Sharing is not the easiest skill in kindergarten, and organization doesn’t fall far behind! For some children, kindergarten launches them into a brand new world of “school” where there are lots of expectations like sharing and taking turns. If you also happen to be a flexible seating classroom, then you have an even higher need for supplies that are easily accessed. I want to share how I manage community supplies in a way that’s always worked for me and my students.
Very early on, when you set the tone with community supplies and materials, students start to learn that everything in the classroom is meant to be shared (except food, that’s on our Class Promise!). Let’s break down some basics of community supplies.
I’m fortunate to work at a school that is able to reimburse us up to a certain amount for school supplies. Sometime around May, I buy crayons, pencils, and glue for the upcoming school year. I like doing it at this point so that I won’t have to stress about it in August. I should also add that we are not allowed to have supply lists with required materials that parents must purchase, so I make sure I buy the basics that I know my kids will need on day one (and go ahead and get anything that’s on sale).
Once the school year begins, I get a new set of purchase orders for supplies. This is when I buy paint, construction paper, scissors (if any got lost the year before), Playdoh, Expo markers, or other teacher supplies. We can give out “wish lists” at Back to School Night once the year begins, so my wish list always includes the 1-inch white binder that I use for our Take Home Binders, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a box of tissues. If I don’t get enough binders from all students, I am able to go buy the rest with my school funds.
Once all the goodies are stocked, they are considered community supplies. The only thing that students have as their “own” is their binder since it goes home with them every night! I ask parents not to label anything that students bring in since we share. I have gotten some doubting questions from some parents (very few) about community supplies, but I assure parents that it’s a great way for their children to learn responsibility and organization on top of how to share!
All of our supplies are out somewhere in our classroom besides my few teacher goodies that I keep in a cabinet. I want my students to see all of the things in our classroom as “our stuff,” not “the teacher’s stuff.” I share every single thing with them (Sharpies, Flair pens, and Mr. Sketch markers included) depending on the situation. So, these supplies have to go somewhere accessible to little kids!
At student tables, we keep the materials they use the most. I have wicker baskets from Michael’s (a few years old now) that fit 3 Mason jars and a long, skinny basket from Dollar Tree. One jar holds pencils and erasers, 2 jars hold crayons (I put one 24-count box of crayons in each jar), and the skinny basket holds their table card holder, CARES cards, and Lexia login cards. This has worked really well for flexible seating because students can just “grab a jar” if they are working on the floor or somewhere else and need crayons or pencils.
All other writing utensils (extra pencils, pens, highlighters, Sharpies) go in a 10-drawer organizer along with various types of paper (blank, lined, journal, and construction). When pencils in their jars so missing or break, I can easily remind them, “Go get an extra pencil in the green drawer!” This organizer sits right next to some shelves in our class that hold Sterilite containers with all of our other art materials. I store scissors, glue, extra crayons, markers, oil pastels, watercolors, chalk, and tempera paint here.
All of these materials are in our “art center” where it just makes sense for students to go grab what they need, and everything is clearly labeled so that students can learn how to organize materials on their own!
Starting from the first day of school, I talk to my students about the importance of sharing and taking turns. We talk about the supplies and materials in our classroom being “ours,” and I start explaining the importance of taking care of things so that we all have the chance to use them. These conversations happen multiple times over the first few weeks of school, typically during morning meeting.
To help keep everything stocked, organized, and ready, I have two classroom jobs that students do in regards to our supplies. Our “Pencil Manager” is in charge of going around to each table at the end of the day to check if any pencils need sharpening, if any jars have less than 4 pencils, or if tables have too many pencils/erasers. We have a jar by our pencil sharpener for pencils that I will sharpen after school. The Pencil Manager puts the pencils in the jar if need be. They go over to the extra pencils drawer to restock any jars, too.
We also have a “Supply Manager” who helps with general supplies. He or she will check our supply drawers and containers every day and report to me if anything is empty or almost out. They also help keep the math manipulatives, clipboards, and other supplies nicely organized on our low shelves.
I hope this inspires you to try community supplies in your classroom. It has always worked so well for me that I can’t imagine doing supplies any other way!