Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some of Our Favorite Supplies for Back to School

Furlough days, budget cuts, and increased class sizes have many teachers sending out supply lists this year. Many teachers (and even some districts) have been sending out supply lists from the beginning of time. Many elementary schools pool their supplies together, including those donated by parents. Over the years, I think I've tried just about every brand out there.

We've compiled a list of our favorite school supplies. If you're waiting until the last possible minute to buy supplies this year, here are some supplies to consider.

Hand sanitizer: These individual hand sanitizer holders are great because they clip onto your student's backpack or lunchbox. Encourage your kids to sanitize before they eat, both at recess and at lunch. 

Coloring supplies: Crayola is my favorite brand of markers, and I buy new boxes every year. In my opinion, these last longer than some of the other leading brands. They come in a variety of fun, new colors, but I like to stick to the basics. Did you know that you can't put traditional colored pencils into an electric sharpener? The friction from the blade spinning creates heat, which melts the wax and eventually coats and dulls your blade. This is why I love these twistable colored pencils. Students always have their favorite colors, and when the tip gets flat, it's like it's the end of the world. These prevent whining, wandering around the room looking for a sharp one, and pencil sharpener malfunctions.

White board writing utensils: These are new to me, but apparently they aren't new. They're crayons that you can use on a white board. I was skeptical because I couldn't fathom how they'd work, so I bought them mostly out of curiosity. To my amazement, the feel, look, smell, and write JUST like crayons. They erase easily with a white board eraser, a piece of felt, a paper towel, and with the cloth that comes with it. These might be my new favorite supply this year!

Filing supplies: These are perfect for upper elementary and middle school kids that shuffle around so many papers. I love this particular one because it's affordable, it has 7 pockets, and it's sturdy. Elementary students can use it for unfinished classwork, papers that need to go home to parents, papers that need to go to the teacher, homework to be completed, homework to be turned in, long-term projects, and blank paper. Middle school students can do the same, or they can use one for each subject. This filing system can be used in the classroom and at home, and prevents papers from being stashed in a backpack. This product is so versatile!

Index cards: I could write a whole blog post just about index cards, so I'll have to save that for another day. This year, I found these gems hiding on the shelf. They come in a variety of colors, and they would be super easy to make. I bought these because the poly-covers are extremely durable. I often put cards on a ring, but it's not long before the front or back ones start falling off. You can even add a few sticky tabs to section off different sets of flashcards (like I did below).

 Pencils: For the love of pencils, PLEASE don't buy the cheap pencils with hard erasers that crack. The erasers smudge the graphite and rip paper, the shafts crack, and the tips break off. As much as we love donated school supplies, there's nothing worse than cheap pencils. If you really want to make a good impression, I HIGHLY recommend Ticonderoga Dixon #2 pencils. You can buy them in bulk at Costco, and they're really worth the extra price. Your teacher will LOVE you if you bring these in, and you'll earn extra brownie points for sharpening them.

Tabs: These Post-It notes are fantastic because they're a quick way for middle and high school students to label notes, textbooks, and planners. The tabs on the right are a bit more versatile, and are especially wonderful for tabbing important math formulas in textbooks. I picked these up from the Container Store, but I've seen them in a few other places. The little 4-pack on top is from Martha Stewart.

Academic Planner: Most of our middle school students receive planners from school. For our high school students (and our middle school students that thrash their planners), I love these planners from Staples. They have lots of room to write down assignments, events, and reminders, and students can see their whole week (a key element to successfully managing their time). Each month also has a page for keeping track of important reminders. We'll add more about how to use your planner in a different post.

To do list: The only thing I love more than a good to do list is crossing things OFF of a to do list. We get so many phone calls from parents that have arguments over homework on a nightly basis. Creating a to do list is a great technique that visually shows younger kids what they need to do for the evening. They can cross the items off of their list one by one, and it prevents the, "How many more pages do I have to do?" whining. You set the expectation, they complete the work, and you can both feel good when all of the items are crossed off for the day.

Desk organizers: Many of our middle schoolers have desks that look like they've been struck by tornados. For students with piles of papers all over their desk, nightstand, dresser, and various locations throughout the whole house, these are a great way to help them keep their piles neat and orderly. It frees up space on their desk, and it helps prevent papers from being lost. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes.

Color-coded spiral notebooks and pocket folders: Our 6th graders tend to be at a complete loss with organization. Transitioning from 1 teacher to 5 or more means different rules, different policies, and different procedures. Some teachers require spiral notebooks, others ask for 3-ring binders, and the rest fall somewhere in between "just don't lose this" and "come up with a system that works for you". After the first week of school, students will know which teachers require which supplies. If all of their materials for each class are color-coded, it becomes easier to keep track of all of their materials. We've got more to come about this in an upcoming blog post.

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it's a start. These are items that can be overlooked, but they all caught my eye this week.

Click here to see 5 supplies that your teacher does NOT want you to bring to school.

Happy supply shopping!

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