top of page

What Teachers REALLY Need for Their Classroom

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Are you a new teacher looking for things a new teacher needs for their first classroom? Did you just finish your student teaching placement and want to start planning for fall? Are you returning to the classroom after a hiatus due to distance learning? Did you just get hired and now you're overwhelmed at the thought of setting up your classroom? Well, first, CONGRATULATIONS YOU WONDERFUL THING, YOU! Teaching is such a rewardingly awesome job. Now, are you ready to start planning?

This is the ultimate list of supplies you REALLY need for your first classroom. After 12 years of teaching, I think I've finally "narrowed" (it's not narrow, there's a lot you'll want to get your room running smoothly) down my list of needs and wants for the elementary classroom. Although this list is designed for elementary educators, all teachers will find the basics that get every classroom up and running. Perhaps this isn't as glamorous as you'd wish, but I am telling you, you need the basics to get up and running. Then, you can refine everything else as you grow as an educator. This list is broken into three sections (click to jump):


I recommend setting up an Amazon Wish List and sharing with your friends, family, and classroom families. As you scroll, simply click each image and add to your Amazon Wish List (affiliate links included here, just FYI). Perhaps they won’t be able to help, but if they can, they usually will. The nice thing here is that there are so many different price points, that many people will be able to find something they are able to donate or contribute.

I want to make this totally clear... it is NOT your job to supply everything in your classroom, but if you are blessed with people in your life that are willing to support this undertaking, this is something you can use as a jumping off point.

Another amazing option for you is to set up a Donors Choose project and create your wish list from there. They have their own set of expectations, but it's a great option for teachers with limited classroom budgets.


A class set of whiteboards is a must. The perfect way to get quick feedback as a formative assessment and keep students engaged in their learning activities. Plus, the trees will thank you... and we wouldn't want to anger the trees.

A must for EVERY classroom, for all time. If there are whiteboards present anywhere in your room, you need them. Obviously. Grab like 42,000 of them.

These Amazon Brand dry erase markers are another, usually more affordable, marker that is still long lasting and low odor.

I love that these dry erasers are magnetic, but grab a few erasers that you like! A "nice to have item" would be erasers for every student, but they can get away with using and old sock from home too.

Jumbo Pack of Mr. Sketch?! Yes please! Use these for anchor charts... or to remind you of the smell of your childhood when you're feeling stressed out.

While we're on the topic of anchor charts... I love these because they have a sticky section at the top to just pop them on the board or wall. The only negative is that these are very expensive. I usually have one or two of these on hand, but make most of my anchor charts from the next item on this list...

There are a few different versions of these anchor chart poster paper sets out there. I usually split the cost with another teacher and with a few of these, I am set for the year.

All the sticky notes please!!! Whether you use these for your own personal reminders, daily check ins, parking lot comments, exit tickets, or feedback, there are a million ways to engage your students with sticky notes.

I like to call these "the Cadillac of pencils"... if you are feeling fancy, spring for the "pre-sharpened pencils" but no matter what, you're going to need a lot of these. Ultimately, any pencil donated to your class is a good one, but I do recommend ones that aren't covered with a plastic coating with cute designs. Those things will tear up in your pencil sharpener. Just trust me.

More pencils?! YUP! I like to get a set of Ticonderogas that are a unique color. I tell my students that "yellow pencils are for students and neon pencils are for Mrs. Hansen". There have been years where the pencils on my desk just magically disappeared... this cut down on that.

Get a GOOD pencil sharpener. It might be helpful to get two in case one duds out on you midway through the year. While we're at it, make a plan for your pencil-sharpening protocol during the school year. Nothing drove me crazier than this whirring during the middle of a lesson. Personally, I like each student to have their own hand sharpener, and this was back up (unless you have littles... then go with a "sharp" and "dull" cup.

Hand-held sharpeners are neccessary for sharpening colored pencils... take my advice here. The pigment in colored pencils will do a number on your electric sharpener so these are great to have on hand.

Although we often request for students to bring supplies if they can, having a set of classroom markers is AWESOME. I love that these are already in a color coded storage box, ready to go!

Ditto to the crayon sets... my Type A teacher brain swoons every time I look at these bad boys.

I HIGHLY recommend you invest in a few sets of these "Colors of the World" markers (and the crayon sets below). It's so important that all students feel like they can be accurately represented or create diverse characters in their classroom activities.

Grab the crayon sets too!

And while we're at it... I recommend this multicultural construction paper too. Although, my school always supplies construction paper, when it comes to people colors, we just didn't have the diversity I would like to provide for my students.

