Classroom Luxury Supplies

After many years in the classroom, I have been able to justify buying a few luxury classroom supplies.  Many times I made money for my classroom working our carnival booth.  I wanted to buy something that justified a full day of teaching with carnival excited kids  In addition to the 4 hours I put in at the carnival on a Friday night selling popcorn and cleaning the popcorn machine. Seriously, what office job makes you work all day and then spend your Friday night working to buy supplies.  Only a teacher would do that!

Electronic Stapler

Okay, I am the teacher who feels that 5th graders should staple their own papers!  To my demise, and through a lot of work trying to fix jammed staplers and sometimes throwing them away, I found that 5th graders had to be taught how to staple.  They didn’t have enough strength to push down on the stapler the first time, and then they would press harder the second time and jam the stapler!  I went through so many staplers over the years and would constantly take them home to fix them.  This all changed when I bought an electric stapler.  I have only had one jam, with this stapler and it was easy to fix.  

EcoElectronic Stapler

This stapler can handle up to 25 sheets of paper. I really like this stapler because you can adjust the depth of the staple. If we are doing flip books I can easily adjust it so the staple doesn’t cover information that needs to be viewed. The best thing about this stapler is no more jams!

Stapler Remover

It is time teachers to stop buying those cheap plastic stapler removers that bend out of shape and fling staples all over the place when you are tearing apart your bulletin boards. It is time to buy the ultimate heavy duty stapler remover. No more achy hands, this is ergonomic and uses leverage to get those difficult staples out. This one is going to last for years! All the teachers come over to borrow mine.

Magnet Wand

I originally bought this to pick up pins from my sewing room.  It eventually made its way to my classroom.  After I am done removing staples or doing a science project using paper clips I break out the telescoping magnet wand.  The students actually fight over this job.  No more asking the kids to find staples in the carpet.

Heavy Duty Hole Punch

I can’t tell you how many times I had copies I made and forgot to hole punch them, or didn’t have time in the teacher workroom. It is so nice to quickly hole punch a classroom set of copies in one punch. This one is a true luxury that is also easy for the students to use.

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State Report: Conclusion

The students should be comfortable with the process quickly after the first few days.  Make sure that the students are storing all of their completed papers in their folder.  Grade as they complete each section.   An example of my grading sheet after the first few days looks like the below photograph.

State Grade Report Example

If a student is falling behind, I highlight the box.  I will usually talk with those students and give them a deadline to finish so they aren’t falling farther behind as the work adds up.   It also gives me an idea of how the student manages their time.  During this project, my students sit around the room and this can be a problem where they are just having fun with friends.  If they are falling behind they have to return to their seat or one that is close to me until they catch up. 

Fast Finishers

There will also be those students that are completing their project quickly.  These students may finish up to a week ahead of the other students.  I usually allow these students to make a Powerpoint presentation of their state.  I always like my students to present their states to the class and this just adds to their presentations.  They have a great time getting photographs to describe their state and creating transitions with music.  The students who usually get done the fastest love the creativity and freedom of making the Powerpoint and it truly amazes the group when they present.


I hope this State Report Blog series helps you create a great research experience for you and your students.  I have a store at Teachers Pay Teachers-  Learning in an Hour.  Please visit me and leave any comments.

State Report: Part 6 – The First Day of Research

The First Day of Working

The students have their assigned state, their books or computers and they are ready to begin. I first explain my expectations and show examples of good and poor quality work.  If this is your first year doing the reports, ask students if they wouldn’t mind leaving their reports behind when they are done. This way you have examples for next year. Some will always donate for the next year.  Take the good and bad examples. Sometimes the bad examples are the best.

I try to not spend a lot of time describing the entire project because it can be overwhelming for the students and you will be asked a million questions that are irrelevant.  I start with 1 page at a time.  I never give my students all the papers for the project at once because they get lost and everyone will start on a different page.  It is also daunting to be handed 12 sheets of research on your first research project. 

The first day I always start with the cover page.  I go over the directions and they can color.  The goal is to be done within the hour. 

Arizona State Cover Page

The only way to manage so many questions and so many interruptions is to have students sign up to meet with you.  I advise that they need to sign up on the board and wait until it is their turn.  Students will inevitably interrupt you with other students and just come up to your desk.  Be strong, and tell them they need to sign up at the board and wait their turn.  This will help you focus on the student you are working with and not constant interruptions.

As the students complete each page, review the directions and log their grade on your grading sheet.

State Reports: Part 5 – The Time Plan

The Plan

Time Needed: I try to estimate the time needed for a State Report by how many pages of research that needs to be completed. I plan 60 minutes for each page. To map out your project, take the number of pages of research and multiply it by 60 minutes That is how I plan the days needed to dedicate to the project.

In the beginning, I give a little extra time to get started and work out the procedures such as signing into the computer and how to find the information they are looking for.

My favorite book to use for this project is the America the Beautiful series. Our school library has a set of these books for every state. Once we assign the state, the students check out their book. They still need some access to the Internet at times, but this limits the need for computers.

