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A school supply list to get you started

Keep this checklist handy to make your back-to-school 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

When it comes to writing essentials, teachers say, don't waste your money on feather pencils, light-up pencil sharpeners, or pretty erasers that don't work. And for organizational helpers, keep in mind that expensive folders with multiple pockets and zippers are often too bulky to fit in desks. Better to stick with more streamlined (and cheaper) models.

Glue sticks (at least three for the year)

Scissors (blunt ended for younger kids, pointed for older ones)

Ballpoint pens

No. 2 pencils (Stick with this classic to avoid classroom competition over whose writing utensil is the coolest — or most impractical.)

Colored pencils

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

A large pink eraser (The old-fashioned ones do the best erasing.)

Water-based markers

A four-ounce bottle of white glue

Highlighters (These are probably unnecessary for kids in kindergarten through second grade.)

Spiral-bound or composition notebooks

A three-ring binder

Loose-leaf notebook paper (Teachers can be picky about paper. Schools usually supply specially ruled handwriting paper to help younger children with letter formation. Older children use wide-ruled paper, and some middle school students will need the college-ruled variety.)

Pocket folders (If you get a folder with two pockets, label one "keep at home" and the other "bring to school" to help your child organize his papers.)

Printer paper and ink cartridges (for your home computer)

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Scotch tape

A stapler

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

Extras for elementary school students

A box of crayons (Get a 16-pack for younger kids, more for older ones.)

Watercolor paints

Drawing paper

Construction paper

A box for storing items (Teachers recommend one that's eight inches long by five inches wide by two inches deep to hold pencils, crayons, erasers, and scissors.)

Extras for middle school students

A calendar for scheduling assignments

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.)

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

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

Folders that fit in binders

A small notebook to record assignments

A pencil case that fits in binders

Red-ink pens (Some teachers have students do peer editing.)

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 calculator. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in some middle school math classes. Teachers advise parents not to buy a calculator with more functions than your students will use.)

