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Best Teaching Materials to Purchase for Your Elementary School Classroom

Updated on October 4, 2016
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


If you have read any of my other education articles, you most likely already know that I'm a huge advocate of making teaching materials myself. As a special education teacher, I had a limited budget, both at school and on a personal level, so this strategy worked well for me. I devoted and will continue to devote a number of hubs to these materials that I created myself. I also wanted to detail some of the best materials that I have bought during my 4 years of teaching special education or that I inherited in my classroom when I took my special education position. You may be able to get funding from your school to purchase some of the more expensive items.


Silent and Group Reading Books

Classroom books for silent reading/read to self and class read alouds are priceless. Look for deals on books at Scholastic, garage sales, and library weed outs. You can also find lots of used bulk sets on eBay. Books make wonderful presents, too. Don't be afraid to include a few titles on your next Christmas or birthday list.

Read Me a Story, The Reading Lady....Tips on reading stories for the young

Books on Tape or CD

I purchased most of my book on CD sets from Scholastic. I also got a number of sets as gifts. There are lots of complete children's book sets with CDs on Amazon as well. Generally it's cheaper to buy the sets than to collect them individually. Typically my students listen to the CDs so much that they wore them out, but you may find used sets as well.

Free Audio Book for Children: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Chapter 1

Interactive Reading Book Series

I had 4 books from this set and was been pleased with all of them. I originally ordered them from PCI. Their products are now available through Pro Ed. I've provided a link on the right. Typically I make books like this myself because it's difficult to find them. These are well made and worth the money if they address the skill sets that you need to work on with your students. It's cheaper to buy the sets than the individual books.

Bingo Chips

Bingo is a great material for reviewing numerous concepts. You can use the same set of bingo chips with limitless bingo games that you create for your students.

Board Games

Board games that work on matching, numbers, counting, reading, and/or colors are great tools for the classroom. You can use board games for breaks, centers, and indoor recess. Some of my favorite classroom games include Parcheesi, Trouble, Sorry!, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Connect Four, Boggle, Memory, and Chutes and Ladders. Some of my students were also big fans of the Name It game.

2012 Christmas Shopping Guide - Children's Board Games


Teaching Created Resources

I picked up a few Teacher Created books at random from a teacher supply store the summer before I started my special education position. I had no idea then how valuable they would be. I have over a dozen of them now. They provide wonderful supplemental materials for a wide variety of grades and academic subjects. This was wonderful for many of my students who needed lots of repetition with the same skill sets and thus needed more than the general education curriculum provides. Their web site offers other products as well as free lesson plans and printable pages. Many of their books are available through Amazon here with free shipping eligibility.

The Mailbox Magazine

Many school districts subscribe to various grade levels of The Mailbox magazine. Most schools store their back issues in the library or book room. Check if your school has it before shelling out the money for your own subscription. As a special education teacher, one advantage of being in a district with multiple subscriptions is that I can access materials for a range of grade levels. It's a wonderful resource with lesson plans and printable worksheets that cover a wide variety of subjects. They also have a lot of writing prompts and craft projects that are related to seasons or holidays. Check out additional resources on their web site.


Math Manipulatives

I was very fortunate to inherit a number of manipulatives when I got my special education classroom including Unifex snap cubes, pattern blocks, and plastic clocks. If your classroom doesn't already have these sort of materials and your district is not willing to purchase them for you, buy what you need when you need it. You don't need to buy everything all at once. They will be useful for a wide variety of math lessons for a wide variety of ages. I also got a set of overhead manipulatives from an ETA/Cuisenaire kit that I purchased for an undergraduate course. If you teach general education and/or have a large number of special education students for your math lessons, these are a wonderful tool.

I purchased these foam alphabet blocks at Wal-Mart for a couple dollars.
I purchased these foam alphabet blocks at Wal-Mart for a couple dollars. | Source

Puzzles and Additional Fine Motor Skills Materials

I wrote a fine motor skills article, so I won't go into too much detail about this topic here. I purchased the majority of my fine motor materials myself. Prioritize and decide what would be the most useful in your classroom right now. Continue to add to your collection of materials as you can.


Boardmaker is a wonderful software program that your school should purchase for you. If you can only have one software program (which is how many I had when I taught special education), it's the one to have. If you've read any of my article about materials that I created for my classroom, you know how many different functions Boardmaker can have for stand alone materials, accommodations, and modifications. In addition to being a valuable tool for special education students, it's beneficial for any and all students who are low or non-readers.

Touch Math

I first learned about the Touch Math program 4 years ago. I have used their computation materials as well as some of their clocks and money kits. I inherited a couple computation kits with my classroom. I was able to check out the other kits from my local AEA. I also used the Touch Point numbers in some of my adapted materials for additional practice. You can see an example of this here.

Reading A-Z Series

I had printed versions of Levels AA-E as well as the alphabet books in my classroom. I don't know who printed these for my room, but I didn't have my own subscription. There are lots of other materials for members on the web site. The Title Reading room in my building had a number of the readers, too. If you don't have any or your own subscription, I would check with Title Reading before talking to administration. These readers are great for beginning readers who aren't ready for general education materials or who need supplemental materials for further reinforcement. I made concentration/matching games for a number of the Reading A-Z readers with vocabulary from them, which a number of my students have enjoyed. You can also create vocabulary bingo games.

© 2011 Rose Clearfield


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