How did you (afford to) decorate your room the first year??

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by Ms.Stephens, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. Ms.Stephens

    Ms.Stephens Rookie

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    I'm working on my Alt-A in Elementary ed and of course love to see the classrooms full of engaging bulletin boards, art supplies, big easels, a class library, and all that great stuff! I spoke with one teacher who said she had to buy everything for her very first classroom, and spent about $1200 - nothing was supplied by the school. I keep thinking about stocking up a little at a time now, but I have no idea what grade level I'll be teaching, so I'm not even sure what supplies would be worthwhile to stock up on! We have some great book sales through our local library and I thought about stocking up on some books for my classroom, but again, I wouldn't know what grade level to buy for.

    I just started the Alt-A program, so I have time to start putting things aside, but like most student teachers, money is tight - I'm a mom of two active kids and only working part-time while I'm in school, so I'm trying to think ahead. Suggestions on how to stock up or where to get free supplies?
     
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  3. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    While I'm sure I ended up spending a bit of money myself, and I've splurged a bit for gifts for students (i.e. free book going into winter break, I really haven't spent much money at all in my two years:

    -- The school had many of the basic supplies (construction paper, large butcher paper, some whiteboard markers, etc...) that I was able to take some of
    -- In connecting with teachers and prior teachers, many donated some book doubles or ones they were getting rid of
    -- I brought in many of my own books from my childhood (I had tons...ha)
    -- Over the course of the two years, I've added many hundreds of books simply from student book orders and carefully using the promotions
    -- We get some money from our PTSA, and so I've used that to buy a handful of supplies (and slightly more as new teachers...speaking of which, I need to spend what I have left :p )
    -- I keep a relatively simple room: I have a few posters with sayings that I had already going into my teaching, I had some punny reading posters from Scholastic, and the rest, I use student work and anchor charts to fill space with. Some parts of the walls are bare at times, which doesn't really affect students...

    Ask other teachers, check with librarians weeding through their books (most are doing that at least yearly), look at "Buy Nothing" groups on Facebook or on craigslist/garage sales, ask relatives/friends (people will often have extra supplies that they aren't using, such as pens!)...
     
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  4. dr.gator

    dr.gator Comrade

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    Remember you don't have to have everything just right the first year.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
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  5. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Exactly. The most important part is the quality of your instruction and your interactions with the students. My principal walked me around my first year a few times and showed me the wide variety of rooms that teachers had, making sure that I knew that the decorations/number of books/posters, etc..., is not the main thing that she focuses on when entering the classroom.
     
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  6. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Most of my classroom decorations are student work!
     
  7. CharRMS

    CharRMS Companion

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    This year was my first year (middle school), and I decorated my room by shopping Dollar Tree and back to school sales. I started buying posters, containers, bulletin board border, etc during student teaching or anytime I found something I liked, and I've continued buying things all year. If and when you find something at DT you like, you might as well go ahead and snatch it up! The Goodwill is also a good place to look for certain items; shopping clearance and sales are a great start. Also, each teacher in our school gets a set amount of money to spend on classroom supplies (markers, coloring pencils, white board markers, stapler, hole punch, pens, etc).

    Quick tips: If you need curtains for larger windows, twin flat sheets work perfectly! :) Use fabric or plastic table cloths for bulletin board backgrounds. Invest in a good stapler; my favorite is Paper Pro.

    I'm looking forward to actually having time to decorate my classroom next year!
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
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  8. AlphB

    AlphB Rookie

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    Go with an "easy" theme. My room is just "colorful" themed! That way, whatever you find doesnt have to fit a fancy "look". I found lots of books really cheap/free on facebook buying and selling sites. Sometimes people donated extra when they found out I was about to be a new teacher! Not knowing the grade makes it harder. I still have a lot of lower books because I wasn't sure what grade I would get (ended up in 3rd) so those are in storage in case I get moved. Use craigslist, used book sales, library sales. I bought a couple shelves used, just plain white ones, because I knew if I didn't have room in my classroom, I'd be able to find another use. I also have flexible seating and collected a lot of used foldable chairs and yoga balls. If you have a graduation party, you can get money from that! As far as true "decorations," I just bought no-fade paper (but could have used school butcher paper) and some pretty borders, letters, and a calendar set. My room came with an alphabet line but I have a crafty friend who made me a new one. The Target dollar spot has some awesome stuff for teachers over summer!
     
  9. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Apr 18, 2016

    Don't forget garage sales that will be coming up too!!!
     