Astrobrights is my absolute favorite colored paper. I suggest grabbing as much as you can. I send home important info for parents on bright paper and use it for all sorts of projects in the classroom. Grab some cardstock too (I use it for interactive notebook dividers)

Invest in a set of clipboards (this is a set of 30). Although you could get by using the whiteboards or a text book for students if they are up and working around the classroom, these are beneficial if you would ever like to take the learning outside or on the go. I have a bin with these and students grab them as needed throughout the day,

(You can also grab clipboards at Dollar Tree!)

Whether you use this for storing copies for the week, make-up work for absent students, or professional documents you want to keep handy, some sort of filing system is helpful to have. It depends on your personality, but you can bet they'll be papers to organize at some point.

You'll probably want some book bins in your favorite color scheme. I use these to organize my teacher's editions and supplemental materials, but you might like using them in your classroom library or to store student materials, depending on your classroom storage situation. Lakeshore also has some great color options!

Page protectors are the perfect personal whiteboard (especially if you aren't ready to splurge on a class set yet). Regardless, you'll want these because you can insert a 100s chart, graph paper, paper protractor, fraction strips, or clock and students can use their dry erase markers to practice any skill you need them too! I must! Oh and a veteran teacher tip... make sure they are slick like these, the "matte" ones don't erase well.

An alternative to the page protectors. You could actually have students store their whiteboards in these along with any other sheets you'd like them to use. These work great in centers as well.

Is 1,000 paper clips excessive? Nope... these are like pencils, they disappear quickly. Make sure to get these larger ones to hold a stack of 20-40 papers. Any more and you'll want some binder clips, below.

You know you were meant to be a teacher if you have an obsession with office supplies... this list may start to seem mundane, but these are the items I have my hands on every day.

If you have a whiteboard in your classroom, strong magnets area must! I love this style as well as the clip version below.

The stronger, the better... you'd be amazed how heavy artwork can get! You don't want your samples sliding down your whiteboard.

A good stapler is EVERYTHING. Grab a couple... oh, and if your copiers at school don't staple automatically for you, you might want to invest in an automatic stapler (see below on my "nice to have" list"

Another awesome stapler option... this one opens to make tacking items on the bulletin board a breeze.

Forget the claws... these are the only staple removers you'll ever want to use.

Final drafts of writing and artwork get the "oomph" they deserve with a black felt tip pen.

Everyone has their own favorite pens, but I am a fan of the fine-tip flair pen. Grab your favs.

And here's another flair option that is more affordable, but just as awesome!

When aren't permanent markers needed? I'm just saying...

Another essential I use in my classroom. I love the vibrance of Sharpie Brand highlighters, especially if you get a black light out and explore an annotated text!

A class set of scissors is a must! I love that these come with an organizer. I would recommend buying some "leftie" scissors too. Make sure to ask at the beginning of the year how many lefties you have in class. They'll appreciate it and be much more comfortable and effective with their scissors skills.

You'll use these in science, math, and art. I prefer wood over plastic always. Plastic will snap. I repeat, plastic. will. snap.

Get a bajillion glue sticks. I find that the purple disappearing glue always works best.

I rarely use liquid glue in class (cue glue-covered desks and HANDS) but it's helpful to have for some projects. A big jug for refills is nice to have too.

In my classroom, I have to charge a LOT of tech devices just for my teaching set up. I definitely benefitted from having a surge protector and make sure I hide it every summer to make sure it doesn't walk off.

Now this one is a BIGGER investment piece, but it was worth it for me. I have purchased so many cheaper filing systems and every one of them brought frustration and I ultimately gave them away or threw them away. This particular organizer has 36 slots (which I always needed with my large class sizes). There are other, less pricey options out there with less compartments, but this has been the "goldilocks" filing system for me, just right.

OTHER "MUST-HAVES" that families usually donate...

  • tissues

  • hand sanitizer

  • cleaning wipes for desks

  • good paper towels



I am a BIG interactive notebook fan. We don't use binders in my classroom, but instead I use 2-3 of these each year (Language Arts, Math, Science/Social Studies) and I use these FREE editable notebook dividers to create sections. To be honest, I usually wait until there is a great sale at Target and get them for 50 cents each. I will also purchase color-coded sets. I just like know that students have the right notebook with a quick scan of the room.

Although I try to minimize plastic, these folders hold up better than paper ones and last the entire school year. I use these as "Work in Progress" folders and personalize with printable labels, below.

I'm a little bit of an organization freak in the classroom (home is another story). I like to print labels for notebooks and folders and personalize with student names.

Depending on the amount of storage you have in your classroom, you may or may not need this. I actually purchased my 9-cube organizer from Ikea a few years ago, but this is pretty similar. I have one to organize my teaching materials and two for my classroom library.

Along the lines of organization... I like to use these to keep my supply cabinets in order. I bought a bunch my first year of teaching and I am so thankful I did. I also use them to organize lab supplies or put together items tables of students will need to complete activities.