Comments from readers

"This list makes shopping so much easier. One addition to the school supply list would be bring a plant such as a TickleMe Plant (the only classroom plant that kids can tickle and its leaves will close and branches droop) for the classroom. A great way to add life to the classroom. I found kits to grow them on line. "
"i think this is a great website. I'm going to use this list for my 7th grade year. It's got great tips and tricks. It's got great information. this was a very helpful website and i hope i can perches most or all of this stuff at target. :) "
"It was a good resorce for me to start 7th grade! I checked off everything and all i have to do now is go buy it. Thanks. "
"This is a really good website! "
"my kids got all the supplies on this list and are ready for middle school "
"It's great for kids that are starting school "
"OMG! thank you for this it will definitely help me this year, I wanted to be perfect this year , because last year I was the one using all of the school stuff because i didnt know what to bring! Thank you "
"it was a very good checklist for my kids "
"I'm making a school on my home desk and I need the supplies. Thanks! "
"This was really helpful not because im a parent but because I am a student. Next year I will be going to University High school as a gifted and talented middle schooler. This gave me a good idea on what I should bring the first day of school in order to be prepared. Thank you!!! lolz "
"my school usualy wants you to have graph paper! "
"Although I'm from Philippines I understand things that foreigns are having for when the school nears to start.It is a great help for someone that are confuse on what will they buy.I found this blog, I search it, for me to be easier to think and to decide what I really need this school year 2012-2013. Thanks!!! Alfred Molina :) xD "
"It was assisted me.thank you very much! "
"such good help thanks sooooooooooooooo much for this helpfull info "
"i love this list helped me so much THX!!!!! (PS i owe u) "
"this is really helpful "
"This helped me a lot! their were things I never thought of! Now I know more of what I need to get for my first semester of college! thank you! <3 "
"This article is amazing, everything was correct and my daughter started school with the perfect stationary! "
"This was NOT helpful at all! Thanks but, NO THANKS!!!! "
"thx "
"I'm at a British state school, going into year 10. This list is really helping me to get my stuff ready for the first day of term! Thank you very much! "
"Thank you so much for the list! I also really admire the extra details and explanations used for optimum comprehension! Thanks! "
"thanks this really helped a lot! I even added this to my favourites bar! :D "
"this is a very nice website and thank you soo much that u have this website or else i wouldnt know what to get for my daughter.. .but the only thing that ure missing is book covers... my daughter is in 7th grade and she needs like all of that stuff.. idk y but yeh. well thxs 4 this website "
" I found this informative and interesting blog, so I think so it’s very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me. I really thought that blog is spreading its wings rapidly... "
"All of the schools in our area, for kindergarten, pens, colored pencils, white glue, and pink erasers were specifically omitted from the list. They want white erasers, I don't know why, but pink are not allowed. And they wanted glue sticks, not school glue. "
"Thanks So Much :) !!!!!!!!!!!!! "
"thank you i can get my school supplies "
"This helped me alot! "
"it relly good "
"i am 12 and getting in fifth grade and the list was the that the one i got at school anyway thanks "
"Thanks. I totally needed this checklist so I could go out and blow a whole buch money on school supplies for fifth grade. I could blow $200 easily!!!! Such a good list (; "
"these are true, but with different schools there are different necessitys. "
"Thanks so much I come back from my vacation 2 days before school starts this list is a life saver thank you again. "
"it is very helpful it is fantastic thankyou very much "
"this list helped a lot especially cause i didnt get one----------thx "
"this is good...thanks for the help! :D "
"I'm in highschool and I think these lists look exactly like the ones I had when I was younger, but I think there should also be a list for high school, and you should probably label the middle school one as "middle school/jr. High" since some people might not know they're pretty much the same. "
"This was a cool list it helped a lot xxxxxxx "
"thanks "
"Very Nice! I had some Late shopping to do and this was very helpful. "
"thank you it really helped me "
"This list helped,but there are no middle schools where I live. Which list should I follow? I am going to start grade 8 this september. Is there anything else that I should bring with me? Please get back to me very soon! "
"lol we have no middle school which list should i follow im going into seventh grade should i follow middle schools or jr high "
"yep thats all the right stuff to get "
"is this for 4th grade to let me know please "
"helped so much "
"I also suggest bringing a planner or calendar. It is very helpful in keeping track of assignments and due dates for reports, as well as tests. "
"Thanks!!! This makes it less stressful, thsnks for the advice of getting extra binders!!! "
"Is there anything else to take with you? I am 11 and I am getting into Middle School. "
"what state is thinis "
"what about if your going to high school(the tenth grade to be exact)? "
"great thanks "
"thank you for the list but should i get her tissues and hand santiser??? thanks again "
"great tips thanks for helping me withe the school supplies i will use this list next year ;)i am now going to set up my stuff thank you "
"This list really helped thank you!!! "
"cool "
"thanks this is helpful-ish "
"school is so fun to me.i cant wait for school to start again next fall. heading to 6th grade at hyre middle school cant wait."
"gracias babys i love you"
"I would also get a back-up 3 Inch binder for older children. Im in 7th grade and have already gone through 2 of them, with all the stuff we carry, things wear out fast."
"I used to teach high school--I agree with the flash drive, and sometimes you can find 4 or 8gig ones for $15-ish dollars. I wouldn't buy much of anything though until you find out what the individual teachers want--in high school we tend to be a little bit more individual in what we want/require :)"
"The list for each grade seems to get longer and longer. What do we pay all those school taxes for, don't they provide anything. The younger kids even have to supply their own tissues. Then they are given to the teacher for everyone to use. Doesn't make sense to me Oh well, you do what you gotta do."
"This might be a little too much but it is nice to have a link to Target."
"The only thing I would add as an extra would be white out. Sometimes you just need it. It has saved me a few times. Especially when you are just making photo copies. "
"What a great list!"
"This list covers everything : )"
"tis is no help at all seriously"
"do kinders need all this crap already my goodness"
"Great List!"
"very helpful, thanks"
"So helpful!"
"Great and informative thanks"
"Super! Very Helpful Thank You!"
"Sounds like a pretty good back to school list to me :)"
" list it helps alot thanks..!!!"
"This list takes the guesswork and pressure out of back to school shopping. It takes into consideration what will be more practical to kids for a successful school year and budget conscious for the caregivers! 10 points!"
"thanks for the help"
"Excellent info!"
"Thanks for the help."
"sounds right"
"looks great! "
"I like the extra's for middle schoolers...good list"
"Great information!"
"There a lot of extra things on here that my kids' schools do not require..paints for instance. They only use them in art class therefor there are supplied by the art department. "
"This is a great list!"
"great list!"
"looks like I have a lot to look forward to when my son gets to elementary school!"
"very helpful list!"
"This is just what I was looking for. This is great!!! a"