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  10. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Some schools provide many materials or even an allowance to purchase and some provide hardly anything. I agree with jadorelafrance, once you get started, your students can provide much of the decorations; an easy tip is to project bulletin board ideas from teacher manuals onto poster paper for students to trace and color. When you arrive at your school, explore the closet full of unused materials. You'll possibly find much material there. I agree, DT has lots of stuff and so does Wal-Mart. Yard sales are great, and often retired teachers advertise their sales in the paper. If you are elementary, a variety of children's books would be best; you won't be trying to match the perfect reading level in the classroom library, and unusable books can be given to other teachers' libraries. I would caution you to smell the books, check the coloring and freshness of the pages (mold can cause illness), and leaf through the books to search for bugs. (Not to scare you from yard sales, though, because I've stocked up my room that way with wonderful books). The Internet is a good source for children's book lists of worthwhile books. I'd recommend starting and keeping up a file of possible magazine/newspaper clippings you might use. Because I never know for sure what I'll use, I've learned to keep my file as general as possible, a section for each subject, and the main lessons within each subject. I'd begin collecting Styrofoam egg cartons (they have a zillion uses), unused balloons, cereal boxes, and plastic tubs. I'd especially recommend building an Internet file in your favorites section, organized by subject--this will become a major tool, especially if you have an interactive white board in your room. An often overlooked Internet resource is from brand name companies, who often have a children's section on their website. Also, websites other schools have posted are a great Internet resource, especially from other countries. (Be cautious with some 3rd world countries; even their safe websites might overload you with spam). If I might show my age, I'd also recommend being on the lookout for cassette tapes and phonograph records that some schools/libraries might be looking to get rid of. I rescued a $500.00 record player from going into the trash one year. Look for music that might connect with a subject you might be teaching. Also, albums of popular music from the 30's through 50's had such a variety of lyric topics, you will probably find many matches with what you are teaching, (e.g., "Up a Lazy River" for pajama day, "Old Cape Cod" for long/short vowels, "Inchworm" for addition/multiplication/exponents).
     
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  11. artbrarian

    artbrarian Rookie

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    I kind of lucked out. I'm a giraffe fanatic and an art teacher. The school I landed at has a safari theme. So between just saving up artsy decorations over the years all I did was bring my giraffe collection to work!

    As far as supplies go, my only allocation HAS to be spent on class supplies, unlike other teachers that get a class fund to spend on decorations etc. BUT our district has a place called the Media Center where teachers can go make their own posters and laminate them for free using die cuts and things. You can also have things printed for super cheap on an enlarger. A lot of teachers here use it for decorations and personalized class posters and things.
     
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  12. Ms.Stephens

    Ms.Stephens Rookie

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    These are GREAT ideas - thank you SO much!!
     
  13. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    I also bought some wrapping paper from $1 store & use die cut machine at the school (they also had one at the ISD that teacher's could use) to make lettering. I used some like metallic looking paper for the lettering.

    Artbrarian... walgreens will have specials on poster sized photos and things. So that is a GREAT idea.
     
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  14. artbrarian

    artbrarian Rookie

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    Vista print also has sales on their posters and signs a lot so it's another great place to get customized things.
    Also if you know anyone with a Silhouette or Cricut machine, getting things cut or your own vinyl decals for labeling is another thing to do.
     
  15. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Wrapping paper is a great cheap way to cover a bulletin board. If you're lucky, your school will have butcher paper you can use for free. As a new teacher, I think I overbought my first year. I didn't know what grade I was going to teach, and even once I did know, I didn't know what kind of books and supplies I'd need, so I spent money unnecessarily.

    Most of the posters in my room are made by me. The others are from Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree has a lot of really good stuff, and even buying two two-packs of posters ($2 total) plus a couple of packs of decorations ($2-$5) will be enough to make your room look not totally bare. If you want a theme, the seasonal section always has some cute stuff. Right now, they've got a lot of luau and tropical decorations, which I think are really cute.

    Also, I check all the store ads for the summer. If you can shop around, you can find sales for really cheap supplies, like pencil packs for $0.10 and crayon packs for $0.25, deals that are meant to just get you into the store. Stock up on those things, and you'll have a decent amount of supplies to get you started.

    Books are the one thing I did not have enough of, and I'm still working on building my book collection. When you know what grade you're teaching, thrift stores, garage sales, and library sales are great places to get books. Also, Scholastic Book Club orders give you points for every order you submit for students, and you can use those points to buy books too.

    This post is longer than intended... I'm kind of a supply-a-holic! Good luck.
     
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  16. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    I wish I could give you my simplicity - I'm finding it hard to figure out how to spend the $350ish that I think I have left to spend before the end of next month!
     
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  17. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I'm trying to simplify too! But that money sure would be nice.
     
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  18. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I painted my bulletin boards with left over paint from my house. The first day, I had my students make the border, then the next day they drew pictures about themselves and wrote sentences about themselves. I covered the bulletin one board with those. I have used some random things for border before, including: strips of pages from a dollar dictionary from target, green construction paper on the bottom shredded to look like grass, paper with cotton glued on to look like clouds, brown paper bags, newspaper, colored duct tape left over from a project at home, etc. I'd make the kids decorate everything! When we started a new unit in a subject, I'd give them a related assignment on a strip of paper then put them together to make the border. For example, when we started reading "How to Eat Fried Worms" as our read aloud, they painted big Popsicle sticks to look like worms (painted in patterns to reinforce math skills) as a center activity. Instant border! When we were doing Lemony Snicket as a read-aloud, they used sidewalk chalk on strips of black paper to draw eyes. Another easy border!
     
