One of my favorite things about being on Instagram is connecting with fellow teachers – seasoned teachers, first year teachers, and student teachers. And you know what’s even better? Sharing ideas, thoughts, tips, questions/answers – and most of all – kindness in our journey in this field. I am a Kindergarten teacher, and am going into year 12 in my teaching career. This post will be related to kindergarten/primary grade levels and will share my top picks for the classroom as we all head back to school over the next month.
Last year I did a post on back to school classroom tips, feeling prepared for open house, and heading into a successful school year. Read that post by clicking here.
My Top Picks for the Primary Classroom
I have “flower” tables (similar to round ones), and I always use little caddies for all of the table/student supplies. Each child gets their own labeled box of crayons and a pair of scissors. Then, I add glue sticks to one of the compartments that they all share. I add a pencil basket to each table for students to share, and also one small trash can from the Dollar Store that helps eliminate a lot of up and down to throw scraps away during projects and cutting.
Shop my Table Top Picks:
Picking top teacher items/needs could be an unending list! But I am sticking with things I use almost daily:
- Coffee: LOL – my favorite is Caribou Medium Roast, and I add this creamer
- Book Box Bins: I plan my week with these. Each weekday gets its own bin, and I put materials, books, TE’s, and curriculum pages for the day in there. I fill these as I go so I’m always about a week ahead with things being prepared. The extra book box bins are usually stuffed with enrichment ideas of some sort or homework for Friday’s homework folders.
- Red Tray bins: I use these when students unpack. They put their daily folder, notes, homework, etc in a bin when they come in in the morning.
- Lunch Wagon: Each class at our school uses a wagon to get lunches back and forth to the cafeteria. I have LOVED the ease of this large wagon, and in 8 years, I’ve only had to replace the tires once.
- Hanging Clothing Rack: Teachers know that “teacher items” are marked up just because. Well, I wanted a pocket chart hanging rack, and they were over $50 at the time I looked years ago, so I use a $13 rolling clothing rack from Amazon! I have to get creative with my rings that hang pocket charts and such because normal hanging rings don’t fit, BUT – worth it to me to figure out a different way to hang them for the huge reduction in price!
- Permanent markers: black and colored!
- 4×6 cards: for sight words, vocab, small student tasks
- Sentence Strips: I use these a ton for science, question prompts for notebooking, question prompts for group discussions, poems, rhyming activities, etc
- Chapsticks: got this positive behavior idea from my student teacher last year. My school uses a color chart, and students who stay on green or move up in color for positive behavior choices get a “Mr. Chappy” “stamp” on the top of their hand at the end of the day (cheap, easy reward), and they walk out the door smelling their hand with a big smile 🙂
Shop my Teacher Item Picks:
Student / Center Items
- Whisper Phones: Read-to-self is always one of my centers, and it goes even better when students have their book(s), a whisper phone, and a buddy (stuffed animal/beanie baby) to read to!
- Personal Sharpeners: This year I’m trying this for the first time – a crayon and pencil sharpener for each student. I have had so many “trial periods” of how to handle the dreaded dull pencils and crayons – so hoping these will help/work!
- Play Doh: I use these SO MUCH! We do a lot with shapes, lines, letters, and stamping words during whole, small, and individual class times. This is really great for fine-motor development and strengthening.
- Bean Bags: Another thing I use for a lot of floor activities including math (adding, tens & ones, number recognition, etc), and reading (name recognition, capital letter & lowercase matching, letter dictation/recognition, sight word spelling, etc).
- Yellow Fastener-Folders: I collect and add journal/writing pages in order to these throughout the year. At the end of the school year, it’s a beautiful visual of their growth and a fun keepsake for parents.
- Page Protectors: I put these in the yellow folders and insert the journal pages. I end up with about 25 (give or take) for each student’s folder and fill them front & back.
- Black Skinny Expo Markers: I utilize personal marker boards about every other day for review activities and handwriting practice, and these are the only markers I let the students use on them.
- Personal Primary-lined Marker Boards: These are pricey, I realize that. BUT – they are WORTH IT! I use them almost daily. AND my students love days we pull them out for our morning or review work!
