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Back to basics: A supply list for middle school

Keep our school supply checklist handy to make your shopping as easy as A, B, C.

By GreatSchools Staff

What’s the smart way to shop for school supplies? Eliminate the guesswork by getting a list from your child’s teacher ahead of time or waiting until school starts to find out what’s actually required. The teacher may recommend specific brands, sizes, or quantities, but even if the list isn’t available, you can still take advantage of back-to-school sales (many states offer “tax-free days” during this season) by sticking to the basics recommended below. And remember, you can’t go wrong with tools that help kids get — and stay — organized.

The basics

No. 2 pencils

Mechanical pencils

Colored pencils

Pencil sharpener (hand-held with a top to collect shavings)

A large pink eraser

Ballpoint pens (Get a few red ink ones too, because some teachers have students do peer editing.)


Spiral-bound or composition notebooks

Loose-leaf notebook paper (Teachers can be picky about paper. Some middle schools ask that students use the college-ruled variety.)

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Organizational helpers

Several three-ring binders (Some teachers require that a binder be used exclusively for their class.)

A three-hole punch (a regular one or one that fits in a three-ring binder)

A pencil case that fits in a binder

Binder dividers (The kinds with pockets are good for loose papers.)

Pocket folders

Folders that fit in binders

A small notebook to record assignments

A calendar for scheduling assignments

A sturdy, supportive backpack (Some schools do not permit rolling backpacks because of space considerations, so check with your school before considering this option.)

Two combination locks (If the school lockers do not have built-in locks, your child might need one for the hallway and one for the gym.)

Study aids

Index cards, ruled and unruled (These are great for making flash cards.)


A calculator (Check with the math teacher first before investing in an expensive one. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in many high school math classes. Teachers advise parents not to buy a calculator with more functions than students will use.)

A protractor (Some middle school students will need one, sometimes as early as in sixth grade.)

Craft materials

Drawing paper

Construction paper

Glue sticks

A four-ounce bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

A stapler


Watercolor paints

Water-based markers

Home computer supplies

Printer paper

Ink cartridges

Nice to have

A stainless steel water bottle (To be extra safe, you might want to avoid plastic bottles that contain bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to such health problems as heart disease and diabetes.)


Comments from readers

"Starting my first year ,seems really helpful "
"Like it but knew about the calculator we used middle school math books in elementary school "
"starting middle school next month prepared because of this list :) "
"Hi thank u so much cuz am starting middle school on agust so thank you Sencerely, krysti "
"I am starting Middle School very soon actually next month[August] This helped me get prepared I am so excited this is an advanced school SO WISH ME GOOD LUCK!!!!! :D :p :) "
"Very helpful, will be using this site again! "
"This is a helpful website for students or parents to find information,but you do need to tell us were to get the stuff!O:-) "
"great "
"This is rely legit but i would wish you guys would have put about how much each thing would cost during like school sales are you know so that over the summer we could save money for that point of time "
"Now i know what i need for middle school "
"Hi my name is Aerial and I am a student and I've been looking for some school supplies and I finally found something to look at to give me some pointers! "
"Thank I will be buying ever last item for my daughter. Amanda "
"This article was very helpful! I'm starting my first year of middle school soon and I'm totally freqkung out with supplies so this article was good to read because it have me the basic tools for middle school. Thanks! "
"I love this!Now I can know what to buy for middle school!!! "
"i am a student who needed help finding a list of simple school supplies. i have been searching for hours then i found this page and it is perfect. thanks "
"i love this thing i am only in the 5th grade and i am on my way to the 6th so i need this very much and this tells me evry thing i need. i aalso checked another website that gives me an application of the midddle schools that i want to go to . and the names i will check that out later put this thing actually prepared me. :) ;) "
"Very thoughtful Thanks, helps in furthering your line of thinking and add a few more specifics from our end. "
"I found this really helpful. I'm going into 6th grade and this really helped me be more organized for back to school shopping and just made it easier! Thanks!! xoxo "
"i graduated in 2008, being that not too long ago i was in middle school and unlike this VERY UNIFORMED person I C/P bellow I used all of these items and much more.. this list is a GREAT start for parents that need a little help finding out what to get. also keep in mind that in most school students dont use all of these items the first week and may vary from school to school. I would send my kid to school with just a few things. the first few days the teachers usually give student instructions on exactly what they would like the kids to and not to bring. I hope your student has a great and fun filled school year and happy shopping to you. ****07/13/2011: "this list needs to be more of a MIDDLE SCHOOL list... this is a highschool list or elementry list. in middle school you usually don't need stuff like markers and crayons and all that specific stuff, well because you might end up using it for projects or something, but you could just have them handy at home you wouldn't have to buy new ones and specific ones just for school. Just saying! "***** "
"I knew there was some things I had to get my daughter for school as I felt like I`m blind / def or dumb as far as getting school supplies for my daughter who will be starting the 6th grade soon. This article of supplies has helped me as far as what to start off with as far as 6th grade goes. Thank you very much. You`ve helped. "
"dose my 11 year old daughter need a computer "
"does my 12 year old daughter need a computer for middle school??? "
"One request: Locker? I have an idea for how I want to organize it, but I'm still a but iffy on what to buy. :) Thanks! "
"how many 3 ring binders should i buy? "
"this list needs to be more of a MIDDLE SCHOOL list... this is a highschool list or elementry list. in middle school you usually don't need stuff like markers and crayons and all that specific stuff, well because you might end up using it for projects or something, but you could just have them handy at home you wouldn't have to buy new ones and specific ones just for school. Just saying! "
"hey at my school they give u a school supply list and we have to get everything and i was looking to see cause last year w had to go back because hey didnt tell us everything and i looked hear and i wrote everything down and wenwe go shopping i think i wont ave to go back like evryone else "
"Great list!! Maybe white erasers too :) "
"Thank you so much, i really appreciate it. bUT I DON'T THINK IT'S THE RIGHT STUFF "
"This is soo helpfil because I'm going ti 5th grade next year and there's older kids there and I need the right stuff for school "
"i love your ideals"
"Awesome ideas. Thanks"
"thank u this saved my life"
"I liked the tip about the stainless steel bottle and avoid plastic bottle because it leads to heart disease. More people need to know."
"Phew... I'm saved... 5 more days until school... It's been a very boring summer. :P"
"This is a wonderful article, and so very helpful!!!"
"being an educator i thought this checklist was pretty darn complete"
"This was a great list and will be useful because all of these things were on the school supply list from the school too :) "
"thank you for the list you have in this page."
"Great list Check your own schools to make sure you have the specfics"
"this is perfect! thank you for your help!!"
"Great list Check your own schools to make sure you have the specfics"
"Perfect.... great idea! "
"a little long, don't ya think!"
"This was very helpful. "
"this is great"
"I love this idea so we can have a basic idea of what to get."
"Great help!"
"This seems like a pretty thorough list. I would have also included the following: A compass for math, white eraser, and red pens"
"love the site with all the info.makes it esier"
"great list!"
"good job"
"Not that they will use it, but the new roll on sunscreens are very useful. I live in San Diego, CA and we get lots of sun all year round."
"this wedsite is realy helpfull"
"its alright"
"Very great school"
"i hate it "
"There are many children who also have learning disabilities. Could the school supply list add a list of researched learning aids to help child during the school year. Ex: talking aaid items,calculators,spelling aids,flash cards, etc."