Community Materials vs. Individual Supply Boxes

Back-to-School Supply Dilemma 


Over the years I have been asked dozens of times: “Should I require my students to have individual supply boxes where they keep their own supplies or should I place community supplies where each group or table can share?” I have used these two systems and many in-between. By far, I recommend using community supplies for students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Here’s why:

Top 5 Reasons to Use Community Supplies vs Individual Supply Boxes


1. Productive: Having community supplies cuts down on waste. If a child does not have a notebook to draw on, rip up, stuff in his desk, make paper airplanes with, etc., then it isn’t wasted. Tools turn into toys when left in that desk cubby. (More on management techniques in the next post.)

2. Sanity: Community supplies keep students from arguing. No more, “That’s MY pencil!” “She took MY crayon!” “That’s MINE give it back!” “Ms. Paul he’s using MY scissors!” Etc. etc. etc. The supplies are OURS.

3. Money: Community supplies save money. It will save you, the teacher, from having to go out and buy more supplies and it will save parents from having to replace lost pencils, crayons, scissors, paper, and dried up glue. At one point in my career, I had a standard form that I would send home at the end of the week for each child who needed more supplies. I had parents write their child’s name on every single pencil and marker. There had to be a better way, right?

4. Time: Lost time is time lost learning. If everything is right at their fingertips, students don’t waste time digging in their desks, crawling around on the floor looking for lost items, or accusing their neighbor of stealing.

5. Community: Sharing supplies teaches and reinforces the classroom as a community, family, tribe, or whatever you teach your class. The supplies are not “mine,” they are “ours.”

community supplies

In conclusion: Use community supplies!

You will never want to go back to kids digging in their desks for their pencil boxes. You will have less stress, I promise! Anywhere we can cut out a bit of stress, we should. Right?

Next: How to manage community supplies, what to say to parents, and ways to teach students how to share.

Feel free to leave comments or questions below. I will address any questions in my next post. You can always email me at

If you need labels for your supplies, click the picture to check these out.

community supplies
community supplies


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