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11 Classroom Essential First Year Teacher Must Haves That Won’t Break The Bank

11 First Year Teacher Must Haves For The Classroom
Start the school year right with the classroom essential first year teacher must haves that will not break the bank!

What are some classroom essential first year teacher must haves? For someone who has moved classrooms 6 times and once across the continent, I have some ideas.

In my 7 years of teaching, I have moved classrooms 6 times! Yes, you heard me correctly! 6 Times! Once, I had to pack up and move to a new classroom in the middle of the school year because the school was growing so fast!

I started my teaching career in Thailand, teaching at an international school. When I moved back to the United States, I had to leave a lot of things behind and pretty much bought everything new for my classroom here. 

I know that as a first year teacher, you are excited and want your classroom to be perfect!

But honestly, you won’t know your true style and the layout you like until you are in the classroom with your students. The last thing you want is to spend a lot of money on things that turn out not to be functional for the way you want to run your classroom.

I had bought a lot of stuff in my first year of teaching that I thought were essential, only to have never used them and let them collect dust in the closet. All that wasted money could have gone to something else!

My advice to you, which I wished I gave to myself during my first year, is to only get the essential items with some decoration, then add more to your list as you progress through the year. Target and Amazon will always have your back if you need something during the school year.

So there, if you are a first year teacher, please don’t make the same mistakes that I have made!

The teacher must haves that I will mention below are essential for an elementary classroom. I teach in a self-contained classroom so the items can be used for any subject you teach! 

Let’s get started!

***Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission when you purchase through the link from my blog. Thank you for your support!

11 First Year Teacher Must Haves

#1: A Good Stapler

YES! No matter where you are teaching or what you are teaching, you need a GOOD stapler. This is one of the top classroom essential first year teacher must haves.

Why? Because apart from stapling paper together, you are going to need to put things on the wall, especially if you are teaching elementary school. You will need a stapler that easily opens up flat. Trust me, invest in one then use a sharpie to write your name on it. It will be worth it! If you are only thinking about buying 1 item for your classroom, this is the 1 item!

I love Swingline Stapler. I have one that I’ve used for 3 years and it has never failed me!

#2: Paper Cutter

Your campus might already have a big paper cutter in the teacher workroom. However, if you are a new teacher and still setting things up, this is a must have. You are going to be creating and cutting so many things, and this save so much time when cutting. Instead of having to wait to be able to go to the teacher workroom, you can easily cut things at home or in your classroom. It will make your life so much easier!

I try not to work from home, but sometimes I have an idea for my classroom and I want to create it. This allows me to easily create what I want without having to be on campus. 

I use this exact Swingline Paper Cutter. It has been 3 years and I’ve never had a problem with it! It’s safe for me to say that Swingline is a reliable brand. 

#3: A Small Laminator

This goes hand and hand with having a paper cutter. Even if your school has a big laminator, you should get a small personal one that you keep at home or in your classroom. This is a must haves especially for new teachers in an elementary classroom. There is always something to be laminated. I’ve been teaching for 7 years and I’m still laminating things. Maybe not as much as I used to, but having a personal one at home really makes it easier for me.

I’ve been using the Amazon Basics Thermal Laminator for 3 years now. However they discontinued it. My coworkers use the Scotch Thermal Laminator.

Please keep in mind that with a small laminator you need to let it rest after you have been laminating for a while. Make sure you adjust the heat setting to match the laminating sheet and type of paper you are using. If you are laminating cardstock, you will need it to be quite hot, but if you are just laminating regular paper, you will need to lower the heat. 

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#4: Plastic Pockets

Plastic Pockets are lifesavers and so versatile in use. You can use them in centers, small group instructions, timed multiplication facts and more. You can insert any paper into it and viola!!! students can write on it with a dry erase marker and you can reuse the paper. It’s especially useful when you don’t have time to laminate certain things but you need to use it the next day!

I use them in my small group instructions for both math and reading! I also use them in centers especially when I’m trying out a new center and don’t want to invest a lot of time laminating the materials when I don’t know if it’s going to work out.

I got a class set of Plastic Pockets from Amazon 3 years ago and I’m still using those today!

#5: Sand Timers (Hourglass)

You will need timers in your classroom. Timers are great for so many things! They are great for games, small group instructions and even building reading/writing stamina. They are also great for Calm Down Corners or when your students need a break.

I only use sand timers in my classroom. I’ve tried the digital ones but I always return to the sand timers. 

First off, they do not need batteries so no maintenance. Second, there are no complex instructions on which button to push or hold to set it up. I do not need to worry if my students will set it to the correct time. Basically, there are no frustrations.

I have a couple sets of these Sand Timers. They are so easy to use and they are CHEAP! Each timer has the time stamp at the top of the timer. The visual of the sand timer also allows students to easily gauge how much time they have left. Students can use them independently! It’s just perfect!