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  19. Ms.Stephens

    Ms.Stephens Rookie

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    This post is longer than intended... I'm kind of a supply-a-holic! Good luck.[/QUOTE]

    By all means, go long!! :)
     
  20. ChildWhisperer

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    I love the teacher section at Dollar Tree! I've gotten a lot of stuff from there, including word strips, name cards, the entire alphabet, and a number line (1-25)
    And the dollar section at Target sometimes has great teacher stuff too (last year I bought our weather stuff there! It came with 2 mini posters that said "today's weather is" and "tomorrow's weather will be", and a bunch of weather words (sunny, rainy, windy, etc) that I laminated and attached velcro to.)
    I also go to Big Lots a lot. The only stuff I bought from an actual teacher store was the calendar & rules poster.
    ALSO, check out forteachersonly.com
    I've gotten a lot of stuff from there too, but they have messed up some orders so you have to be on top of them for fixing any problems (order a couple months in advance so there is time for them to fix any mistakes. Last year, I ordered personalized pencils for all my kids and they left one out. They also messed up the names on the class roster rulers. They sent me the missing pencils but then the 2nd batch of rulers were identical to the first so they pretty much sent me 51 rulers and I only needed 17 (they got it right on the 3rd try))
     
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  21. Ms.Stephens

    Ms.Stephens Rookie

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    Thank you all! I love these ideas!!
     
  22. NewTeacher2016

    NewTeacher2016 Companion

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    .
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  23. CharRMS

    CharRMS Companion

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    It depends. My school gives teachers a set amount to help buy supplies for the classroom. You should ask your principal or bookkeeper to see what is available and the policy on spending the money.
     
  24. cocobean

    cocobean Companion

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    This will be my first year teaching. I was lucky to receive school supplies /decor from friends and family when I completed student teaching. I have purchased decorations, book bins, etc. from dollar tree, target's dollar spot, and a nearby teacher store (used a gift card there ;)). I have most of what I need now and haven't spent more than $80!
     
  25. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    If you don't want to purchase them on your own, I'd wait to buy the posters until you can go through the proper channels.
     
  26. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Just keep in mind that if the school reimburses the expense, it's possible / highly possible that they will then own it, and if you moved schools, you may be required to leave it behind.
     
  27. TnKinder

    TnKinder Companion

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    Our district gives teachers $200 each year to buy for the classroom. This includes everything from educational games to decorations. My first year they gave us $50, that didn't go very far. Be on the look out for teachers who get rid of things during in service week. There are always teachers who change themes, or redecorate for the new school year. Usually there is a freebie table somewhere in the building.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2016
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  28. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    This! I keep finding things each year. Last year, I added a small square "frame"-shaped thing that has 100ish quotes all over it that are highly inspirational, as well as a blue circular chair my kids fought over last year. There's always something! :)
     
  29. ckoehler

    ckoehler New Member

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    I started collecting things about a year before I graduated. I shopped at garage sales during the summer and made connections with some other teachers at my aunt's school. They donated their hand me downs to me lol! Now that I have accepted my first position and I know what grade I will be teaching, I can focus in on the specific things I will need. Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot have been AMAZING. I am doing a "bright colors" theme so that I have more flexibility with what I can decorate with. I print and laminate my own posters from TPT or Pinterest. Goodwill and garage sales are awesome for books. Luckily for me, there is a local "teachers swap/buy, sell, trade" page on Facebook that has been wonderful. It is hard to know what you will have to work with until you land your first job. Most of the time, the bare bones will be there. You will have furniture and a lot of your basics. It is easy to get caught up in making your room "cute" but your instruction is what is important! I have splurged on extra science supplies and math manipulatives because my school is very lacking in that area and I am a very hands-on teacher. Hope this helps!
     
  30. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Many of the links in the Free Resources thread are to free posters, etc. I don't believe in paying for what I can get someone to send me for free. Just a thought.
     
  31. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    The best advice I can give you is to purchase a pack of Mr. Sketch Markers and make your own anchor charts/posters. I'm sure your supply closet at school will have large easel pads (chart paper).

    Secondly, I would not purchase bulletin board border from Dollar Tree. In my humble opinion, it's far too short; therefore, you end up using a TON of staples. I would buy border from the local teacher supply store or go to Hobby Lobby and purchase some ribbon or burlap and use that as a border! I used burlap for the bulletin boards in my office and it looks really nice.
     
  32. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Also, with the borders, use the whole strips when possible and avoid cutting them: just layer them on top of each other to overlap as much as needed. It's a small thing, but will save you down the line in needing to get new borders, and thus free up money elsewhere!
     
  33. ckoehler

    ckoehler New Member

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    Oh, I only download free stuff from TPT unless I really really love it ;)
     

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