Classroom Musts
for Self-Contained Teachers

Classroom Decor

Summer’s almost over and now it’s time to prepare for the school year. Whether you’re a new special education teacher or have been in this field for years, you’re probably still excited to list everything you need for your classroom. I know I am!

But before you get overwhelmed and make an endless list of supplies for your self-contained classroom, let me show you my list of materials you’ll actually use (and even need a lot of!).

Preparing a Self-Contained Classroom

A self-contained classroom is different from a traditional classroom. The space is smaller, but you have fewer students so you’ll be more focused on meeting their needs.

Creating a self-contained classroom can be a rewarding and enriching experience for both teachers and students. That is if you’re able to make your space a calming, conducive, and engaging environment for your special education students.

Click here if you want to learn how to set up your classroom!

But there is so much to consider when preparing your classroom. It requires thoughtful planning and suitable materials.

So what are the essential materials you’ll need for your self-contained classroom?

Classroom Furniture

To begin with, you’ll need suitable furniture that accommodates the students’ needs and activities. 

If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen, click here for kitchen specific options for your classroom. 

Below is a list of the rest of the furniture you can depend on!

# 1: Desks or tables

You’ll need tables and desks of different sizes. Use large group tables for working together on a lesson and individual tables for independent work.

You’ll also need a spacious desk for yourself! Choose one with drawers to store your personal items and very important documents.

#2: Chairs

Make sure you have comfortable chairs that are appropriately sized for your students’  age group. You can try wobble chairs like these or similar ball chairs if you have students who learn best with a bit of movement. 

#3: Boards

Be it the traditional whiteboard or a digital interactive touch-screen board, you’re sure to find one in a classroom. This is the best place to display your lesson visuals.

But aside from those mentioned above, you may also want to get cork boards or peg boards for your class bulletin.

#4: Shelves

You don’t just need a shelf for your library. This furniture also helps organize your classroom materials and some even work as dividers.

You may use open shelves for easy access or drawers and cabinets for a neat look.

#5: Classroom Dividers

Dividers are helpful if you want a clear division of classroom areas and if you want to lessen distractions.

As I’ve mentioned, shelves can be your classroom dividers. This is an excellent option if you have a small space.

But if you have a big room, you can use portable partitions to set your classroom areas like the work area, sensory room, break room, and even the kitchen!

Find out the helpful things you can put in your classroom kitchen!

Prep Materials

As a special education teacher who has so many things to prepare for the school year, the following materials can be your life savers.

#6: Velcro

I feel like I use Velcro for almost everything in my classroom! It helps hold things on walls and aids with visuals.

My tip: Get Velcro coins so you don’t need to cut the strips!

#7: Printer

If your school doesn’t provide you with your own classroom printer, I highly suggest you advocate for one. While most schools have printers for you to use freely, sometimes, when you need an activity right away, it helps if you have your colored printer ready in your own classroom.

#8: Laminator & Laminating Sheets

You need to have your visuals and worksheets laminated to make them last. This way, you don’t need to keep on making new materials at the start of every school year. 

Don’t worry, this won’t cost much. You can get a great laminator on Amazon or Walmart for around $30.

Of course, when you plan to use a laminator, you’ll also need to stock up on laminating sheets or pouches. They come in different thicknesses (the lower the number, the more flexible it will be). 

#9: Cardstock

Another way to have durable materials is to print them on card stocks. I use white card stock for most of my task boxes, posters and adapted books, but you can also buy colorful cardstock. It’s also helpful for making colorful labels and visual schedules.

#10: Adaptive Tools

Since you are a Special Education teacher, you will have a variety of students with different needs. Luckily there are a LOT of different options out there to accommodate our students.

So what classroom tools should you get?

Click here to get some Life Skills & Academics suggestions!

Organization Materials

What can help you organize your classroom to make materials and students’ work look neat and easily accessible?

#11: Bins

Bins are plastic containers that come in multiple sizes and colors. You can use them to set up work tasks, organize your materials, and store snacks and other goodies!

#12: File Holders

For organizing your files, file holders come in very handy. You can sort your documents, students’ files, and even your worksheets. They can be stored in a cabinet without taking up much room.

#13: Rolling Carts

Drawers with wheels are heaven-sent! These usually have 3 to 4 drawers and can be easily moved since they’re usually made of plastic material.

I use them as independent work box stations!

#14: Small Drawer Storage

These are tiny plastic drawers placed on desks. I love sorting and keeping my little visuals in this storage system. It also works for smaller school supplies like pins and clips.

#15: Ring Binders

Ring binders are helpful when you have a lesson or activity bundle.

You can also use them by assigning one for each student. This is where you’ll place their daily logs and keep track of their IEP goals…so how about organizing your teacher’s office?

Here are solutions that might help.

Sensory & Leisure

#16: Fidgets & Sensory Tools

Stress balls, fidget spinners, rubix cubes, pop-it diges, bands, wigglers . . . you name it. Just make sure you have an assortment in your self-contained classroom.

You may also have a sensory room, so you will need a lot of supplies to make these space both peaceful and interactive for your students.

These sensory materials are helpful for your special education students to regulate – especially when they have extra energy but need to concentrate.

#17: Exercise Ball or Wiggle Seat

Speaking of energy, moving seats can help your students release excess energy during class time. These types of seats let them move while staying at their desks.

You can try wobble chairs like these or similar ball chairs if you have students who learn best with a bit of movement. 

#18: Bean Bag

On the other hand, provide your students with a place for rest with comfortable seats. My students love the bean bag I placed in our sensory/break room. Crash pads are also popular.

#19: Games and Books

Place a few board games like Jenga or UNO in your leisure area. This provides a fun way for the students to have their brain breaks. See some popular games here.

Books are also perfect! Choose appropriate books for their age, or take a class trip to the library to get a feel for what they like.

If you’re teaching high school transition students, I suggest getting graphic novels or magazines. 

#20: Snacks

Last but definitely not least are snacks! Stock up on ready-to-eat snacks for your students. In my class, we go grocery shopping every week, so I let students plan a small budget they can follow. If you need some more grocery resources, check out this Grocery Bundle.

Store some for yourself too! You’ll need a quick snack for an energy boost in the middle of the day. 

Have Fun Preparing for
the New School Year!

A well-prepared self-contained classroom can create a positive and nurturing learning environment for your special education students.

I hope this list can help you in preparing for your classroom. However, don’t feel pressured to have all of these things. They’re merely supposed to inspire you.

Remember, the specific materials you need may vary based on the age group of your students so tailor your choices to suit your students’ needs. 

Ask your school administrator if there’s any funding to support your purchases for your classroom, or ask about grants that you can apply for.

Good luck in creating a vibrant and engaging self-contained classroom!

Pssst…if you want a FREE curriculum roadmap for life skills & job skills, you can get the Transition Roadmap Scope & Sequence here!