Is a colorful desk chair something you NEED?! Absolutely not. But I LOVE mine and it's much more comfortable than what I had provided to me. Plus, there are so many cute colors!

As mentioned previously, this is great to have in your room. Such a time saver, but a tiny indulgence.

I use these storage carts as a place for students to store supplies they don't use regularly (art supplies, textbooks they don't need every day) and I also have a set for my own filing systems. Walk into a teacher's room and you'll probably see one of these somewhere.

A wireless doorbell is one of my favorite classroom management tools. With multiple "bells" to choose from, you can use this to redirect attention, clean up time, or transition students between centers. I LOVE mine!

More than likely, your school will have some sort of butcher paper on hand, but you can also find fadeless papers to decorate your bulletin boards. Other options include fabric or table cloths to cover your boards.

I am also OBSESSED with the borders and accents from School Girl Style. They can be found on Amazon (find her shop here) or you can find them at most Teacher Supply Stores

A customized stamp is so nice to have to keep track of classroom books (or checking assignments). There are a bunch of great options for you to choose from out there!

If you use binders in your classroom, it would be helpful to hole-punch all 30 papers at once. This is a time saver for sure!

Grab a single hole punch too.



I try to minimize laminating as much as possible and only use it when I am preparing centers materials or things that will be used long term. This personal laminator reduces excess lamination that needs to be cut off.

Grab a set of laminating pouches too!

If you have a sink in your classroom paired with or tile floors, I highly recommend grabbing a non-slip rug. These may also be available through your school site, so ask first!

If you have brick walls, can't use staples in your walls or want to hang objects on cabinets, this mounting putty will be your best friend. I can't tell you how many times I would hang something up with painters tape only to walk in the next day to my posters on the floor. I love this stuff!

These caddy's are wonderful for centers or for table group supplies (when we're able to share supplies again). I love to color code supplies so we always know which bin is missing something, but there are plenty of color options out there.

I use an accordion file like this to store seasonal activities. To be honest, I am HORRIBLE at regularly filing papers (everything digital please) but I started using one of these to store my samples and it was so manageable. Yes, I have a tall filing cabinet taking up space in my room, but it was helpful for those monthly activities. You could also use these for chapters in a subject matter or storing items to make an end-of-year portfolio for students.

It's helpful to have a set of Thank You cards in your desk. Whether it be a student gift or donation to your classroom, a hand-written note is always a good idea. Keep a stash ready.

Depending on the grade you teach, a rug for circle time might be something on your wish list. I think this one is just adorable! Another (WAY LESS EXPENSIVE) option for you are "carpet spots" listed below.

These are great for marking the carpet for social distancing protocols, making line up spots, or circle time spots. I see these in almost every primary classroom at my school.

I buy a set of these watercolors every year and I love them for a few reasons. First, you get 36 sets for a STEAL (IMHO) and second, I really like the wood brushes with real fibers. No plastic brushes for me. I let students take these home at the end of the year and they are always so thankful.

These Pentel oil pastels are great quality and you can split them apart to make 36 sets for students! Another absolute DEAL and student LOVE using this medium to make bold artwork.

I like to have a back up set of supplies for all students (nothing drives me more bonkers than an interruption for a pencil). This past year, I had to get rid of all community supplies and had to get creative. These pouched are great for holding art supplies, classroom materials, or centers organization, and they hold up pretty well throughout the year.

And are you ready for the biggie?

This is very much a "nice to have" item, but I do love the way I am able to personalize and organize my classroom. I LOVE my Cricut! I have had it for years and enjoy crafting (mostly in the summers when I have time) for my classroom or my own kiddos birthday parties. Again... this is very much NOT a necessity, but if you wondering how teachers personalize everything from pencil bins to bulletin board headers, this is usually it.

I have the Cricut Explore but the Cricut Maker takes your crafting even further (HELLO TEACHER TEES) and I am thinking of upgrading in the near future. You'll want to grab extra mats and the essential tools all linked below.

These are certainly an investment piece... but this crafty teacher mom just LOVES hers!

Cricut Explore Air 2 With Vinyl Sampler and Basic Tool Set

Cricut Maker Beginner Bundle

Well, there you have it. My personal favorites in the classroom. A solid list of needs to major wants and everything in between. Did I miss any of your must-haves? Comment below to add to your expertise for our community of teachers!

Now this obviously doesn't even address the curriculum, classroom community, behavior management systems, protocols and class structures, but I am a firm believer that having the right tools makes your life exponentially easier. Yes, there is plenty more you can add to this list, but you'll collect your personal favorites over time. When it comes to furniture, chat with staff members, see if anyone recently retired or is doing a classroom refresh of their own. I gathered so much that way!

Looking for more ways to start the school year strong... Check out some of my favorite back to school tools and products.

I hope you have the best start to your school year ever!

- Erin

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*


bottom of page