A good way to create a classroom environment of cooperation and sharing, is to combine school supplies. When the students bring in their school supplies at the beginning of the year, I stock pile them all and ration out as I see fit. Most parents will not question it, but occasionally you will have a few. Just explain to the parents that your classroom should be an environment of sharing and that any supplies not used at the end of the year will be returned. I have never had a parent who pushed the issue further. After collecting all supplies into piles, find a cabinet, or a tub to place the supplies. Then, in the center of your groupings of desks, place a plastic flat bin. A “dollar store” is a great place to find inexpensive plastic containers. Sometimes, if I feel fancy, I even place the bin on top of a vinyl placemat for effect. In the plastic bin insert a plastic tumbler cup of some sort. It doesn’t matter whether there is writing or not, just that it is a tall cup (which will be used to house writing utensils).

Now you may begin rationing your supplies to your students. Place a reasonable amount pencils, highlighters, and erasers in the plastic cup. Also use the bin to place scissors, rulers, crayons, markers, etc. One side note about scissors and rulers: I do use a sharpie to label these particular items with the students’ names so that these items are returned to the correct owner at the end of the school year since they vary in quality and price. I have also positioned small inexpensive staplers in the baskets that come in handy. That should take care of most of the supplies that are used the most often. As for tissues and baggies, now you have a readily available stockpile to know immediately when to ask for replenishment.

The last big items are folders, binders, spiral notebooks, and loose leaf paper. Pile the loose leaf into a cupboard, leaving out approximately 6-7 packages. Unwrap these packages and place in another plastic bin where the paper may lay flat and undisturbed on a table or shelf. Now you have an endless supply of loose paper teams can pick up for whatever project needed, without having it flying out of binders and getting crumpled in lockers or cubbies.

When deciding what to do with folders and spiral notebooks, I always look for sales at the big office supply stores right before school starts to find these items at unbelievable prices. When folders go to 1 cent each and the spiral notebooks to 5 cents, I grab enough for at least one entire class set. (Sometimes the stores put a limit on how many you can purchase, so I take my daughter and her friends to help me purchase the correct quantity). Before school starts, I take my class roster of new student names, and create a full page of labels for each child’s name. I then can personalize the folders and notebooks BEFORE school even begins, with the added bonus of all materials looking identical, and saving some embarrassment for those students who couldn’t afford the supplies anyhow. So when students bring in folders and spiral notebooks, pile them in a stack in a cupboard for extras needed throughout the year.

Now your students all have supplies, which you can ration out as the year goes on. The students adjust quickly to this new way of collective sharing when they realize no one’s materials are better than another’s. You never again have to hear, “He stole my pencil” because your new mantra is, “It’s all community property and we share everything!”

Charity L. Preston is an author, teacher, and parent. Most importantly, she is an educator in all roles. The ability to teach someone something new is a gift that few truly appreciate. Visit her now at http://www.theorganizedclassroomblog.com or at her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheOrganizedClassroomBlog to sign up for a free newsletter that offers free downloadable classroom resources every month delivered right to your inbox! Check it out now!

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