#6: Pencil Sharpeners (Mechanical)

Not every school will provide you with a pencil sharpener. That’s just the reality of the situation. If you do have one, then you do not have to worry about these must-haves. I have an Electrical one but I also have a Mechanical one in my classroom as well. Why? Because they are QUIET.

Electrical pencil sharpeners can be the source of your nightmare. It can stop you in the middle of your important lesson and make you want to scream. Every veteran teacher has experienced this! I’ve tried many systems to ensure that students do not have to sharpen their pencils during the school day. However hard I tried, there was always something. One school year, I had a student cry because her pencil was broken in the middle of the lesson and there were no more sharpened pencils left in the sharpen bin. I pick my battles and I refuse to allow pencils to stress me out. I got myself a mechanical pencil sharpener and my lessons were never interrupted by pencil sharpening again!

This is the Mechanical Pencil Sharpener and the Electronic one that I use in my classroom.

#7: Flash Drive

If you have one, you are set! If not, get one. Flash drives are not only great for transferring files between computers, they will also save your life when the printer runs out of ink and you really need to print something! Most copy machines on your campus will have the option for you to insert a flash drive and print directly from there.

As a first year teacher, you are in your material gathering stage and you will be printing random things here and there. This is in the first year teacher must haves list because the day will come when you wish you have one. Have one in your bag or teacher closet always!

I just got new Flash Drives with both Type C & USB so that I could use it on a new computer with only Type C inserts.

#8: Stackable Shelves for Paper Storage

You need a system to organize your paper. I’m not talking about worksheets but important paper that you will receive from the front office, admins or your students such as special forms, doctor’s notes, reflection sheets and more. You need to have a special place for it.

I use stackable shelves and put cardstock paper at the bottom for easy access. I also have a hanging file pocket on my closet door for worksheets to save room. Carts are very popular for storing worksheets. Get whichever one will work for you.

#9: A Lanyard

This is one of the most important first year teacher must haves. It doesn’t matter if you are working in a small campus where you are not required to carry around your teacher ID badge, you need a way to carry your classroom key and building card around. You don’t want to be locked out of the building, misplace your key ring or couldn’t find your keys during the lockdown drill or an emergency situation. You need to have your classroom key with you at all times. I don’t recommend a key ring because there is still a chance that you might misplace it somewhere. You need something that is attached to you, like a lanyard or a pocket chain.

You can get your lanyard anywhere really. I’ve been using the same one for over 5 years because it was a gift from a student. This cactus design on amazon is really cute if I ever need to get a new one.

#10: Dice

If you are planning on making game based centers for math, reading or writing, you will need to get dice! You will be surprised how much you need dice in an elementary classroom. I have so many different types of dice to change things up! I use them in my centers and when I’m playing a game with my small groups. If you have a chance, check your new classroom closet for dice. If you have them then you are set! I typically put the dice in with game pieces or task cards in a zip lock bag for center. It’s an easy way to organize your center without breaking the bank!

I use regular dice and also the ones with many sides in my classroom.

#11: Board Games or Card Games – The Most Overlooked First Year Teacher Must Haves

Board games or card games are teacher must haves in the classroom. You might not need them for your instructions or centers (although you totally can use them and the kids love it), but they will save your sanity when it comes to INDOOR RECESS.

At least, once a school year, unexpectedly you will have to keep your students in the classroom for indoor recess. You need to be ready for that!

The last thing you want are bored and unhappy children in your classroom. Because I teach upper elementary, I started out with 2 sets of UNO cards, Monopoly and a box of hot wheels for kids that love to build things. You want something where a lot of your students can play at once. As the years progressed, parents and family members donated more items, so now I have a shelf dedicated to indoor recess games. Honestly, my students would have gone crazy without the games, since this school this school year we have had at least 30 days of indoor recess. 

P.S. If you are getting UNO cards, make sure you get the one with a box!

Here is a list of games upper elementary students love:

Uno Cards

Monopoly Pixar Edition

Lego Classic Set

Candy Land


Game of Life

I hope that this has helped you make decisions on what to buy for your classroom. I’m excited for you and all the adventures that you will have during your first year of teaching! Remember to not be afraid to ask for help. All teachers have been there and we are more than happy to answer any questions you might have or help you in any way possible. You will do amazing this school year!

Remember to grab my FREE Meet The Teacher Letter Templates in Pastel by clicking the image below and sign up to be a part of the LittleYellowStar newsletter.

Free Pastel Meet The Teacher Letter
Free Pastel Meet The Teacher Letter

Let me know what you are planning to get for your first classroom by commenting or tagging me on social media. I would love to see!

If you are looking for professional development books on reading and writing to read over the summer, in order to prepare yourself for a successful school year, check out this blog post: 10 Books for Reading and Writing Teachers

Also, if you are going to be digital or going to be using a google classroom, check out: 6 Ways to use Google Jamboard in your classroom.

There you have it, 11 classroom essential first year teacher must haves that won’t break the bank!

Prima from LittleYellowStar

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