It’s nearly time to go back-to-school shopping. It can be so difficult to figure out what to buy (and what not to buy), all while staying within a budget. This list will provide you with some school supply recommendations from teachers.
Sam is currently a teacher. Last year she taught grade 6/7 and this year she will be teaching grade 7. Prior to that she taught a variety of grades as a music teacher and a substitute teacher (as well as 2 years of teaching Middle/High School in the UK). I (Cyn) am a retired teacher who has taught everything from Junior Kindergarten to grade 9 (except for grade 5). Needless to say we have seen a lot of various school supplies cross our paths over our combined 20 years of teaching.
SCHOOL SUPPLY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
Now, my grandson is about to begin grade one and we are experiencing back to school shopping as teachers and mom/Meemaw. The first thing to know is that we would NEVER want anyone going into debt over school supplies. Rest assured that if your child arrives at school without some of the supplies they need, their teacher will ensure that they get them, even if it comes out of his/her own pocket.
Please, no matter what kind of school supply list gets sent home, look at it and prioritize it. As Sam recently said to me, “If my students would just show up with tons of pens and pencils, I’d be happy. We ran out of those constantly.” Don’t hesitate to shop at the dollar store for your supplies. Yes, there are times where we recommend getting better quality brands because they’re more reliable and durable. However, either prioritize spending more on those if you can OR buy what you can afford and try to put some money aside later on to upgrade those items.
We’ve got some tips on back to school shopping here.
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If you’re going to buy your child a pair of scissors for school, please look for quality. We love Fiskars for its reliability and durability. Beware that there are super cheap kids’ scissors out there that fall apart or break almost immediately upon use. For safety reasons, we suggest getting the blunt tip scissors for younger kids.
In general, really young kids in Kindergarten and often even into Grade 1 will need the pencils known as “primary pencils”. These are thicker than typical pencils and easier for them to hold and practice their grip on. Speaking of pencil grip, buying some of those shaped grips can be really helpful for kids who are still working on theirs. For older kids, we recommend buying No. 2 pencils. Do not buy mechanical pencils unless specifically requested unless you also buy a few No. 2 pencils as well.
Classrooms usually have pencil sharpeners in them so you don’t have to buy one. However, those sharpeners break often and at times, there can be a lineup waiting for your child’s turn to sharpen their pencil. Having their own is a great idea if possible. If you do buy one, please get the kind that collects the shavings.
Glue Sticks –
We prefer glue sticks over liquid glue simply because there aren’t as many concerns about spills. The glue sticks travel better (in case your child is taking them to and from school) and we have had fewer incidents of them causing issues such as leaking into the child’s desk and ruining things.
However, if the lid comes off they are still quite sticky. It’s a good idea to place them down inside one of those snack-sized Ziploc bags or some other type of bag or container that will protect the things around them in case the lid isn’t put back on properly.
Quality matters with glue sticks too. Yes, we have purchased some from the dollar store that worked really well, but there have been duds too. Just be aware of that when making your purchase.
Oh the many, many erasers we’ve encountered that do absolutely nothing at all. They seem to be covered with some kind of impenetrable plastic coating which means at most, they will simply smear things across the page. Personally, I’m a fan of the white erasers. Even the ones from the dollar store have worked really well for me. I’ve seen a few lists on school websites where they specified Pink Pearl erasers instead.
Notebooks/Exercise Books –
This is one item I suggest you wait to buy until after school starts. Many teachers have their own preferences based on the subject they’re teaching as to what will work best. When I taught first grade, for example, the exercise books we used for writing had blank space at the top of the page and lines at the bottom with more space between them than I would want to see for a 4th grade exercise book.
In some classes, they may not be working in notebooks at all and will be handing out papers to place in Duotangs or folders. Or sometimes for music class, they need special music notation books. Obviously, I want you to take advantage of sales if you can so if you see a really great deal, go ahead and buy some, but if you don’t, I’d wait to see what the teacher wants.
Note: When kids invariably showed up to my class with the “wrong” notebooks, I either found a way to adapt what I was doing so they could easily use them or I provided them with the necessary notebooks myself. Often, by about third grade, it didn’t really matter anymore and any notebook would work just fine.
Please avoid getting those multi-subject notebooks. They can be an issue if I’ve asked them to hand in their English work, but now they need that same notebook for math, for example. Or I need their notebook for grading but they have to take that same notebook to another class with a different teacher.
Pouches/Ziploc bags –
In younger grades, kids are often given “communication bags”. These are generally a Ziploc bag with their name on it to hold important notes going to and from school, keeping them safe and dry. If your child isn’t provided with one of these, get them one yourself!
I suggest a plastic pouch that’s more durable than a Ziploc but Ziplocs will do in a pinch. You’ll just need to swap them out periodically. Label it with their name and teach them that this is where all important notes, their planner or agenda, and other such items belong.
This one from Staples Canada is actually our favorite but I can’t find a comparable link for it anywhere else, unfortunately. Here are some other options below:
Oh pens. They can be the bane of a teacher’s existence. Both Sam and I agree that we wouldn’t be having our students younger than sixth grade using pens so please bear that in mind when shopping. In addition, we do not recommend buying only pens and no pencils. Pencils are a must for certain subjects like math.
Those pens that come in lots of colors are really pretty, but I had to ban some of them in my classroom. I told the kids that my old eyes just couldn’t read yellow writing, for example. So, I would ask students to bring up a pen and write with it for me before using it if it was any color other than black or dark blue. If I could read it easily, it was fine with me if they used it. If it was a little difficult to read, I simply asked them to add more spacing between their paragraphs to make it easier for me. Yellow was out entirely.
Note: Liquid white-out was prohibited in our schools. We would have discussions about how this meant that they couldn’t erase their mistakes if using a pen and they couldn’t use liquid white-out to cover them either. If your kids will be using pens and any kind of white-out, it’s a great idea to teach them how to use it. Before the rule on no liquid white-out, I had seen students using an entire bottle of it in a week because they simply didn’t know how to apply it properly or it was too difficult for them.
Back in my day, ahem, as a student, there technically were “erasable” pens but the eraser generally ripped right through the paper before you’d ever get the ink off. There are now erasable pens and colored pencils that I have used myself and they work like a charm.