Essential Back to School Supplies for the ESL Classroom

Essential Back to School Supplies for the ESL Classroom

Claudia Pesce
by Claudia Pesce 54,045 views

The success of your ESL class depends on a great, little recipe: generous scoops of experience, a pinch of creativity, and a few handfuls of supplies and resources. Combine these ingredients and you'll have engaging ESL lessons every time.

While the experience and creativity are entirely up to you, we can help you out by compiling a very useful list of supplies that will ensure you have everything you need to get the year off on the right foot.

On-the-go Essential Back To School Supplies

Here are our recommendations for things you can easily keep in a pencil case or box. We recommend a plastic see-through pencil case; you’ll find things much faster, and make sure it’s big enough to hold all of these teaching essentials, but small enough to carry with you everywhere you go.

  1. A mechanical pencil: For constant clear, fine writing, with no sharpening required.
  2. A black or blue ballpoint pen: Keep in mind that black is better when you make copies.
  3. A green pen: Did you know that corrections made in green are a lot "friendlier" and more encouraging to students than those in red? Moreover, papers that are covered in red corrections may have a negative effect on students’ self-confidence.
  4. A couple of colored markers: For labeling, posters, index cards, etc...
  5. A permanent marker: To write your name or initials on all of your personal items.
  6. A small stapler: In case the one in your classroom runs out of staples or is missing.
  7. An eraser or two
  8. A few paper clips in different sizes
  9. Correction fluid or pen
  10. A couple of rubber bands
  11. A highlighter (in any color)
  12. A pad of small Post-its
  13. A box cutter: This is a tremendously useful item for cutting thick cardboard (keep this away from kids!)
  14. A ruler
  15. A pair of scissors

Must-have Teaching Supplies

These are the items you should keep somewhere in your classroom or in a box or locker if you happen to share rooms with other teachers. Although some of these should be supplied by the school, you should have your own just in case; you don’t want the great lesson you’ve planned to be ruined just because an essential item has gone missing, or worse yet, waste precious class time searching the school to track it down.

  1. A box or colored chalk (if you have a chalkboard)
  2. An assortment of whiteboard markers (if you have a whiteboard)
  3. A chalkboard or whiteboard eraser
  4. A pack of 3x5 index cards
  5. Adhesive labels in different sizes
  6. A rag, dishtowel, sponge, or roll of paper towels: For spills and cleanups.
  7. Clorox or Lysol wipes: To disinfect items, toys, or desktops; use baby wipes to cleanup sticky fingers.
  8. An assortment of cardboard: Big and small pieces, thick or thin, you always need some to make cards, games, posters, etc.
  9. Poster board in different colors
  10. Clear contact paper: A great, inexpensive way to laminate cards or game boards.
  11. An assignment book: Or calendar, whatever you prefer to use to keep track of tasks, assignments, and tests.
  12. Paper bags
  13. Ziploc bags
  14. A bell: For classroom management or games.
  15. An egg timer: Great for games and activities.
  16. Envelopes: To send out notes to parents, invitations to events, etc...
  17. Dice: Try to have more than one set, and in different sizes (the younger your students are, the bigger the dice).
  18. An assortment of paper items: Paper cups and plates, sheets of paper, and scrap paper in a variety of colors and sizes.
  19. Craft items: As many as you like or you think you'll need, like sticks, pipe cleaners, Styrofoam balls, playdough, or watercolors. Although yours is not an art class, an art project every now and then is always fun for students, particularly little ones.
  20. Play money: A great item for games and to teach numbers in English.
  21. Rubber stamps
  22. Yarn or string
  23. An assortment of flashcards
  24. Storybooks in English
  25. CD’s : Children’s songs, stories, etc…

Student Supplies

These are things students should have in their own pencil boxes, but may not have for any particular reason: some items get lost; they may run out; they may even forget their entire pencil case at home.
Make sure you have these items safely stored in the classroom for these cases.

  1. An assortment of colored crayons, markers, and pencils
  2. A few number 2 pencils
  3. A few black or blue ballpoint pens
  4. Loose-leaf paper
  5. Glue
  6. A couple of extra scissors


Suggested Realia for the Classroom

Never underestimate the power of teaching English through real objects, particularly for kinesthetic learners, but any type of learner will have fun learning if you stock up on these items:

  1. A real or toy clock with movable hands: To teach time, of course.
  2. A play tea set or assortment of plastic dishes, cups, glasses, tableware, etc…: To practice offering, ordering, serving food and drinks.
  3. A variety of balls and bean bags in different sizes
  4. An assortment of small toys: Planes, cars, trucks, trains, animals, dolls, etc…
  5. Real city maps: To practice asking for and giving directions.
  6. Items of clothing
  7. Toy phones or cell phones: For telephone conversations.
  8. Holiday items: Halloween Jack O'Lantern or pumpkin; Thanksgiving items; Christmas decorations.
  9. Plastic foods, fruits, and vegetables

Keep in mind that realia may be used for both children and adult learners. For adults, there are tons of real life items you may use in class, from bus tickets to checks, job applications to airline tickets, etc.

Naturally, some of the items above may be purchased and supplied by the school, but make sure you have everything you need. Also, remember that if you need to buy some of these supplies yourself, you can get a group of teachers together and buy teacher supplies in bulk for important discounts. The variety of items largely depends on your students’ ages and the types of activities you’ll have.

Have we missed any essential supplies? Feel free to tell us in the comments below!

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.

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