Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bright Idea: Getting Dotty with Supplies

Yippee! It's another day to share tips and strategies as a part of the Bright Ideas Link Up! On this round, we are switching from a "hop" to a "link up," so you can scroll down and look at the options at the end of this post. Bloggers have listed their "Bright Idea" on the button along with the applicable grade levels of the post--so you can choose that way... or just click on something that looks interesting!

I have six table groupings in my room, with six students in each group. This year there are thirty-five sixth graders in our classroom, so there is little room to spare. Throughout the day, students change seats often. Depending on the activity, they can be found sitting at one of the six tables--or at an assortment of extra locations around the room. We are more-than-crowded in our little room with kids and books, and it is difficult for students to bring all of their "supplies" with them every time they move to another table grouping. Consequently, we use shared supply boxes in my classroom and it has been an effective system in my room for many years.

But it was not a system completely without difficulties. For years, I would find 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. And later, I found a package that had "dark pink" dots that look almost purple (if you dim the lights and squint a little). Be still, my heart! 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 instead, but these tape pieces are already all the same size. No thinking involved. I find "regular" tape dispensers to be a little...ummm... unreliable. Before finding these, I would often end up looking like an episode of I Love Lucy with tape wrapped around my wrist or in my hair. 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 of crayons to have on hand 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 or colored pencils!

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 in August. I also add dots to the marker and colored pencil 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 through June.

The supplies are kept in a box on top of the table. If the group moves to floor, the whole box goes with them. I got a lot smarter when I put the dot on the outside of the supply box too! Now, if I find a missing marker, I scan the room for the box with green dot, and I know where I will find the marker-box-missing-one.

Recently, the students figured out that the whole table has a color too! Table two is green. The sign hanging above it is green. The book box is labeled green too. This is important because it lets a visitor know which table is table two. 

Okay, here I have a little confession: "Green" is not really a color in my room. That table is actually turquoise which matches my room colors. But until the "dot people" come up with turquoise (or purple!) dots, we have to fudge just a little.

I have also used these dots to mark "sets" of things--even the backs of puzzle pieces! It's just an easy way to re-connect a missing item to the rest of the set!

So that's the Bright Idea from my classroom. If you scroll down just a little, you will see a link-up to enjoy more Bright Ideas from over other 150 bloggers. I hope you brought your sunglasses, because that's a lot of brightness! Click on the links to browse by topic or grade... or just discover a new blogger!

Have fun... and thanks for visiting!



  1. I do love me some color coding in the classroom! Thank you for sharing your system with us :)

    Teaching in Room 6

  2. I am totally doing this with my table markers next year. They are driving me crazy!
    Grade 4 Buzz

  3. Color-coding, pre-cut tape strips, this post is awesome!!! I love how you always plan things out to the smallest (but most important!) details Kim...I really feel this is something I don't do enough. Your organizational skills are incredible, thank you so much for sharing! :)

  4. Oh my goodness, Kim! Such a smart idea!! I love color-coding and this takes it to the highest level :)

    Fun in Room 4B

  5. I use dots for everything but I have never thought of this! Great tip!
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  6. The kids could dot their table supplies on the first day of school in a snap.

  7. Such a great idea for keeping track of supplies!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

  8. I employed the color system when I taught K5, but it has become more of a necessity in my homeschooling. I use duct tape in various colors. I can cut small strips from the sheets and we put on everything class and individual related.

  9. Genius! I tried numbering supplies this year and it was a disaster. Each supply was numbered to a student but was kept in a group box. Then when you moved one student you would have to find their supplies and move them and you can imagine my annoyance with the whole process!


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