Saturday, August 3, 2013

32nd Day: A Dotty System for Keeping Track of Supplies

I have to admit: We don't use crayons and markers as often as we should in my classroom. I already have plans to change that paucity during the upcoming school year. With insight from Jen Runde and Jennifer Smith Sloane and Mor Zrihen, I have lots of plans for Interactive Notebooks in both literacy and math.

Still, I have never seen the need for thirty-five boxes of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. We are more-than-crowded in our little room with kids and books. We use shared supply boxes in my classroom and it just works for us.

But it was not a system completely without difficulties. For years, I found myself frustrated when an item would be on the floor and I would be asking (more than once): "Which table is missing a blue marker?" or some variation of that question.

Fortunately, that all changed when I employed the dot system.

The supplies for this system are minimal. I have six tables groupings, so I need six colors of adhesive dots. I generally use blue, green, orange, pink, yellow and red, but those colors don't all come in one package. This year, I found the neon dots at the 99¢ Store and the Avery dots were calling my name at the local office supply store. Luckily, I use the leftover colors to label books in my classroom library, so nothing is wasted.

The final requirement is a package of pre-cut tape strips. These are often packaged with an around-your-wrist band or a small round dispenser to make it easier to grab hold of the tape. Of course, you can use "regular" tape, but these pieces are already all the same size. No thinking involved. I find "regular" tape dispensers to be a little... unreliable. I used to end up looking like an episode of I Love Lucy with tape wrapped around my wrist. And halfway through the first box of markers, I was already less-than-delighted with the whole process...

Our "table boxes" have markers, colored pencils and crayons (along with some other non-dot-worthy items). See those green dots? Those are my pathway to sanity...

Here are the markers from the green table box...

And here are the colored pencils...

 And here are the crayons...

Hey! No dots! Truth: I used to put dots on the crayons too. Now I buy my crayons for twenty-five cents at WalMart during the Back-to-School sale. I am simply not going to work that hard to keep track of crayons! I usually buy an extra box or two if a student cares enough to go searching for a missing color. So, you see, I haven't completely lost my marbles (close, but not completely!) But it is rare that we lose markers, colored pencils or crayons!

I can usually get all of the supplies "dotted" during one (at home) movie. More than once I have dotted up the supplies during a long car ride. I also add dots to the boxes and I double reinforce the "flaps" with tape so that they will last through the year. It's a little investment in time during the summer that carries us all the way to June.

Later this month, I will share the whole "table box" system, but the dots are my favorite part!. Do you have any strategies that make it easy for your students to keep track of supplies? I'd love to hear about your system too!


  1. At the risk of sounding like a total recluse, I'm going to need a tutorial on how you put those cool arrows on your pictures! Impressive.

    Oh, and fun DOT system ... LOVE how you use the extras to reinforce the boxes.

  2. WOW. I teach 6th grade and the markers are always on the floor. I have been going crazy trying to keep them in bags or boxes etc but they never seem to make it back. I LOVE the dots idea. I'm going out right now to get some dots for my markers. I also use green pens to correct HW and those always get all over the floor. I need some dots for those too. I don't have tables. I have 4 rows and the kids share in pairs so if I can find 12 dif colors I am all set, if not, then at least each row will have the same color so it would narrow it down to the guilty party.

  3. I LOVE THIS!!! I too have six table groups and have the same problem as Simone!

    Thanks for the tip, I am totally doing this!

    Hodges Herald

  4. What a fantastic idea! I need to do this with each table's white board markers!

  5. This is totally brilliant Kim!! I'm going color-coding crazy this year in my class and I know it is thanks to you and our endless color-obsesssed-conversations back and forth!!

    I really love this way of tracking supplies. I'm not going over the top with buying them this year either...just enough for each table to share and that's it. Hopefully.

  6. Oh Kim! Color coding just makes me happy:).

  7. Love the color coding idea! I have six table groups as well and decided to do my supplies in the drawer systems (like this pin). I am so going to color code each drawer and all the supplies inside. Thanks so much for sharing! I love it!

  8. Great idea with the dots! It drives me CRAZY when there are colours missing in the market baskets but of course the kidlets don't remember which basket it goes in. Brilliant!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  9. I love this! It's so simple, yet the thought never crossed my mind. I will be buying dots between now and 8:00 Monday morning, even if it means a Wal-Mart run on my way to school!

  10. I love the dot tracking idea! What a perfect way to actually tell if the markers are yours or your students. I have lots of students that buy the same exact markers as me and then insist that their box had 2 blues (or any of the other colors). This would save me the headache. Thank you for sharing.

    Ms Richards's Musings

  11. This is such a great management idea for materials!

  12. I went to the store today and bought the dots. I am so excited that I had to post twice today. =) I decided to use four colors since I have four rows. I also got some pencil pouches to match the colors. Since they did not have black dots, I colored them with a permanent marker. I put dry erase markers and cloths into each pouch. I am going to put color dots on the back of the dry erase boards to match. I have had issues with students not only losing items but ruining them. Now I feel more confident when I tell them that their row always gets the same color, they will be more respectful of items. It is amazing how students just leave stuff all over the floor. I wonder if this year will be the first year I make it to the end with markers. I was thinking of making up some sort of incentive for the rows that have a complete set of items at the end of the month/marking period.
    Wow it is the small things in life that make a huge difference. THANK YOU for making my day. On a side note, this is the stuff we should learn about on staff dev days =)

  13. Fantastic idea! Thanks for the inspiration! :)


  14. This is such a BRILLIANT idea! I am going to steal this but use numbers on the dots since my table caddies are the same color just numbered.

    Thank you!

  15. I teach Home Ec as well as grade six. This is a great idea to keep track of sewing supplies.



Thanks for reading this post. Comments bring me JOY! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation...