My Top 5 Secrets for Making Classroom Supplies Last

Because glue sticks don’t grow on trees.

Desks in classroom

School Supply Central: Organization & Tips,

The Sharpies! The cardstock! The beautiful, beautiful sight of fresh Expo markers in the morning! We all know school supplies are 57% of the reason why we became teachers in the first place. We also know this: One day we have a bin full of dozens of crisp, new crayons and the next day there is a pen cap(?) and three brown crayons left. Make supplies last longer by following these super-simple tricks and tips today.

1. Hold Back Supplies for Later in the Year

When it comes to school supplies, students will use absolutely everything you make available to them.

If you put out all the colored markers you have for the year, every single one will be opened (and the points squished) within the first week. And, without fail, pencils will disappear at the rate at which you put them in the pencil cup.

What You Can Do Now: Hold back supplies now. From glue sticks to crayons, you can replenish them later in the year.


2. Model How to Properly Use Supplies

I always shudder when I see students take a thick stack of fifteen Kleenex to sorta blow their nose once. Or when they use the better part of a glue stick to attach a half sheet of paper to the other half in a sticky, purple mess.

Take time to show students how a little glue goes a long way or how to press gently when using colored pencils.

What You Can Do Now: Role play what students should and should not do when it comes to using school supplies. I always play the role of the student who carelessly leaves the caps off of the marker. Then I let my students sweep in to tell me what I did wrong. That way they come up with their own solutions for preventing waste.

3. Remind Students to Care for Supplies

One of the big lessons of having art supplies in our classrooms that students learn how to care of things so they last. The reality is, if they don’t keep the scissors clean or they are careless about putting things back, then they will be frustrated when they need those supplies again.

What You Can Do Now: Take 30 seconds to do a quick public service announcement when a class project or activity involves art supplies. For example, makeup fun slogans like, “Caps on Glue Sticks!” or “A Little Dab of Glue Will Do!” each time you use glue in your classroom. Eventually, they will internalize the lessons, hearing your voice each time they work with any art supplies.

4. Designate a Place for Lost Pencils

Whole blog posts have been dedicated to the art and science of pencil sharpening in a classroom setting. What I want to focus on today, though, is cutting down on pencil loss.

So many pencils end up on the classroom floor or in with other supplies, never to be seen again. Counter this problem by designating a home for lost pencils.

What You Can Do Now: Create a Lost Pencil cup or drawer where students know they can put found pencils. I make it a habit to sweep the classroom floor at the end of the day and usually find at least six pencils, abandoned but not forgotten. Better yet, create a class job for students to monitor the room for wayward pencils and collect them at the end of each day.

5. Never Ever Ever Put Out Blank Paper

If you’ve ever watched children color, you know that they don’t think twice about how much paper they use. They would destroy a whole ream of printer paper in ten minutes if you let them. So my advice is to save the good stuff like construction paper, cardstock or even blank, white paper for the big, portfolio-worthy projects.

What You Can Do Now: Create a recycled paper bin where you can put photocopies you don’t need anymore. Students can freely grab scratch paper to doodle on or make into airplanes and cootie catchers.

How do you make classroom supplies last? Share your tricks in the comments.