Thursday, August 23, 2012


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 sparing 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 shiny 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 really 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 on your next trip (and ask neighbors to do the same) and you should be all set when school starts.

You can simply write the childrens' names in big, bold letters on the front of the bags or you can use the snazzy printables I made and then place them at their seats.
If you are using my printables, make a copy of your supply list on the other side of each and staple it to the bag. 

When the students arrive, instruct them to put all of their supplies into the bag and place the filled bag in a designated spot (a teacher table, counter or along a wall works well).

Forget about the bags and 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 he/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 make sure they are labeled with each child's name or number.

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. I do this to make sure everyone has all of the necessary supplies and so that if a family sends in one of the "requested donations" items I can write a thank you note. If supplies are missing you may want to send home a reminder note or else supplement the materials to be sure each student has everything they need.

{click to access and print my Organizing Students' Supplies Packet}

For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide. This post is part of:

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  1. Great idea! I usually try to go through and do all the sorting during my planning period (when the kids are at Music) but I never have enough time! Putting everything in a bag with their name on it will save me all that stress! Thanks so much!

  2. Luckily my school doesn't have this particular headache. Kids don't bring in anything, the school supplies them all. This is good idea though! Just bag it and forget about until later!

  3. Brilliant! This idea seems like common sense now, but absolutely BRILLIANT! Thank you for sharing. :)

  4. When will you reveal your total 360* classroom makeover--?
    I have enjoyed your step by step explanation and the videos.

  5. GOSH I wish this post had been available 23 days ago on MY first day of school as a first year teacher... It took me a week to sort through school supplies up to my elbows on all of my tables. I was NOT prepared for that.

  6. No one is ever prepared for the "supply rush" of the first few days of school! If you are like me though...feel blessed that you are getting anything! Times are tough and the supplies sure do go fast! Remember that as you are wading through the Expos and the Clorox Wipes! I hope everyone has a GREAT year!
    5th Grade Tomfoolery

  7. You are such an inspiration to me! Our students receive a huge supply pack on the first day of school and it used to be chaos getting everything organized. After I read a similar article you posted last year, I bought two Sterlite towers and printed out those super cute supply labels you made. On the first day of school, I pulled all the drawers (now conveniently labeled) and told the students which supplies they got to keep in their desks, and which ones were to be stored in the towers. I then had them take out a specific item from their supply pack and put it in the correct bin. Rinse and repeat until all the supplies were put away. Seriously, the whole procedure took about 45 minutes. I was blessing you every step of the way!! I also took a tip from you and told the students that as a bonus, they got to take the individual pencil sharpeners home as a first day of school gift!! Moreover, if I saw a pencil sharpener for the rest of the year, I would confiscate it. I can honestly say that, thanks to you, Jodi, last year was my best teacher year EVER!! Thank you for all of your brilliant ideas!!

  8. Great idea! We have our open house/meet the teacher before school begins and have kids bring all their supplies then...and most do. We set out boxes or bins for each "community item" in the front of the room. Ex. pencils, glue, kleenex, etc. We give the kids and parents a little to do/scavenger hunt to tell them what to do. Especially things like: take scissors and glue out of package. We even get most parents to sign up for conferences too.

  9. I inherited a classroom that had already had a supply list published by a teacher who is now gone. I have no idea what to do with a class set of EVERYTHING - from board erasers to dictionaries to pens, pencils, wipes, etc...the kids desks are jammed with stuff! Please help!

  10. Good ideas! This is the first year I had the foresight to even think about organizing those supplies that I collect. I made signs and designated crates. I had the kids (or the parents the night before at Open House) put the supplies in the crates and then I could sort them on my own time and not have to move around piles of tissues!

    You Might Be a First Grader...

  11. I LOVE your blog. I also just saw you're in Danvers. I'm in Lynn. Would love to visit sometime and get mega-inspired :) seriously, I'm really impressed, your ideas are fantastic!

  12. Perfect! I am so doing that this year! Thanks for all your organizational ideas! I am a little "challenged" in that area!

  13. Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!!! As a first year teacher this will help me out immensely. I will do anything and everything that I possibly can to make the first day of school a smooth transition for everyone involved.


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