Every year, teachers attend professional development to learn the newest trends in teaching practices. For example, teachers may learn about a new student engagement strategy, such as using Flip Grid. Or, teachers may learn about ways to build relationships through the implementation of morning meetings, PBIS, or restorative practices. While this time is well spent, there are other things that teachers use daily that also contribute to the classroom environment. Therefore, I’m sharing my list of the nine things every teacher needs!
1. Amazon Echo Dot
If you haven’t tried using the Amazon Echo Dot in your classroom, you don’t know what you’re missing! I learned about this teacher hack while visiting classrooms at my school. I was amazed when I heard a voice say, “It’s time for PE.” I looked around because it wasn’t the teacher’s voice, nor was it a student. It was this teacher’s Echo Dot! Hello, teacher BFF!
It is one of the most practical tech tools out there. First, you can use it to schedule timers by simply asking. To do this, you say, “Alexa, set a reminder to…” and then fill in the blank. For me, I love to set a reminder to check attendance. Or, instead of searching Google to find a timer to use, all you have to say is, “Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes.” Once time is up, Alexa will let you know. Additionally, you can say, “Alexa, play some gentle rain sounds” in order to help students relax. Alexa basically acts as a teacher assistant in the classroom!
2. Ultra Fine Tip Expo Markers
Classroom supplies can get expensive! Let’s face a difficult reality… Teachers aren’t supplied by the school with everything they need to make their classroom run smoothly. Many teachers send home a wish list at the beginning of the year with students. It is so important to carefully consider what goes on the list for parents to buy. One must-have item is a fine point expo marker! These are perfect for students when writing in small spaces. For example, they work great on Chart Chunks. You can laminate the sheets, put them in a sheet protector, or even use those nifty reusable sleeves. Then, students practice their place value and number sense using Chunk Charts for the Hundreds Chart or even a Thousands Chart without you having to make copies year after year. Students use the fine tip markers to fill in their answers. Also, this is a perfect addition for math task cards, too!
3. Vinyl Dots
What student doesn’t love writing on marker boards? I mean, talk about student engagement! Give a kid an dry-erase marker and a personal markerboard, and they’ll write you an essay if you let them. But, passing out, collecting, and storing these magical classroom items are a pain. Not only are they clunky, it also takes too much time to get them out and put them away. Enter (dunt-ta-da!), Vinyl Dots. These bad boys cling to your teacher table and/or student desks instantly transforming the surface into a dry-erase board. If I’d only known about these sooner! You can cut your own if you own a cutting machine, or you can buy them premade. I’d probably opt for the latter!
4. Magnetic Cups for Marker Board
Do you struggle with keeping up with your interactive whiteboard pen or expo markers? What about student pick sticks when you teach multiple class blocks? This was always a challenge for me. Several years ago, I scored these as a Dollar Tree find. They were a little different than the ones pictured here, but they served the same purpose. They were a teacher time saver for me, for sure! I bought seven magnetic cups – three pairs in different colors plus one extra. When I taught 3 blocks, I had pick sticks for each homeroom right there attached to my magnetic white board. As I called on students, I moved the stick from one magnetic cup to the next. I used the extra cup to hold my expo markers that were not available for student use. For these reasons, magnetic cups are the perfect way to keep teacher items organized and together. I haven’t seen them at the Dollar Tree in quite a while now, but you can get these magnetic cups that have dividers inside from Amazon.
5. Sharpie Fine Tip Pens
A veteran teacher knows the importance of quality pens. Sharpie fine tip pens come in so many colors and last for a long time. These pens are not the thick tipped sharpie markers that bleed through paper. These are actually perfect for grading papers, writing in agendas, or making feedback to students or letters to parents really stand out. I love using different colors to take notes during professional learning, webinars, or other meetings. We all know it can sometimes be hard to stay engaged during our countless meetings. Taking notes helps me be present and really get the most out of the material being presented.
6. Electric Pencil Sharpener
A new teacher is often on a very limited budget. However, an electric pencil sharpener is a game-changer in the classroom! Students will quickly sharpen their pencils and get right back to work. We don’t have time for all students to line up at the sharpener attached to the classroom wall. Plus, that hand crank isn’t always easy to operate, especially for the youngest students.
And, soooo many parents send in handheld sharpeners at the beginning of the school year. I found myself banning them from the classroom because of the mess they made. Students would accidentally open them upside down, spilling the shavings all over everything. It was easier if students kept them at home and used them to sharpen pencils there. Go ahead and make the investment in a good electric sharpener! It’s worth it!
However, be careful if you let students use the electric sharpener. This is something that definitely needs explicit, direct instruction on how to do. Don’t assume that students should know how to correctly use this highly-valued classroom tool. If you do, teacher beware! Without the explicit instruction, modeling, and practice using the sharpener, your students will undoubtedly use it on colored pencils getting the soft lead stuck and gunking up the blades or they’ll keep pushing and pushing until the sharpener jams. Another bane of electric sharpeners is the cute pencils that have a plastic wrap with printed designs. This wrap also clogs up electric sharpeners. Make sure you teach your students what to sharpen and how to sharpen before you let them loose using the electric sharpener.
(Side note – I didn’t realize until now I was so passionate about pencil sharpeners!)
7. Wireless Doorbell
Another great attention-getter is a wireless doorbell. Many even offer different chimes to use! This is a great way to signal to your students that it’s time to transition in flex groups. The teacher keeps the doorbell button at her table and presses it to chime when it’s time to change groups. Students clean up, line up, and move to their next flex group rotation in less than a minute. All without any verbal directions. Now that doesn’t happen all by itself. Much like the pencil sharpener, teachers have to teach, model, and practice with students what you want them to do when they hear the chime. Practice it again and again until you have 100% compliance.
8. Push-Style Staple Remover
Removing staples from bulletin boards is one of the most time-consuming, painful, and frustrating tasks! However, using a push-style staple remover instead of the punch style is a gamechanger. The uniquely designed push style forces staples up and out without tearing any of the paper! It also holds the removed staple in order to ensure that none wind up in a spot where a student could get hurt. It’s not just great for bulletin boards. I use mine anytime there’s a staple that needs to be removed. No broken fingernails, no holes in my papers, and a contained staple. Easy-peasy!
9. Photo Storage Case
Teachers have to stay so organized in order for the class to run smoothly. These cases are the perfect way to store a variety of items. For example, they hold task cards, dice, art supplies, and puzzle pieces. I currently have sets of seasonal erasers that I use as manipulatives stored in these cases. I also have math task cards in one case and phonics fluency activities in another. Yet another holds my printable phonics puzzles that correspond to their digital cousins. There are endless possibilities with these plastic containers! I may or may not have an addiction?!?! 😂😆🤣
There are so many things teachers need in order to maximize student learning and minimize teacher frustration. Ultimately, the 9 items above help students stay focused and teachers complete their endless to-do lists while not staying at school until all hours of the evening. By adding these must-have supplies to your classroom, you can leave the school feeling happy, successful, and organized!