New special education teachers need to stock up their classrooms. If you or a loved one is just starting out a career in special education, here are some of the things you might need. This is is the top 20 things I found I needed most in my classroom for both me and my students to be successful. The items listed contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase I might make a commission from the sale at no extra cost to you. Your purchase helps support this site.
1. Personal Laminator
Special education teachers make lots of visuals. You’re not going to want to recreate things over and over. A personal laminator will save your sanity. I have an older model of a Scotch laminator that has been with me for about 10 years now. Best thing ever. While I can’t find my current laminator, I did find another one by Scotch with a ton of great reviews.
2. Laminating Sheets
If you have a laminator, you’ll need laminating sheets. They go faster than you think they will. Make sure the sheets you get are the right size for your machine and project. Laminating sheets usually come in 3mm and 5mm widths. If you want your project to be extra sturdy, go with the thicker size. I use Scotch brand laminating sheets in my machine.
3. Velcro Dots
Making picture schedules is so much easier when you buy Velcro dots instead of cutting squares from strips of Velcro. I can’t tell you how many scissors I’ve ruined by cutting through the super sticky adhesive on Velcro rolls. I still sometimes have a need for longer pieces of Velcro, but the dots are a game changer.
I never knew just how much cutting I’d do as a teacher. I should have practiced with a grip developer. My hands used to ache from all the time spent cutting out the materials I would create. Do your hands a favor and get a good pair of ergonomic scissors. Left handed? Try this one.
5. Card Stock and Fun Paper
You’re going to need a lot of card stock for making sturdy visuals. Paper other than boring white can help spruce up worksheets and projects. When selecting your paper, keep in mind that for some students with special needs, neons and other brights might be over-stimulating. You know your students best, so keep them in mind when choosing your paper.
Your school isn’t necessarily going to issue you a stapler, and if they do, chances are it’s going to be low quality. Save yourself the frustration of staple jams and get yourself a good one. A good stapler will last you a long time. If you’re a fan of Office Space, you can get yourself a nice red Swingline Stapler and a chuckle. It lets you staple 25 sheets at a time so you can staple a decent sized packet with it. Don’t forget the staples.
For grading, some teachers now prefer to avoid red. Personally I like grading in purple because it’s a color that makes me happy. I love these purple pens. The grip feels nice, and they write beautifully. You’re going to be using them a lot, so make sure the pens you buy bring you a bit of joy and are comfortable to use.
8. Post-it Super Sticky Easel Pad
These are fantastic for creating quick visuals. You can use them as anchor charts around your classroom instead of having to erase the work you are doing on your dry erase board or chalk board. You can also put your students in the driver’s seat on these letting them create visuals for presentations. I was introduced to these Post-It Easle Pads in a business setting, not a school setting, so learning to use these effectively can even be a vocational skill for our students.
You’re going to need all sorts of markers for your classroom. At a minimum, you need regular washable markers, Sharpies, and dry erase markers.
My students love to work with scented markers. Working with these turns boring tasks into something fun and exciting. When I’m working on posters and anchor charts, I like to have a variety of colors. I have a dual tip marker pack similar to this that has lasted me a long time. I like the dual tips because it saves me precious storage space.
When you need something to stay put, you need a Sharpie. I like having a variety of colors so that I can choose to stand out. I’ve also had great luck with metallic Sharpies, especially silver. They pop out against background wonderfully.
Dry Erase Markers
I go through dry erase markers with my students like crazy. I keep a variety of colors on hand to be able to illustrate concepts. Just this week I was teaching skip counting by drawing balloons with different colors in bunches. It worked better because I had a variety of color. I let my student draw after I had demonstrated and had him alternate colors. Expo’s fine point markers in a variety of colors are my favorite to be able to save space but not skimp on quality.
Is anybody still using an overhead projector? I did when I was still in the classroom. I actually liked using them. It was simple. Even though overheads are going the way of the dinosaur, I didn’t want to leave out markers for them. Vis a Vis by Expo was by far my favorite to use.
10. Stationary / Note Paper
You’re going to need lined paper for writing quick notes. You might need to pass a note to a teacher down the hall, write something for a student, or to a parent. Find something you enjoy, but that is versatile enough to cover many situations.
You’re going to need a way to keep track of all your IEP meetings, staff meeting, training, and other events. Keep your teaching life organized with a planner. Erin Condren, one of the biggest names in planners, created this one for the 2019 year.If something less colorful is more your style, rock a chalkboard look with this planner that includes room for sub information, weekly birthdays, and a seating chart.
12. Water Bottle
Stay hydrated while you teach with a water bottle. Teachers are on their feet and talking for a good portion of the day. Your classroom is going to be full of students, all with their own personal petri dish of germs. Keep coughs out of your drink by making sure your water bottle has a lid. The pictures are affiliate links that take you straight to them on Amazon, so if you like one, check it out.
Fidget spinners might be the bane of gen ed teacher’s existence, but in special education, we know they are tools to help our kids focus. Keep a variety of fidgets on hand to help kids have something to do with their hands so that their minds can be engaged. Think beyond spinners and try products like fidget cubes.
14. Weighted Products
Weighted vests and blankets can help students feel safe and secure. However, the weight should never exceed more than 10% of a students weight. I have a weighted blanket of my own and I enjoy curling up under it.
Getting our students comfortable on technology is a must. A Kindle is cheaper than an iPad and runs many of the same apps and functions. You’ll want to have a case for it to keep it protected from accidental drops. I like this red case because it stands out helping it not get misplaced in the classroom.
16. Preferred Rewards
I can’t tell you exactly what these will be because they are going to change from classroom to classroom and student to student. Find out exactly what your kids love. What makes their heart sing? Figure out ways to incorporate them into rewards.
Reward your students while having conversations about emotions with emoji stickers. You could work these stickers into lessons about feelings.
Don’t waste precious time with your students battling about pencils. Have a stash of sharpened ones ready to go. I like to have a variety of pencils and grips. Because many of my students have sensory issues, I want them to be able to find the right pencil for them that feels right in their hand. I’ve found that most teachers prefer to use Ticonderoga pencils for wooden pencils. My students use a variety of pencil grips too.
19. Pencil Sharpener
A reliable pencil sharpener that gets the job done fast will help save you time. If you This sharpener can sharpen two pencils at once. Yes! if you can, find a student or parent volunteer that will sharpen pencils for you.
My friend Kristen wrote a great article at Data Mom Kristen about finding the perfect timer. You can find her article on timers here to find the best ones for your classroom.