How to Build the Ultimate Supply List

Every year I am faced with creating a supply list for my future students. Every year I tell myself, “this time I will get it right.” What ends up happening by March I am running out to the dollar store to fill up on more supplies! So, how do you make sure to build the ultimate supply list for your classroom? 

Most teachers are asked to generate a supply list that will be sent out to incoming students over the summer. The items placed on the list are ones that will be used throughout the year on a routinely basis. Websites such as, Teacher Lists and School Tool Box try to help reduce the stress of creating and searching for items to place on your supply list. However, before you can begin picking and choosing items there are some things to consider. Equipped with the guidance from these websites and our 5 tips this year you can build the ultimate supply list.  

Six tips to creating the ultimate teacher supply list 

#1 Truly think about what it is you will use  

Before you become clicker happy, truly think about what it is you plan to use the most this year. For example, if you know you are starting a new unit and will be creating a lot of projects make sure to ask for at least two packs of construction paper from each student. Thoughtful supply lists will reduce the amount of wastematerials and ensure you have what you will need.  

#2 You always need more than you think 

This could not be truer, especially if you follow a community-based classroom design where supplies are shared. Along with this tip, make sure to explicitly teach your students how the supplies are to be used and handled in the beginning of the year (cap that glue stick!). Trust me, by doing this you will save yourself and parents time and money. 

#3 Provide multiple store recommendations  

Give your parents options when it comes to shopping for supplies. Make sure the items on your list can be easily purchased at any store. With websites like Amazon making it easier to purchase online, there are more ways than ever to check off things on your back to school list. A quick list of local stores where supplies can be purchased encourages parents to not wait until the last minute.  

#4 Be specific where needed 

Being specific on your supply list may not seem like a priority, however, in doing so you avoid a lot of future frustration. For example, if Elmer’s liquid glue drives you nuts then make sure to specify glue stick in your listing. Sure, you will still end up with some glue bottles come the first day but not as many had you not specified. On the flip side, is it really going to matter if the notebooks are ringed instead of bound? No, probably not! All that will matter is that the kid has something to write on. So choose your specifications deliberately. 

#5 Get it out early and send it out more than once 

The smartest thing you can do is get your supply list out early, and then resend it as the first day approaches. Many times, parents will forget it, not read it, or misplace it. SoI may also suggest doing it electronically. Some teachers today make wish lists, and baskets that parents can access and purchase (sort of like a registry for your classroom). If you are comfortable setting up your supply list in this manner, I say go for it! 

#6 Maintain a supply list/wish list throughout the year  

Maintaining a wish list throughout the school year that is visible to parents allows you to request items as needed. This is an easy way to keep parents connected to what is going on inside the classroom. For example, adding messages to your supply requests can be an opportunity to highlight projects the students are working on. “We are running low on glue sticks after a week of constructing our own community building inside the classroom. This was a follow up activity to our Social Studies unit on community helpers.”  

Something to consider 

For some families, the idea of purchasing new school supplies can be stressful. They may not have the funds to purchase everything on the list. At the end of your supply list this year consider including alternative ways to accumulate school supplies. The Kids in Need Foundation is just one organization that partners with companies to provide school supplies to those in need. There are many other organizations that help to fill student backpacks in preparation for heading back to school. Many home and school organizations will also have allocated funds for those families who may need assistance. 

The top ten items I always include on my supply list: 

  1. Sharpened pencils: yes, you can purchase pencils presharpened! It saves so much time and effort 
  2. (2)12 set box of crayons- 1 for the beginning and 1 for the second half of the school year 
  3. (2) packs of glues sticks- these things disappear so fast 
  4. Lysol wipes– need I say more 
  5. (2-3) tissue boxes-a major necessity. Also consider bulking up during cold and flu season 
  6. Paper towels- trust me, this supply item comes in handy even if you don’t have a paper towel dispenser in the classroom 
  7. Baggies- these can be used for left over snacks, loose crayons, and lost teeth  
  8. Hand sanitizer-not a bulk item but nice to have sitting by the tissue box 
  9. Construction paper/card stock- I prefer card stock because it makes a better-quality crafts, however, construction paper is a must in elementary  
  10. Scissors – individualized and labeled  

So, why is the ultimate supply list important?  

Generating the ultimate supply list is key to establishing a smooth school year. Having items accessible right away saves you, the teacher, time and money. Running a well-managed classroom includes having prepared materials prior to the start of any lesson. Making sure that those materials are purchased and brought in the first week of school, gives you time to organize the classroom environment in a friendly manner. Following these tips should help ensure a great start to the school year for you and your students.