To manage deadlines, I highlight the grading sheet if a student has had more than 2 hours to work on something, I start reminding them that they need to finish an assignment.  I highlight the students left on my grading sheet so I can keep track if they were late turning in an assignment.

Next Post: The First Day of Research and Managment

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State Report: Part 4 -Assign States

Assigning States

One thing I have learned over 13 years of doing state reports is to draw states randomly.  This is a very exciting day and the students look forward to picking their state.   I really preface that before picking states that we are trying to do research on a state that you may be unfamiliar.

State Drawing Slips- Included in 50 State Report Bundle

Occasionally, I will have the student that is going to pout, because they didn’t get the state they wanted.  They will usually recover. Although, if you have that special student who will make everyone miserable because they didn’t get the state they wanted, there are options. Pick your battles, if they can’t calm down you can:

  • Do a trade- tell the class, “if you don’t like your state go to the back of the room, and you may trade with those in the back of the room and no one else that is seated.”  I have only had this happen twice when I knew a student was going to ruin the whole month for the rest of the class.   
  • Let them draw another state after school, or when the other students aren’t noticing. This will eliminate everyone wanting to draw again.

Most students want a familiar state, I was born…, my parents are from…., etc…  Disappointment is always around after drawing states, but after State Day I always ask if they liked the state, and I have never had a student say, “No”.  They are proud of what they learned and typically want to visit the state in the future. 

Time-Saving Tip:  Have a fast finisher or your teacher assistant cut the states out for the drawing and fold in half.  After the student draws their state and you have recorded the state, collect the slips of paper and keep it in a sealed bag for next year.

Don’t Forget – If sharing copies with your partner teacher hand the remaining states next door for them to draw.  You don’t want duplicates, because you only have the 50 copies.

State Reports: Part 3- Storage

Storage for the State Research Papers

I use folders to store all the student’s in progress work. Red or blue are good colors because you can easily see if they are put in desks or left somewhere in the classroom.  I have my students turn them in at the end of their research time in a file sorter.  With the file sorter you can quickly see that Student #3 didn’t turn in their folder in the picture above. I don’t let them go home or get stuffed in a desk.  I have the person who is assigned as the teachers assistant check at the end of the period if all of the folders are filed.

I learned quickly to keep all of the work in the classroom. During my first few years I thought students would be responsible and all of the following occurred:

  • “I can’t find my folder!”- This causes more frustration the next day when they can’t find it, and you have to tear apart a desk while the rest of the class needs you.
  • “I took it home by accident.”  and it never returns. – This ends up being your time punishment because that is 20 more minutes you end up printing and making custom copies for one student.
  • “I took it home and couldn’t stop.”-  Now this student is done with everything and then have nothing to do but bother their friends and ask for free time on the computer. 
  • “I took it home and my parents helped me.”- We want the students to learn how to research and finish a big project. I had a student that her parents did her board and it looked so superior to the others that this caused tensions among the other parents on State Day. 

To prevent any of the above situations it is much easier to collect and store the work on any large project.

Coming Up Next: State Reports Part 4 Assigning States

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State Report: Part 2 -Prep


To prepare for the project I start by making the necessary copies. I usually have 25 students. I partner with another teacher and they do the other 25 states.

Time-Saving Tip:  Print everything and share with your partner teacher.  If you don’t have a partner, and you know you are going to do this next year; just keep the other states for next year.  Just make sure to keep the undrawn state papers separated, so the next year’s students only draw the states you have printed.  


If you are using my 50 State Bundle, I have set up the files so you only have to print once. Print the following:

  • Print the PDF- 50 State Report Cover Pages
  • Print the PDF- 50 State Report Physical Maps
  • Print 1 State Report Research Topics (Make 50 Copies)
  • Print 1 State Expansion Research Papers (Make 50 Copies)
  • Print Choice of Rubrics (Make 50 Copies)

If you are in 4th grade and doing one state, print once, and then make enough copies for your class, of the topics you would like them to research.

In order to keep all of my copies organized I use this basket.  You can flip the paper both directions to keep papers organized, have easy access, and there are no folded corners.

Sterilite Large Basket 17×13

Grade As the Students Finish Each Section

If you are using my State Research Report from Teachers Pay Teachers then open the “State Report Grade Book” from the files. This will help to manage the grading while the students are finishing each page. Fill out the grading worksheet with your student’s names. I also include the state they are assigned. The spreadsheet is editable. It is easy to copy from your online grade book roster and paste the names into the Excel program. Just print, and as the students complete each page of research, grade them and keep this as a record to enter in the online grade book. This will also give you an idea of research progress and if students are not managing their time.

Look for Part 3 coming soon discussing how to assign and manage a State Report project.

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State Report Series: Part 1 Overview


For the majority of my 5th grade students, this will be their first exposure to a large-scale research project.  It is a momentous task for the teacher to manage 25 different projects, be available for one on one help while ensuring that no one falls down the rabbit hole of time.  Parents are excited to see their child’s work on State Day and an unfinished project can lead to hurt feelings.

