Back to School Supplies Every Teacher Needs in Fall 2020

Returning to the classroom in Fall 2020? Here's a list of supplies perfectly suited for one of the most challenging "back to school" seasons ever.

Updated on: August 4, 2020

Fall 2020 Back to School Supplies

Around the country and around the world, schools are figuring out the best way to return to the classroom. Some schools have already begun in-person learning, others are already set to be online through December, and there are some schools designing hybrid models. Wherever your school is headed, you’re going to need supplies. Here is a list of some of the things that will help you in your classroom (virtual or physical) this fall.

In-Person

Some of us will be headed back to our brick and mortar schools in the fall. Currently, that is the plan my school is constructing. This makes me nervous, especially with cases rising. If your school is going back and you are feeling anxious or uncomfortable then reach out to your school leaders now. If there has ever been a time to put on your oxygen mask first, it’s now. While schools are trying to make the safest plans they can, your health and wellbeing come first. Advocating for yourself is also an opportunity to advocate for your students and families. Fortunately, my school is very small and we have spaces that will allow us to be socially distant, so I’ve been curating a list of supplies I’ll need.

Masks

This is a no-brainer, and your school should supply them too. There are so many options out there, but look for masks that have refillable filters, and can be washed. There are many cute options that can be personalized and I’ve been considering masks with mouth windows so students can not only see me smile, but understand what I’m saying. This is especially important for students who have difficulty processing or students who speak more than one language.

Emergency Sub Plans

This is a must every year, but even more so this year. TeacherVision has emergency sub plans for every occasion. Your health comes first, so while we as teachers often hesitate to call in sick, we cannot be afraid to do so this fall.

Journals

If it’s at all possible, I’m taking my students outside. We have a park a block away and a parking lot. For my class, we will be using Rite in the Rain journals that are waterproof so we can really take our learning into nature. I think any journal will do, but it will be important for students to have a way to express themselves and communicate in ways other than talking. Plus, journals can travel anywhere and who doesn’t feel like a writer, scientist or explorer when they are holding their journal close to their chest.

Classroom-Safe Disinfectants

It’s going to be important to keep supplies and desk areas clean. Almost all recommendations I’ve read call for daily cleaning. If we’re using daily cleaning supplies, it’s important to know what we are exposing ourselves and our students to. If you can, aim for natural antiviral and antibacterial cleaners. You can also invest in microfiber towels for cleaning that you can throw in the wash.

Some brands I trust are Seventh Generation, Greenworks, and Mrs. Meyers. You can look for the green EPA approved seal.

Hand sanitizer, hand soap and wipes

These are a no-brainer, and supplies we already buy during the year. I normally ask parents to help, but I’ll be asking my school leaders for help as well this fall.

Individual Supply Caddies

Right now I have group supplies, but if we’re going back I will need to create individual supply centers. Think about a caddie that is easy to clean and that bacteria and viruses can’t survive on for very long, like glass or plastic. I’ve been saving jam jars during the summer, but caddies are easy to find at Target, your local school supply shop or online.

Personal Thermometer

This isn’t necessary, but I like having one for peace of mind. I bought a small portable thermometer at CVS and now keep it in my bag. Schools should already have plenty of thermometers prepared, but I like having my own so I have a consistent measure to compare to so hopefully I notice any concerning changes. I also measure my resting heart rate in the morning (you can use a watch or just a pulse count) because I learned in high school that a higher resting heart rate can be a sign you are getting sick.

Glasses or Eye Protection

This one is also not necessary, but the idea of trying not to touch my face and eyes while teaching has been stressing me out the most. Wearing my glasses provides a barrier and helps me remember that I shouldn’t touch my face since I hit my glasses before I can touch my eye. There are lots of frames you can buy without prescriptions that are inexpensive. If you want to prepare for a possible online shift, you can also invest in blue light lenses that protect your eyes from prolonged screen time.

