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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