It takes about a month to complete everything prior to State Day.  Parents are invited to the gym on a Friday morning for a few hours and the students run their state booth.  Most students bring food from their state and dress up in state-related clothes and other grades are invited to view and eat their way through the United States.  It is a popular event for the school.  In the afternoon, my students present their reports to the class.  It is a great day, but it can be an incredible undertaking.  Even if you are not going to the extreme of a State Day, I hope these tips will help you and your students have a positive experience. 

For this series, I will be using my 50 State Report Bundle but you can use any packet that you have.

50 State Report

Snowman Craft with Buddy Classroom

My 5th-grade students just love visiting our kindergarten buddy class.  January is the perfect time to complete this snowman craft on TPT.  The kindergartners are ready to write a simple poem, practice cutting simple shapes, and learn how to use the appropriate amount of glue.  This is easy when they have an intermediate classmate to help them. 

Snowman Craft Versions for Every Grade

Preview Craft with Intermediate Grades

Whenever we visit another class to complete a craft, we first complete the craft in our class.  I like to have an older version for my students to create.  In the case of the Snowman craft I had my students complete all the same artwork, but their acrostic poem was more difficult.

Prepare the Kindergartners/ Primary Class

I asked the kindergarten teacher to read a story about snow and building a snowman.  This can be challenging in Arizona because most of the students do not have any frame of reference about snow.  The kindergarten teacher told me that it was difficult to explain all the words that refer to snow such as “drift” and to explain that school can be cancelled due to snow. She thanked me for providing such a good lesson to talk about new vocabulary words.

Day of the Craft

I have my students walk into their buddy class with the supplies to complete the craft.  That way there is no downtime and we get to work right away.  My students arrived with glue, construction paper, and the handouts.  They taught their kindergarten student one on one explaining they were making a poem and a craft.  Do be prepared to not have the same number of students.  In this case, my students doubled up to help.  We were done in about an hour with photos and clean up complete.

How to Have an Amazing Classroom without Overspending

Photo by salvatore ventura on Unsplash

When I envisioned my first classroom I saw amazing bulletin boards, neatly organized bookshelves, and a colorful theme throughout. Of course, as a new teacher I spent my summer shopping on decor that would make my classroom amazing and would impress my students and their families at Meet the Teacher night.  Looking back, I realized that I spent too much of my summer on shopping and I overspent.  One thing that made me realize that I had spent too much money was when I was desperately waiting for my first paycheck to pay for my classroom!

I probably would have continued to overspend during my career as a teacher, but a life event changed everything.   During my first year of teaching the recession began and the business my husband worked at closed.   My hobby job became our only source of income! It really brought me to the reality of how much money I was spending on my classroom.

The following year, I had to really think about what was important for my classroom. I tried to reuse as many things that I possibly could. The only thing I bought for my classroom that second year was classroom name tags. My budget truly was zero dollars.  It was so hard because in our profession you are judged and rated by your classroom.

Take Inventory and Make a List

At the end of the school year take an inventory of your classroom.  I know you want to run out of your room in elation, but take some time to look around because it will save you time and money.

Photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash

Library – Remove damaged books and ones that you never see anyone reading. Dispose of the ones that are damaged and donate the books to other classrooms or a donation center. Ideas to replenish books:

  • Advertise in your weekly class newsletter that you take used books for your library
  • Go to thrift stores and buy inexpensive books- The most used books in my class are picture books that have a lot of subjects and are non-fiction.
  • Go to second-hand book stores on their discount day.
  • Review Craigslist and OfferUp at the end of the school year when everyone is cleaning out their school supplies.

Office Supplies

Office supplies- Take inventory of glue, tape, pencils, paper, etc.

  • Order them through the school supply warehouse if you can.
  • Write your dream list of supplies. That way on the first week back to school you can notify parents of what you need for your classroom.  Many times, I get my class list a week before school starts and I send a Welcome Email with a wish list of items that are needed for the classroom. Parents are more giving at the beginning of the year because most have planned a budget for those items.
  • I also send a wish list around the holidays with items such as tissues and pencils.

Creative Teaching Woodland Press

  • Decorations- Look at the poster paper, borders, and classroom décor. If they are in good condition keep them.
    • If you want to update them go to the discount store or Amazon and buy them right after school the school year ends because prices are cheaper.
    • If you need posters, visit retiring teachers and online sites such as Craigslist and Offer Up for teachers who are selling their items.
    • If in a pinch and you need to cover those walls on the cheap, there is always the Dollar Tree Teacher section.  Although I have found that these items may be cheap, and they do not stand the test of time.

Now that you have a list of what you need it is time to shop.  Before I buy anything for my classroom I ask myself these questions:

  • Can I use it for many years and varied grade levels?
  • Is it useful for the students and will it maximize learning?
  • Will it save me or my students time?
  • Will it reduce my workload?

If I can answer yes to any of these items and it is the best price I can find, then I make the purchase.  My goal is to be ready when I close my classroom.  It saves me a lot of time and energy that first week back from running to the teacher store and impulse buying when prices are at their highest.  I hope this helps you to save money and remember to always keep your receipts for reimbursement by PTO, if your school offers it, and for a tax deduction.

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