Have you ever thought about how much money you spend on school supplies for your living room? By December you find yourself restocking pencils, erasers and glue? Do you send notes home asking for supplies in January and you feel as if you'd asked from a distant desert where no one can hear or see you? You are not alone! Many teachers feel the same way, and many times we tell ourselves enough! I will not buy more pencils this school year! Then probably this question arises: What can I do to improve the situation? I have a few tips so that your supplies can last longer.

1. Buy materials JUST at the beginning of the school year:

We all know that the best time to stock up on supplies is during summer, prices fall impressively!  In the U.S., stores burst out with deals during late July and early August, that’s why you should buy your 100 pencils, your 20 boxes of crayons and your 30 notebooks during this season. You save a lot! However, as stated in the subtitle, I suggest you do this investment only once a year in preparation to the beginning of the school year and not to provide the kids with supplies throughout the year. Keep reading, everything will make sense in a minute!

2. Make an inventory of the supplies that children bring:

If your school does a Meet-The-Teacher night, that’s awesome! Many parents take the opportunity to bring school supplies that day, they can help you write names, numbers and even help you store things. It is easy to see who brought things and who did not. At that time they will tell you if something is missing or if they didn’t find something. You can have a list of students in the classroom and take note of the students who already brought their supplies. Take the time to give the supply list to the ones who didn’t bring their supplies and ask them to bring them the first day of school. Most of these parents will realize that other parents have brought their supplies and keep themselves accountable, you just provide the list, no hassle.
Another method is to make an inventory item by item. In "Meet the Teacher Night", parents can help to check off their own supplies. If you have to do the inventory during the first week of school it is important to ask students to bring their supplies with their name on to see who brought each thing. Sometimes they bring everything in a bag or in a box, I immediately put their name to the bag or box and then count the material. This method is more difficult but in many cases it works better, especially when there is a lack of parental involvement. This way you can send home a note specifying who lacks what.

3. The supplies are for the classroom, the supplies are shared:

During my first year as a teacher I was not very successful with materials, very few students brought their things, I did not count the supplies and the worst part is that many things were lost daily. I had to buy so much material. The following year, I sat all the parents in my classroom on "Meet the Teacher Night", and lectured them about how essential it is to cooperate with supplies, I was a bit stiff and I stressed that it was their obligation to ensure that children had the material needed to learn, I also asked them to put the name to all supplies because every student would use only the material to bring to the classroom. Obviously, parents didn’t love my lecture and that year I was not very popular with the community, but somehow 90% of my students brought their material on time, others brought it later and a few others never brought it. I had more control over the material, but I was not satisfied. The problem was that if someone had brought five pencils for the whole year, that child would be able to use only five pencils, while the one who brought 20 would have access to more pencils. The same happened with notebooks, erasers, glue, scissors, etc. Moreover, when I moved from self-contained to departmentalized the problem increased, instead of having 20 children I had 40 now going in and out of my room with their pencil boxes, using material in 2 different rooms. I mean, it was a nightmare, controlling the supplies sincerely drove me crazy! I realized that my super system(s) would not work under this scheme. After this ordeal, I decided to put together the supplies I had bought plus the supplies that the parents had sent to the classroom, then I distributed the material evenly. I wrote names only on notebooks and folders, it made more sense and my job was simplified; on the other hand, I kept communicating with other parents who had not brought their things, I gave them options, one of which was to allow them to send their things slowly, another one was to bring used supplies from previous years and so on. All this difficulty taught me many things but the most relevant was: Shared supplies are used better.

4. Supply Distribution: The Number System

Sharing the material was not the only thing that I learned with my ordeal, I also learned to organize the material. To have a fair system of distribution of the material is also important to hold accountable those who use the material: students. How can you make students responsible for their material if things like glue or pencils do not have their name? While the obvious answer is to assign a number, then I'll explain what has worked for me better than any other material handling system.

