It’s your first year as a high school English teacher. Congratulations! This is an exciting time–but you might also be anxious. There are so many unknowns and so much to prepare for! In this post, I will share first-year English teacher must-haves, so you can prepare (without wasting money or time on unnecessary materials!).
Not sure what else you need? Check out these preparations you need to make for any class you’re teaching for the first time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.
Before You Buy A Single Supply
I’m going to present a list of materials and supplies that you’ll no doubt find incredibly helpful to have during your first year of teaching.
But that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy them all!
You do not (and should not!) spend all of your own money on teaching supplies. In fact, I encourage you to spend as little as possible. Some purchases may be unavoidable, but spending hundreds of dollars your first year sets a bad precedent–and establishes bad habits.
Instead, first, ask your school to provide the supplies you need. Ask what they provide. Some schools provide a lot while others provide a little. You may have to fill out a request to get anything.
Some schools even have a fund for every teacher to use to get supplies–you’ll want to know about this before you go shopping with your own money!
You can even ask your new colleagues. They probably have old classroom posters, books, furniture, or games that they’ve upgraded and now need to get rid of.
Once you’ve exhausted your school’s resources, try social media. Lots of your friends will be happy to donate funds or supplies to a teacher just starting out. It might feel a little awkward, but remember–people are really giving to your students, not you.
Lastly, where you can get thrifty. First, literally–check thrift shops for classroom books or decor.
Then, watch for back-to-school sales, places with teacher discounts, and even yard sales. Remember to price compare with online sites like Amazon, and that buying some things in bulk can save you a ton over the years.
First-Year English Teacher Must-haves #1: The Lit Teacher Series
Before you can begin worrying about the supplies you’ll need, it’s best to get a big picture of your curriculum, teaching practices, and daily procedures.
That’s where The Lit Teacher Series comes in.
It’s my completely FREE 7-day email series designed to help English teachers get ready for their first year. Each day, you’ll receive an email with advice, a freebie, and a small task to help you prep. Each day focuses on a different topic, like what to discuss with your mentor teacher and classroom management procedures.
Going through the tasks presented in each email will give you a better idea of what you’ll need to tailor your classroom to your teaching style.
First-Year English Teacher Must-haves #2: A Curriculum
You might be walking into a school in which every day is already prescribed for you. Some districts have really strict curriculums–down to exactly what lesson you’ll need to teach each day.
Other schools might have nothing to give you. In my first year, I was given absolutely no curriculum or syllabus–just told to figure it out and have fun. There wasn’t even a textbook or anthology.
You don’t need to have a whole year’s worth of curriculum mapped out, but knowing what texts you’ll be teaching or at least how you’re going to start the year can help. (Not sure where to start? No curriculum? Here are my recommendations for what to teach in September.)
If possible, ask about your curriculum. Find out what grades you’ll be teaching. If there’s an activity you know you want to do that requires specific supplies, add them to the list of supplies you’ll need.
If you need your school to order books, get that request in ASAP! It takes forever for districts to approve the use of funds, even for books, and the sooner you get that order in the better.
First-Year English Teacher Must-haves #3: Bulletin Board Supplies
Oddly, one of the most stressful preparations I had to make for my first year of teaching was figuring out how to decorate it. I had four blank walls and not a single poster to my name.
Hitting a teacher store and spending a ton on posters and bulletin board borders sucked (not to mention the closest one was an hour’s drive away). There’s a better way.
If you can, get into your classroom and measure your bulletin boards. That way, you won’t over-buy decorations.
Your school probably has those huge rolls of colored paper you can use for free, but I’m going to encourage you to skip the paper for your bulletin board. Instead, use fabric as bulletin board backing.
This will cost a little extra upfront, but it will last all year. Never in my teaching career did I replace the backing of a bulletin board during the year because I always used fabric.
Head to your local fabric store and check the scrap bins. You might luck out and find a scrap big enough for one or several of your bulletin boards. Otherwise, use coupons and sales to get fabric for cheap.
You’ll also need bulletin board borders and probably some letters. Check the dollar store for cheaper options, but buying online can also be great. If your school has a Cricut or someone who cuts and laminates for you, you can also print letters at your school.
Don’t stress about what to put on your boards. You can always decorate them with student work!
First-Year English Teacher Must-haves #4: Essential Classroom Supplies
Here is a list of supplies you’ll want to make sure you have before the school year begins. I recommend hitting the dollar store and the Target dollar spot for finding some of these items on the cheap.
- Post-its: trust me, you can never have enough
- Pencils and Pens: even if your school provides some, you’ll be shocked by how quickly your students go through these; take whatever your school gives you and then buy more
- Binder Clips: super helpful for keeping stacks of papers organized
- Good pens in multiple colors: don’t let the students touch these and keep them for grading
- Manila Folders: you’ll need these to stay organized; use them to keep papers in your filing cabinet or even as student folders in classroom bins
- Organizational Supplies: At the least, I recommend having a “turn-it in” bin, a pencil holder, enough stackable trays so you have one for each class, and a drawer organizer for your desk
- An Electric Pencil Sharpener: if you have a mechanical pencil sharpener in your room, I promise your students won’t understand how to operate it, it will break, you will have pencil shavings everywhere, and lots of class time will be wasted sharpening pencils
- Clipboard: make sure you have at least one for yourself (handy for taking attendance outside during fire drills), but work towards building a class set so your students can work outside on nice days or write while moving around the room
- Chalk or Expo Markers and eraser: make sure you have what you need to use your chalkboard or whiteboard (if you have a chalkboard, I HIGHLY recommend chalk markers for anything you want to leave up for longer than a day)
- Highlighters: you’ll need a few for you but if you can get enough for all of your students to use, this will open up some more activities for your students; this may be a supply your school will provide
- Stapler and Staples: your school should provide you with one, but make sure you have at least one before school starts
- Three-hole Punch: even if your students don’t keep binders, these come in handy from time to time; this is another supply your school should be able to give you
First-Year English Teacher Must-haves #5: Calendar or Lesson-planning Document
While I don’t believe that you need a minute-by-minute lesson plan for every day of the week, you’ll certainly need a space to plan your teaching calendar.
It’s going to be very, very tempting to buy a cute and expensive teacher planner (I see you, Erin Condren!). But don’t.
Your goal, after all, is to actually make money teaching during your first year.
And pretty pages don’t make for better lessons.
Instead, hit up Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Target for a date book you like. Make sure it has lots of space to write notes for individual weekdays.
Alternatively, you could keep your planning notes on a digital document. I used a Google Sheets spreadsheet made by a co-worker that I loved. There was a tab for each month. Each day consisted of three cells: one for the warm-up, one for the lesson, and one for the lesson closing.
A digital planner is much easier to use if you need to make a lot of changes. Plus, you can include links to lessons or videos you’ll need that day.
You’ll find a free, basic monthly planning page as part of The Lit Teacher Series when you sign up, too.
It’s tempting to rack up a ton of credit card debt prepping for your first year. But try to restrain yourself. Shake down your new school, and ask new colleagues for any supplies they’d like to get rid of.
Focus on acquiring the basics and don’t worry about making everything “cute” right away. You can slowly upgrade supplies as you work your way through your career. Better to make an Amazon order a few weeks into the school year than to buy too much and struggle to pay your bills.