In my first couple of years teaching fourth grade, I was surprised by how much my students argued about who owned which supplies. “Nicole, can I borrow your black marker?” Carradine would ask. “No. My mom bought these for me.” Carradine would push, “But you’re letting Rachel use your markers.” Nicole would shrug, and Rachel would reach over and take the black marker.
Of course, we had an ample supply of markers (and other materials) in the room, but the ones from home often seemed especially desirable. And the “private” materials presented other challenges: Some students would have better supplies than others; some would loan materials to their best friends only. Someone would accidentally break a friend’s ruler, and an argument would ensue about who should replace it.
Finally, a colleague suggested having community supplies only. Students would bring in supplies from home only if they were willing to donate them to the class for everyone to share. Instead of getting a list of required supplies to purchase for their child, families would receive a list of supplies they could purchase for the class if they wanted to. All supplies would be kept in community bins for everyone to use, and everyone would have access to the same supplies for their work. If students had special supplies they didn’t want everyone to use, those would stay at home for project work done there.
Q&A with Margaret Berry Wilson
What classroom supplies are especially important for the grade you teach?
Teaching second grade will require you to think about erasers. The first year I taught second grade, the students and I were all frustrated because they were using cheap pencil-tip erasers on cheap paper, so they often made holes in their work, a crisis for students who tend toward perfectionism. I tried to convince them that instead of erasing, they could just mark through mistakes, but because cross-outs looked messy, many felt compelled to start over each time they made a mistake.
Over time, I learned that second graders can barely function without erasing. But what about the hole-in-the-paper problem? Some solutions I came upon:
- Provide high-quality erasers instead of pencil-tip erasers. (Look for ones that are thick and rectangular, with some softness and flexibility.)
- Use regular 20-pound paper—the kind you’d use to print computer documents—instead of cheap newsprint.
- Take time to teach students how to erase properly. Interactive modeling is a great way to teach this. (For an overview of interactive modeling, see “Behavior Challenges in the Homestretch? Interactive Modeling Can Help” in our April 2010 newsletter.)