Teachers usually hand out detailed supply lists describing what is needed for the year during the first few days of school. I suggest waiting to do back-to-school shopping until after you know what teachers require. Below is a list of items are used on the first day. These are things your student NEEDS to bring so they are prepared for the first day of middle school.
- a few sharpened pencils, with erasers for mistakes,
- blue and/or black ink pens (hint: roll on correction tape can be used to cover ink mistakes instead of white out),
- a binder with 6 dividers or folder(s),
- 7-10 sheets of binder paper,
- school planner (or somewhere to record daily homework - could be done on binder paper to start with) AND
- book to read during SSR (student should select for self - as students finish their books, students should replace with another; family trips to the public library every 2 to 3 weeks … depends on size of the book(s) read and speed of reading ... our local libraries are closed on Mondays so go early!)
Having a good first day experience can help to reduce student nervousness about attending a new school, and bringing the items above will help your student feel successful on the first day. Other useful items at school include: container or bag for supplies, highlighters, red pens for corrections, roll on correction tape (instead of liquid white out), extra paper to be kept at home), a folder OR binder divider for each class - I require either a Science folder, OR a section in their binder for Science. To prevent heavy & overflowing backpacks, many teachers provide the following items in class (when needed): stapler & staples, glue, scissors, coloring items (i.e. markers, or colored pencils, or crayons), white out / correction tape. Please have these items available at home.
The first challenge faced by most middle school students is organization - keeping track of work & expectations from 5 to 6 different teachers can be difficult. With good organization from the beginning & consistent effort, organization can be achieved! When considering school supplies (especially binders and backpacks), please remember that your student's backpack is intended to be full. If it's difficult to put things away, good days can become frustrating. When it is easy to put belongings away a rough day can be improved. I realize that different people have different methods for organization. If your student has had difficulties with organization in the past, see if you can make it easier for your student to keep his or her backpack organized based on the following ...
Considering a new backpack? - It’s hard to believe, a backpack purchased for a middle school student could be the last one you’ll purchase for your student (some come with lifetime warranties & as students get older, they should be more responsible about caring for their belongings). Although my father balked at the price, I convinced him to get a quality backpack that came with a lifetime warranty when I was in middle school. I have not purchased a new backpack since; it was repaired and/or replaced under warranty a few times due to the straps breaking and a hole that developed. If your family already has a backpack in decent condition, I’d suggest using it until it either wears out, or until your student can explain what features are needed in a new backpack that the old one does not have.
If I were shopping, I’d look for a backpack that is lightweight yet durable, has a single large main compartment with a zipper that goes halfway or more around the bag (this way students can fit a couple of large binders, multiple workbooks/ textbooks and still stuff some P.E. clothing or a sweater inside). Having two zipper pulls on each zipper is especially helpful when one zipper gets stuck because the bag can still be used. A good backpack has thickly padded straps, and a secondary storage section that can either organize numerous pencils and a calculator or hold a pencil box. Also consider looking for one with a water bottle pouch on the side (otherwise, these have a tendency to spill or sweat, causing water damage to books and papers inside the bag). I think student backpacks should a maximum of than 5 pockets or compartments, any more and things get lost.
I avoid rolly backpacks because they’re noisy, can be a tripping hazard (because they are being dragged students to not see them as they are dragged into the paths of others) and are heavier than other backpacks (yes, weight isn’t directly on the back compressing the spine, but students are still pulling around the weight which puts pressure on one shoulder and causes students to contort their back). Obviously, if your student’s doctor has advised using a rolly backpack, that advice should be followed.
Organization Tip - I avoid accordion files AND/OR cloth covered binders with zip-up sides. Students have a limited amount of time to move from one class to another, and need to get across campus on time. As they try to leave a classroom quickly, I have seen children stuff papers into their backpacks to avoid wrestling with getting these items into their backpacks. Students do no have the time to complete the process of removing the cloth covered binder, unzipping (or unlatching) it, finding the right folder or section, inserting the paper, re-zipping, and putting away the binder. Backpacks may seem like huge empty caverns now, but that will not last long. Students have at least 3 workbooks (all are supplied by the school) and a book for students to read during SSR, a homework planner, the occasional textbook and gym clothing, other supplies like binders and folders in addition to other school supplies like pens and pencils. Some of the teachers in middle school require a binder that is only used for that one class, which means multiple binders. The other problem I have noticed with the cloth covered binders is they have too many pouches, folders, and sections. I have had students unable to find papers because they were inserted into the accordion-style pouch instead of the folders in the zip-up binder, or some other hidden pocket that they have forgotten about, or the flip over cover of the accordion file took too long to undo so the paper never gets put away. Other times, students only need to take out a pen/pencil and the zipper binders make it difficult to access such items in an efficient manner. As a result, I avoid accordion files AND/OR cloth covered binders with zip-up sides instead, prefer folders and/or binder(s) with divided sections, and for students to store other needed supplies in the backpack itself.
I also avoid plastic folders - students will occasionally put them into their backpacks upside down, and when it is time to pull out the very full plastic folder, all the papers tumble out.
Once school starts, have your student's organize and then read aloud their papers on the first few days of school. These will include supplies that your student is required to bring each day, along with other important information. Some teachers even post their Course Information handouts on the classroom web pages before school starts so you can avoid the long lines at our nearest office supply store!
-Mrs. Fischer (click here for a printable shopping list of supplies I will be requiring this year for my students)