supplies to sort out, but we skip one step by asking THEM to bring their own paper bag!

    I LOVE your blog!


  12. bahahahahaha....sadly this only applies if you get anyone to BRING supplies to school. We don't even send home a supply list because 99% of the time, no one brings what they need. If I want something specific, I have to buy it myself. *sigh*

  13. I love your idea! Bag it and slide it away so you can deal with all the first day excitement without the clutter of supplies!

  14. LOVE this idea....and this is my new favorite!!

  15. I love your blog! Thanks for sharing your great ideas! You won't (prob) believe this, but we aren't allowed to ask for supplies! (We have to purchase everything from our classroom budget and/or submit receipts for reimbursement in the fall.) Unfortunately, this is not clearly conveyed to the parents so day 1 is a nightmare of "Oh, honey you won't need that (64 pack) pack of crayons. You have new ones right here. Why don't you bring those home to use for homework." I'm thinking I could use your paper bag system to avoid that awkward BIG MEANIE moment. And just distribute new stuff to the kids who don't bring anything. Any suggestions?

  16. I guess I've been shopping in the wrong places. I don't shop anywhere that offers paper bags. Do you still use this system even if you don't do community supplies?

  17. At our school we are required to keep each child's supplies seperate throughout the year in case they move. So I give them an XXL Ziplock bag with their name on it and store their supplies in it minus tissues and construction paper. I then place them in ABC order in a LG rubber tub and store it. It works nicely too!

  18. We do community supplies at our school, so my best system so far has been to purchase one of those giant plastic tubs with a lid. I just have them dump all supplies in it when they enter the classroom. Then I put a lid on it, store it in a corner, and get to it when I have time. We use last year's crayons and pencils for the first few days until I can organize. I don't feel like it needs done right away this way and I have a tub to store other things the rest of the year.

  19. This is an awesome suggestion, it has been so hard to find discount school supplies.

  20. Love, love, love! This was my first year in my own classroom and I was overwhelmed by school supplies and had no plan of attack. Needless to say my beautiful first day of school plans were shot because of supplies. I will be using this next year!

  21. May I ask why you feel the need to go through the checklist for each student? Does it really matter if he or she didn't bring something from the list?

  22. @Suzanne Atwill,
    it definitely could matter in regards to folders, spiral, or other journals. I have a color-coded organizational system where each color is for a different subject. If students don't have enough folders/journals, then they won't be able to do the work I'm asking of them. Color-coding is helpful because I say "find your Green Writing folder". It activates other parts of thinking for more visual students. As far as other supplies, that is easy enough to "redistribute" or supplement as needed.

  23. Ohhhhhh I LOVE this idea! Figuring out supplies is my LEAST favorite part of the first day of school, I can't wait to try this out :) THANKYOU!

    Come visit me

  24. I so did this last year! The local grocer gladly gave me paper bags. It eliminated chaos for the first day, since I already had the needed supplies on the students' desks (supplied from my own bounty). Perfect!

  25. I'm totally a community supplies person and always have been, but I've recently spoken to a few parents that don't like the idea that their student does not have sole use of the supplies they have purchased ("I spend my hard earned money to get the supplies my kids need, and so should everyone else. It's not my fault that other kid's parents didn't send them with everything they were supposed to!") I've never been faced with this situation, but I'm now concerned about gathering the materials for a community supply :o(

    1. I used to put all supplies in a tub and the kids used then when needed. However, now that I'm facing the idea of my own kids going to school, my thoughts on that are changing. I don't think it's right that some parents buy stuff and others can't/don't. Or that some parents buy the specified brand (as my team requires) and others don't. I wouldn't want my son to have to use someone's Dollar Tree crayons or glue when I bought Crayola and Elmer's, just because all his supplies were gone from the tub when he needed something new. Last year I did 'supply boxes' for everyone. I went to the Dollar Tree and bought the plastic shoe boxes. (Certain supplies do become community property...pencils, erasers, tissues, paper towels, dry erase markers.) Each child had a box that their scissors, crayons, glue, etc. went in. At the end of each 9 weeks, I pulled out everyone's box and replenished their supplies. The old things then became community supplies. Often students would need a certain color crayon...they'd have to go to the crayon basket to find it. Or they may misplace their glue...I'd tell them to go get an old bottle to use until theirs showed up. I really liked this because everyone had to be responsible for making thier things last until the end of the 9 weeks. But, if they were DESPERATE for something before then 9 weeks was over, we'd go get it. Also, if one child needed something I could address it with that parent instead of sending notes begging for supplies and dealing with parents telling me they already sent that particular item in. Or, if it's a child that you know can't afford it, or that parents won't send it, then they can have suppiles from your personal stash...which I had to do several times. This also fixes the problem of kids going to the supply bucket and getting a brand of crayons that they didn't bring. Let's face it, kids can't always find a box of crayins with their name on it in a tub full of boxes.
      I liked the XXL Ziploc bag idea too!

    2. I work in a departmentalized grade level. We try to have the students carry their own crayons, glue, scissors, markers, pencils and erasers. However, it didn't work out last year due to the overwhelming number of foster children we service. This past year we also had a large number of students moving in and out of the district due to the economy. So, I think I'll go back to community supplies.

      I use a similar method. I get tubs (usually the dishwashing pans from the dollar store) and label them with an index card. I give parents a check list and have them check off what they brought. I include a misc. tub just in case I forgot something. This eliminates me going through the bags.

  26. When my third graders enter, I have them leave ALL their supplies in their backpack. They go directly to their seat and begin a review assignment. On the desk I have a sharpened pencil. Then, I call up each child and go through their backpack. I leave anything in the bag that is not needed and I collected everything else and place it right where I storm them.

    This keeps the students quiet, seated, and less questions. Also this way if a child does not have a certain supplies, they are not embarrassed.

  27. we are not even allowed to ask for supplies.... yep, that's a California school for you.....

  28. I was at a school that would not allow any supply requests for over 10 years. Two years ago I moved to a school where the parents are given a requested list. Some of my little ones would be carrying three grocery sacks with supplies. The first year, I had no clue that's what would happen. Last year, I tried to be more prepared but it was still a nightmare. This year, I already have my bags ready to go. Sounds so easy, I hope it works. I'm also planning on using your play dough idea. What a stress relieving activity to start the year with. Seems like that would set a great tone.

  29. For the first time, I sent home a request for $35, and I will buy the supplies for my grade 3 class. Students will bring a backpack, paint shirt and gym clothes.
    1- Tired of not getting supplies I asked for, though I tried hard to ask only for what was truly needed.
    2- Poorly made supplies. Dollar stores are GREAT for some things, but TERRIBLE for others.

    Possibility of people not paying. However, some of the teachers have done this so some families are used to it.
    Installments of $5 or $10 a month.

    -I can shop around and travel in a way that some families cannot.
    -Between sales or teacher discounts, I may save more than they can.
    -I don't have to spend it all at once. I can get supplies to start the year, then get more as needed.
    -If I get enough bargains, I`ll have leftover money. I can send out field trip notices but tell them there is no fee because it was already paid with that initial $35.
    -There will be no upset of children over losing, trading or breaking favourite fancy erasers, glue, scissors and pencils.
    -I can colour-code subjects with matching folders.
    -I can buy the BEST pencils, ones that won`t break repeatedly when sharpened. I can even try out a few boxes of pencils in September, then decide if they are good enough to buy more of the same.
    -I don`t mind shopping.
    Here's hoping it all goes the way I want it to go!!!!!!!!! We start on September 5.


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