By: Danielle | July 07, 2017

Even though it’s the summertime, a teacher’s mind never quite shuts off, right? We’re always in a perpetual cycle of reflecting on the past school year and planning for the next. However, it’s not always “all work and no play” regarding planning. One of the fun things many teachers like to do is keep their eyes open for a good sale in their favorite store and stock up on cool classroom supplies and festive decor. But what’s a cart teacher to do? We don’t have the luxury of scooping up heaps of seasonal decor, bulletin board items, or other cutesy classroom goods for lack of space to display them and places to store it all. Does that mean that we can only wistfully walk through the ‘back-to-school’ aisles and not purchase a thing? Not necessarily. There are definitely some items you can invest in that will help your daily cart teaching for the upcoming school year.

The amount of planning ahead required for teaching on a cart looks different depending on your situation:

  • It’s your first year on a cart in a district you’ve never taught in before.
  • You had a music classroom, but found out it's being taken away.
  • You've been teaching on a cart for multiple years.

However, the list below can be beneficial no matter what stage you are in, so it's my hope that you can glean what you need as you apply it to your particular circumstance. Alright, with that said, let's go shopping!

1. Binders

In my years of teaching music from a cart, I've found that binders are the easiest way to keep things together and organized. From music magazines, to lesson ideas, to sub plans, to worksheets, I put EVERYTHING into binders! This is especially helpful because the space which I'm given to prep has changed multiple times through the years. Sometimes those spaces had a file cabinet for me to use, most times they didn't, but a shelf or bookcase of some kind was usually available.

I currently have 12 binders of music and teaching resources. Here you can see some more music magazines that I'll soon put into binders for the upcoming school year.

Having my materials organized into binders allows me to easily transport my stuff from year to year AND helps me easily access materials when I need them. One cool item that helps me place softcover music magazines into these 3-hole binders are these: 

These plastic magazine strips are awesome! You simply find the midway point of the magazine (where the staples are seen) slip that half into the opening, and now you're able to easily add it to a hole-punch binder. They come in packs of 12 and can be found online or in office supply stores. Get them, they're great!

2. Storage Bins with Lids

When I was first placed on a cart, I was desperate for any type of storage...period. But now that I've been 'on the move' for years, I've realized that it's more beneficial to have storage bins that are transparent (so I can easily so at a glance what's inside) and comes with a lid. Lids are important because they keep dust out, prevent your items from falling out if you hit a bump, and aid in stacking so you can utilize as much square footage as possible.

3. Decor

My cart through the seasons!

Okay, so you don't have a nifty room to decorate with your chosen color scheme and cool themes based on the latest movie releases. That doesn't mean that only classroom teachers get to have all the fun in decorating! I finally decided after years of being on a cart that I was tired of staring at the same, boring, brown metal cart. So I headed to the nearest dollar store and got some autumn leaves garland to twist around my cart. The kids loved it so much that around the holidays I bought string lights and looped those around my cart legs, too, plugging them in so they'd light up during music time in their classrooms (and if I forgot to plug in those lights, my students would let me know it!). Then I bought various colors of tinsel and garland to sport during the holidays and through the wintertime. In the spring, I swapped silver/snow tinsel for multi-colored leis. My students ate it up, teachers complimented my creativity, and I had something a little nicer to look at day in and day out. My fellow cart teachers, yes, it's frustrating being on a cart, but making some lemonade from the lemons helps bring a more positive mindset to a frustrating situation. So rock out your cart! Whether it's with dollar store decor, spray paint, or shelf liner, add something that'll make your cart pop! Check out my Pinterest board to see how some other cart teachers have rocked out their carts:

4. Basic office supplies

Sometimes districts will provide teachers with office supplies, but other times not. Either way, it's a great idea (and I actually prefer) to have my own set of basic office supplies. I utilize the top shelf of my cart as my "rolling office" with my "desk supplies" quickly at my disposal: pencil, pen, eraser, Post-its, stapler, tape, dry erase markers/eraser, etc. As I'm teaching, I can quickly grab what I need instead of asking the students where their teacher keeps something and having a herd of kids scramble to run and get said item from their teacher's desk or closet. I save lots of time and energy (and student accidents!) by just having my own supply on hand and would suggest the same for any cart teacher. But please remember....LABEL EVERYTHING!!! If you don't label things with your name, it WILL grow legs and go me!

Check out the Music on a Cart Store for cool, music-themed office supplies that can be customized with your name and favorite colors!

So, those are a few examples of practical, organizational, and even decorative ideas that you can be on the lookout for in the stores while you’re beginning your cart prep planning. Are there any *must have* items that you’ve found were quite handy in your cart teaching experience? Are you new to being on a cart and wondering what else should be purchased? Please feel free to share, ask, and comment below!

Encouraging you to rock as you roll,


Danielle | Music on a Cart

Posted on : August 08, 2017

You're absolutely right, Abby, we definitely have shared experiences since we must have all of our necessary teaching aids on hand as we travel from place to place. I'm so glad you were inspired by the idea of's a small touch, yet adds an element of joy and fun!

Abby Connors

Posted on : August 07, 2017

Hi Danielle,
I actually related to a lot of these issues even though I teach music with bags, not a cart... I teach my own music enrichment program in several schools so I carry bags with that week's instruments, props, puppets, books, etc. Your tips are very helpful - I love the idea about decorating! I'm going to decorate my bags for the seasons just like I had a music room. Thanks for this post!

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