Extra Resources

Each state that is allowing or planning for in person teaching should be providing a list of supplies. These are whole school lists, rather than classroom lists but they give teachers a sense of what we’ll need to be ready with. Here is Massachusetts’s list for reference

Teaching Online

If you already know your school will be completely online, then you may be feeling a mixture of emotions. Grief for the loss of all the fall school rituals, like decorating your classroom and the first weeks of school bonding, but also relief that you and your students will be safe from the spread of COVID. Anything you’re feeling is valid. Here are some supplies and ideas that may still help ignite some excitement for the semester to come!

Fun Backgrounds

If you’re using Zoom, you can create a green screen effect by uploading pictures as your background with the desktop Zoom. If you aren’t using Zoom, you can create real backgrounds with a shower curtain or anchor chart paper! Either way you do it, different backgrounds provide a way for both you and your students to be excited to be online. You might create backgrounds based on what you’re learning, or even get input from your students on what type of background you will design. Encourage your students to get creative and design their own backgrounds! This can help students who are nervous or embarrassed about sharing their homes feel more comfortable.

Desk Supplies

Even though you will be online, I think the annual ritual (maybe more than once a year if you’re me) of buying new school supplies is an important way to start the year. On my list, I always have sticky notes, new flair pens, a notebook for the year and a calendar. Think about getting a calendar that students can see online so they can still see and look forward to important classroom events, even though you’re not in the classroom. You might also still have students either buy their own or use school funds to provide students with their own desk supplies. Organizing a space where you can work and have what you need to stay on top of your classes provides important structure that both you and your students need! It can even be a homework assignment to pick and prepare a study space.

White Boards

During the spring, I found myself using lots of notebook paper when working with students because I didn’t have a whiteboard! If you already have classroom whiteboards in your classroom, take one home. If you can, send one home to each student too. If you don’t have whiteboards, you can use stock paper inside a sheet protector. There are also online whiteboards through apps which you can use on tablets while sharing your screen. Again, this is a tool both you and your students will benefit from having.

Anchor Chart Paper

While you’re grabbing some white boards, see if you can get some anchor chart paper or request it from your school. My favorite kind is the sticky chart paper that I can immediately pull off and put on the wall. The act of making anchor charts WITH students helps create enduring understanding, so don’t stop making them with students just because you’re online. Then, when you one day return to the classroom, you can take all your anchor charts with you!

Postcards and Stamps

Connection will be the most challenging piece of the online puzzle this fall. Without being in person, there will be a loss in aspects of social learning and relationship building. However, postcards can be a way to connect with students in a special way, plus they are so cheap! You can even print postcards offline or design your own. I like to use postcards because they keep my messages short and to the point, and I love receiving postcards from people because of the cool pictures. You can even have students send postcards to each other, and you’ll probably end up receiving some from them. Want to go beyond your own classroom? You can connect with students all over the country, or even globe if you want. Many postcard and letter exchange programs are already set up for classes to join. Check them out!

Journals

Again, journals can go anywhere and recording thoughts, feelings, and experiences during this strange time is so important for you and your students. While online learning involves a lot of time with a computer, a paper journal will provide opportunities for you and your students to take a step away, and hopefully do something outside.

Hybrid

If your school is doing a mix of both types of learning, my advice is to combine the two lists. There are many different variations of hybrid programs, but the most important aspect will be building community in your classroom and connecting that community and learning between the classroom and home. I believe the items I’ve included above will help with exactly that! Good luck preparing for this new normal, and stay safe!

If you have more supplies you think will be valuable to teachers in the fall, let us know!

Mikaela Prego is an elementary educator from Massachusetts. She spent the last 3 years teaching 4th grade in Colorado, now she is back teaching in Massachusetts. Her favorite subjects to teach are math, science and social studies and she is a huge fan of putting the students in charge of as much of their learning as possible. You can follow her classroom (@whoareweintheworld) on Instagram.

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