If you asked any teacher to list his/her top 10 frustrations with delivering instruction that teacher would probably say students not having needed supplies at the top of the list. It is a challenge to begin a math lesson when 19 out of 21 students have a pencil. Or you are in the middle of explaining some new creative assignment that involves scissors and glue, and five students raise their hands to tell you that they can't find their scissors. UGH! Do you let them sit there and watch the other students do the assignment? Do you make them take the assignment home to complete and a note to the parent? Do you ask your students to share their supplies with their classmates? There are several ways you can look at this. From a parent's point of view, they feel like they sent in the needed supplies at the beginning of the year so, why should they have to buy more? Are you creating an enabling situation when students are continually rescuing a student who doesn't have his/her supplies or are you building a sense of community? I feel it's important that we teach our students about responsibility, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Is it realistic to expect 100% of your students to have their needed supplies everyday? How many times have you asked the teacher next door for cotton balls, red construction paper, brads, or some other supplies you need for the lesson you are teaching that day? It has happened to me more times than I care to count. Thankfully, I've always taught next door to teachers who graciously share their supplies with me. So, if I'm a grown adult and don't always have all of my needed supplies to teach my lessons, is it fair for me to get frustrated with my students when they don't have theirs? No, I don't think so. How do you solve this problem? Do you just throw up your hands and give up? No, that's not the answer either.
First of all, you need to set a realistic goal. Wouldn't it be great if you could count on 80% of your students always having their supplies to complete their assignments 100% of the time? More than 80% is a bonus. This means with 25 students, you can count on 20 students. What do you do with the other 5? You have "Oops" supplies . . . "Oops! I forgot I need to bring more pencils to school.
One of the weekly jobs for your students is "supply manager". When you begin an assignment, list what supplies will be needed, and have your students get out those supplies. Students who don't have all of their needed supplies will raise their hand. Your supply manager will give "Oops" supplies to those students. This way you don't have a long line and noisy students getting the needed supplies. At the end of the lesson, your supply manager collects the "Oops" supplies.
Put a colored piece of tape on your supplies so your supplies are easily identified when it's time for your supply manager to pick them up. I love the new colorful duct tape.
The tape also comes in patterns which is great if you have a thematic room.
You can get a free copy of the supply labels by clicking on the picture below:
There are different ways to encourage your students to become more responsible. If your class is divided into teams, give team points to each of the teams who have the needed supplies. Another idea is to add an extra minute to your 30 minute Friday Fun day for each assignment that exceeds your 80% goal. If more than 80% don't have their supplies, subtract that many minutes from Friday Fun Day.