Setting up your classroom for the new year is such an exciting task! It’s so much fun to pick out a decor set, arrange your classroom centers and organize those brand-new school supplies. While I used plenty of different materials and tools in my classroom over the years, I have found that there are a few key things that served me best- time and time again. Today I am sharing my top 10, classroom must-haves for a great year!
Choosing Your Own Classroom Must-Haves
Setting up your classroom for a new year is a lot of fun, but it can also feel overwhelming if you can’t decide what to include. I always loved to peek at what my colleagues and teacher friends were using in their own classrooms for inspiration.
Sometimes, you can find the best ideas from others! Today, I’ll be breaking down my all-time favorite classroom must-haves and why I loved using them year after year. Hopefully, this will help you resist the urge to buy ALL the things during those back-to-school sales and stick with what will work best for you!
1. Drawer Cart: A Classroom Must-Have For Simple planning
This is an item I used literally every single day in my classroom. I love these carts because they are super sturdy, last forever, and have wheels making it easy to move them around the classroom. This cart made my weekly planning and organizing so much easier!
At the beginning of the year, I labeled the cart with days of the week labels. Then, I used them to hold everything we need for each day throughout the week. Inside the drawers, I would put worksheets, center activities, special books I planned to read, and any other materials we needed for the day’s lessons.
This helped me be able to quickly grab what I needed at a moment’s notice without losing the attention of my kiddos in the process. I re-filled this drawer unit every Friday so that it was ready to go for the following week. Simple and effective!
2. Pocket Charts For Just About Everything
These are truly a classroom hero in my book. I love using pocket charts all over the classroom.
I always kept one my the front of the room for demonstrations, one for assigning center groups, one in our literacy center for word building, one for the math center, and one for classroom jobs. If you use a lot of center activities in your classroom, you will find that these are super handy!
And if you want to take it up a notch, grab yourself a tabletop pocket chart for your small group time. This is so great because you don’t need a wall to display it and you can move it around the room as needed.
3. Baskets & Bins For All The Things
Some kind of organization system, in general, is always a classroom must-have, but I really loved using labeled bins.
Keeping everything labeled is a great way to help your students grow in responsibility and independence and it will help maintain your own sanity as well.
These caddy bins are great for school supplies and art materials. I recommend keeping these at each table if your classroom is set up in groups.
Paper tray bins are great for organizing assignments and daily work. I found it helpful to label them for complete and incomplete student work.
It’s also nice to have a bin labeled “fast finisher” that has worksheets for students who complete their work early and need something to keep them occupied until the other students are finished. A labeled bin helps the kiddos know exactly where everything goes.
4. A Great Calendar System For Daily Learning
Calendar time is an opportunity for so much learning! In the first grade classroom, children have a basic understanding of the calendar so you can really dive into some fun new concepts and expand upon what they already know.
In my room, I loved focusing on a variety of skills during calendar time including:
- Place Value
- More or Less
- Skip Counting
- Ways to Make Numbers
- Fact Families
- Days of the Week
- Shapes, Money & Telling Time
- Holidays & Events
By choosing a calendar set with many components, you can create a highly engaging, interactive math lesson first thing in the morning for your students. The set I like to use has the option for both a physical calendar board as well as digital slides. I like having the variety as it seems to keep my kiddos interested in the material!
5. Task Card Storage Is A Classroom Must Have
I love task cards. When I was still in the classroom, we used them a lot, for just about everything! They are fun for students and can be used in so many ways. I always found myself with an endless array of task cards that could actually be a bit overwhelming to keep track of. The best system I found for staying organized was using these photo boxes.
I stored all of my task cards in file boxes sorted by theme or skill. Then, at the beginning of each month, I would fill these small photo boxes with sets of the task cards I wanted to use in our centers and lessons. The small photo boxes are stored inside the larger box, making it easy for students to grab a set on their own.
I love that the boxes are clear so you can see what’s inside. There’s also enough room to add a few mini erasers or manipulatives if your task cards require some kind of counters. At the end of the month, swap out the task cards in the photo boxes and you have a whole new classroom set ready to go! It’s easy to see why this is on the classroom must-haves list!
6. Fun Classroom Decor Set To Make You Smile
Yes, decor is a total classroom must-have in my book. There’s something about having a classroom that’s well-coordinated and colorful that just makes me so happy! Adding some fun decor can really help make your classroom feel like your “home away from home.”
You can read all about my favorite essential elements of classroom decor if you’re looking to add some pizazz to your room. I believe that classroom decor should be beautiful but also functional! My favorite decor sets offer ways for organizing your room and promoting even more learning throughout your day. Here are a few if you’re looking for inspiration:
- Bright Chevron Classroom Decor Set
- Black & White Classroom Decor Set
- Bright Polka Dot Classroom Decor Set
7. Sturdy Bins To Keep Books Safe
Younger children tend to be a bit rough on classroom materials. We can encourage proper use and provide careful monitoring but for things like books bins, I’ve found that it doesn’t hurt to invest in some high-quality bins.
I like bins with thick, sturdy plastic that the children can easily carry themselves. The cardboard book boxes tend to fall apart or end up squishing the pages and covers of paperback books.
I love that these sturdy book bins have a spot to insert a label. This helps keep my kiddos accountable for keeping the classroom library organized. I often see these in the Target Dollar Spot during back-to-school time for a great price as well. Be sure to take a peek!
8. Mini Dry Erase Boards For Small Groups
Dry-erase boards are a classroom must-have and especially helpful during small groups. Sometimes you just don’t need any worksheets or papers but still want a way for your students to record their answers. These come in so handy and students are always excited to use them.
These are also really fun for any kind of whole group game where students are split into teams and need to write down answers. Sometimes if we had a few spare minutes in the afternoon, I would pass these out to use for an impromptu review game to end the day on a fun note.
9. Incentive System To Motivate Your Students
In first grade, we spend a lot of time working on addition and subtraction math facts. It’s a key component of our curriculum and something we practice daily. This can get a little boring unless you find a way to motivate your students!
That’s why a year-long incentive system is an absolute classroom must-have for me. I love watching my students’ excitement as they improve their skill set and work towards a reward. This incentive system supports practice, timed testing, and helps students track their progress. Making math fun is always a win in my book!
10. Final Classroom Must-Have: A Fabulous Teacher Bag!
Now, this one is just for you! I don’t know about you, but I always seemed to have a lot of stuff going back and forth between school and home. Inevitably I would find things around my house that needed to make their way to school and I was ending up with a bunch of plastic bags and boxes to juggle.
I finally decided I deserved my very own teacher tote bag and I am SO glad I got one! There are SO many fun ones out there, it was actually hard to choose. The one I finally decided on was similar to this. It’s super sturdy with a wide space inside, large enough for files, and tons of small pockets.
If you really have a ton of stuff going back and forth between school and home, you can always opt for a rolling bag as well!
Deciding on your Own Classroom Must-Haves
So, how does my list compare to yours? Find anything new or unexpected? I always found it so fun to see what others loved using in their classrooms. Hopefully, you enjoyed seeing my list of classroom must-haves! I think the key to me finally finding the products that worked best really came down to thinking about our schedule, how I wanted the day to run, and then choosing quality products to meet those needs.
It’s easy to get “shiny object” syndrome and want to grab ALL the things during those back-to-school sales. But, usually, high quality-basics are best! Have fun planning your own classroom set-up!
Save This List Of Classroom Must-Haves
Don’t forget to Pin this post to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so that you will be all set when it comes time to set up your classroom!