- Clear Wipe-off Page Pockets: SO GOOD for centers or review pages that you want students to use for practice but don’t want to waste paper or copies. They make 3-4 pages in a center reusable! YAY! And, I just use the same black skinny expo markers and a tissue for students to write and wipe.
- Colored Bins: I put my center/materials in these and just set them on table tops. Keeps me organized and easy to see/prep my activities for the day or week. When I am ready for students to get started, I just call a group and tell them which colored bin to work from.
Shop my Student/Center Items Picks:
Easy Center Box-Games
One of my centers is always a “work box” choice. Students can browse them and work with a partner or on their own to complete/play with the boxed puzzle, game, or activity. I linked them up on Amazon so you can see them, but to be honest, I ALWAYS find them at Ross Stores for $5-7.
Shop my Center Box-Games Picks:
Class Pet – Star Student
Each year, I pick a class pet and find a plush book character and a few of the books to go with. Then, as we assign a star student for the week, that star student gets to take home the pet, books, and then works in our class “Pet Journal”. (This is the cover page I created and edit every year to go with the pet journal.) Here are some I have collected over the years. This year I think I’m doing Knuffle Bunny or Elephant & Piggie!
Shop my Class Pet/Star Student Picks:
Last year I implemented STEM bins for the first time, and they were SUCH a hit for me AND the students! I utilized them mostly during center time, as I found that looking forward to the STEM center was a good motivator for students during the other more “labor-intensive” centers. I have this “STEM work table” and I used this little cubbie shelf to organize them. Here is the link to the STEM bins I ended up investing in.
Another new thing I used last year for positive reinforcement was Class DOJO. I loved it for a few reasons: 1) I could send photos of our day & activities to a class story for parents to see and give them something to talk about after pick up. 2) Parents could see the positive points throughout the day. 3) It created a positive climate where students would cheer for each other and get excited for good behavior opportunities.
I printed off large DOJO monster avatars and created point clubs. (This is another amazing free resource.) Each child’s thumbnail picture could stick to the point club they were currently part of. My rewards were simple and I organized them easily in bins (below).
- 50 Point Club: Pick 2 large stickers
- 75 Point Club: Pick a pencil + eraser
- Extra Reward: Whisper phone + finger puppet reading time
- 100 Point Club: Water color paint during free choice time
- 150 Point Club: Play Dough time
- 200 Point Club: Pick a stamper
- 250/Final Point Club: Sidewalk Chalk during recess
I hope this post gives some inspiration or ideas as you prepare for the upcoming school year! If you think of other things I could share or give ideas on related to teaching, please let me know in the comments section, or message me on Instagram! (Don’t forget to read my post on starting the year, open house, and classroom tips!)
Thanks for coming to visit my blog! XO
I just want you to be Mara’s teacher so badly! You are AMAZING!!!!
I would love that too!!!!!! Thank you for being the best! XO
Hi! Originally I started following you for your cute fashion ideas but I’m loving your back to school posts! (I teach first!) I will definitely be having a “class pet” I love that. At first I thought…you’re crazy to have a pet in k lol but then I saw what it was!!! My question is about your stem bins. This is such a cool idea. I didn’t check the entire teachers pay teachers link but would you suggest buying that link and then collecting materials for the bins as you go? Also, are those pencil boxes you used to organize them in? Thank you for the great ideas and have a great school year!
I am so happy to hear your feedback – very encouraging, thank you for your comment! The class pet is a lot of fun and I still have former parents remind me how special it was for their child to have the “pet” go home with them. STEM bins were a pretty big investment for me last year, but worth it! So what I did was bought the TPT stuff and then decided how many/which of the bins I wanted to use, and got enough pencil boxes. Then, I looked for items to put in the bins – a lot of the things were at Michael’s, Walmart, or Dollar Tree. I did do like 3-4 at a time because it took awhile to gather everything, but once it all came together I have enough for a lot of the students to choose! Hope that helps – definitely let me know how it goes!! Have a great year, too!