As mentioned earlier, I have two classes with about 22 children each: A and B. That means I have to manage supplies for a total of 44 children, or in the case of some fellow teachers up to 66 students with 3 classes instead of 2. No, no, no! I cannot imagine myself listening to the song "I have no pencil" every day, especially with the number of observations we have lately. Well, to solve part of this problem, I decided to manage 22 boxes of pencils instead of 44. How do I do this? I assigned a pencil case per desk, each desk and each box are given a number (for purposes of this example let's focus on desk number 3), I then put 10 pencils, in each box of pencils, ½ eraser (cut an eraser in half, add one half to the box and keep the other half), add 1 glue stick, 1 box of crayons, 1 erasable marker. In all this stuff I write the number 3 with a permanent marker. Now every student who sits on desk # 3, has access to all the material that has the # 3 on it. It is important to assign a number to each student as well, so they know what supplies correspond to them. In other words, in my classroom I have a student # 3 in Class A and another student # 3 in Class B, both use the pencil box # 3 and sit on the desk # 3, they share everything on that #3 pencil case. This makes it possible to share the material in an organized way and if you're like me and you have to have everything under control, you will like this method and save tons of money and time.

Pencils for students number 3

5. Implementation:

You're probably thinking that I need to get a life because I have to put numbers to all the material, don’t worry, other teachers have told me that; however what they do not know is that I only invest a few hours at the beginning of the school year and only a few minutes a week the rest of the year. This gives me a little extra time to get focused on other aspects of my life but that's another story, let's focus on the material.
The hardest thing will be sharpen pencils and put the number to all, but trust me it’s worth it, I’ve seen other teachers put different color tape on top of the pencil, I personally like the number system. I used an electric pencil sharpener and my pencil stash. My pencil reserve is like a loan, if I lend my students 100 pencils, then at the end of the year I get 100 pencils back from what they brought, it is only fair no?, however it's a real challenge to finish the year with 100 pencils right? I like to leave extra sharpened pencils and I explain why later on. This year it took me three hours to sharpen 10 pencils per child (with distractions and all) and make stacks of 10, but last year I invited a friend and did all this in one hour. Once you're done with pencils, write numbers on  the glue, box of crayons (no, I did not put numbers to each crayon, only to each box, I'm a little crazy but not that much), the dry-erase marker, the half eraser and of course all the pencil boxes. This will take about 1 hour.
The first week of school pass the material for students to put into their boxes, then take a moment to explain the system. It is important to explain that the box will stay in the room, yes you read right, the case will not go to other rooms nor will not go home. The box is to be used in our room ONLY.

1)Sharpen pencils

2) Sharpened pencil stash ready to begin!

3) Assign a number per student and write it on his supplies.

4) Numbered Pencils

5) Grouped pencils 

Voila! Boxes with everything numbered in them!

6. Maintenance:

What if a student loses a pencil or an eraser?
In my room, the material is replenished only once a month, if students lose something they will have to wait until the end of the month to replace what was lost. This will teach them to be responsible with the material. At the same time, they have other 9 pencils ready for use, and sometimes I lend them whatever supply they’re missing as a temporary loan and we call it "temporary material" which must be returned to me by the end of the day. Another solution is to have to ask a partner while I replace lost supplies in their boxes.

How often will be needed to sharpen the pencils?
Each group of students in my classroom has a cup to exchange pencils. Students leave their unsharpened pencils there at the end of the day. I sharpen them when they go home and the next day students will be responsible of putting those pencils back in their boxes by finding pencils with their own number on it. EASY!

How do I ensure that the boxes have the necessary supplies? Sometimes I like to give a reward to responsible children, for example once every two months (this year I'll verify boxes more often, probably every month) I make the children in each class take out the material from their boxes and count it all: pencils, eraser, scissors, glue and marker. It is possible that many children have all their material yet others will not. ONLY children who still have all their material receive a sticker; then immediately replace lost supplies to children who lost one or more of the items in their box. It is truly amazing what a sticker and positive reinforcement can do! If you decide to do the same you will notice that the children are increasingly responsible for their own material.

Where I can store the pencil boxes?
My students have a basket per group of desks where they keep their boxes before leaving my room. They can also leave them under their desks or in any storage system you have in your classroom. The trick is, without doubt, that the boxes are accessible to all classes at all times.
I hope you can implement this system, or at least part of it. I know you will not regret it!

Well, if you have implemented this system already please share your results!

No comments:

Post a Comment