School Supply Shopping


Hello! I have been thinking of starting a weekly blog for a little while now, but have been stumped on what subjects might be of interest to you. However, now that we are squarely in the midst of “Back to School” sales, I get intoxicated with anticipation of new pens, zippered pouches, and colorful school supplies and thought you might like a glimpse into my suggested school supply list, so this is my FIRST blog post!

Alright, school supplies are near and dear to my heart. A&E Hoarders would have a field day with my office because it is full of fancy paper and glittery pens. I am constantly trying new supplies and figuring out which things work best for my students, which items can last the entire school year, and which are just cheap and cruddy. So, here we go!

First, I think every middle and high schooler should have their own filing system. Personally, I like the low-cost portable option of a file crate that holds hanging file folders. Then, I mark all the tabs with topics like, Employment, College, Personal Records, and start holding extra papers there. If you get assignments back, make a folder for that course and dump them all in the file. That way, you aren’t carrying everything around with you the whole time, but if you need to reference something (to check that a grade got entered correctly or you need to cite something you previously wrote in an upcoming paper), you have access to these items fairly quickly. At the end of the semester or once a year, go through the papers and toss anything you don’t ever need to see again. If you haven’t touched it in a year, chances are you probably won’t (with the exception of personal and legal documents like taxes and birth certificates).

Another thing I like to have on hand is extra supplies. You might not need colored pencils every day (don’t let them take up space in your backpack), but it might be nice to have them in case you want them for a project. I have dedicated a bin or a drawer for extra supplies, but I am also a fan of picking up the hanging shoe holders and using the pockets to sort. I toss it over my door and add tape, glue, markers, glitters, stickers, anything I might need. You can also cut the holder if you don’t need as many pockets as it provides. You can also use the pockets for storing scarves and other stuff if you have extra space. Other supplies you should have at home include:

Hole punch for papers to go in binder


Scotch tape

Glue sticks

Anything else you want (tape, thumb tacks, paper clips, colored pencils, markers, paints, glitter, stickers, etc.)

Once your home space is taken care of, I shift to the locker. My personal philosophy is to have what you need, but don’t overcarry. Some backpacks are nearly fifty pounds and to me, that’s ridiculous. I like to keep things in the locker and at home, and use the backpack to transport what I need. To make the your locker organized, I recommend a locker shelf because it gives you more flexibility on where to store your things. You might notice that I am crazy about the Mead Five Star brand of products—they tend to take a beating and still wear really well, they have a ton of cool colors, and their design is really smart and practical. Once you have a locker shelf, I usually have a bag of stuff (I like the Five Star Stand N Store bags) with extra deodorant, hair ties, feminine hygiene products, flossers and braces brushes, Advil or Tylenol for headaches, that kind of stuff. Don’t forget a combo lock (you can text yourself the combo so you don’t forget it) and a mirror and you are good to go. I used to buy those magnetic organizers that held supplies and left them in the locker, but then students kept leaving the supplies in the locker—so I don’t do that anymore.

Then, the backpack! I recommend a backpack that can hold a binder and a laptop because you might want to study and bring both of those things. I’m a fan of the backpacks with side pockets for your water bottle (which I also highly recommend having on you), but don’t overdo it with the pockets because it is easier to lose things. What goes in the backpack?

Small First Aid kit (mostly a couple band-aids for blisters or paper cuts—don’t get too crazy)

Water bottle

Wet Wipes (I like these because you can use them on items (like a desk or a locker) or on skin (cleaning up after lunch))

Flash cards (back in the day, I used to cut index cards, punch a hole in them, and put them on a shower ring—now, you can buy them already like that or DIY!)

Planner – this is controversial—I know. I have found that using technology is great for a calendar (I am a huge fan of Google Calendar myself), but the neuroscience strongly ties hand-writing something to memorization. For me, I like to use the Dawson and Guare Executive Functioning Work-Smart Academic Planner (each student who signs up for face-to-face coaching services is given one of these because of how much I believe in it!) for homework and assignments. The Google Calendar can then be used for overall scheduling.

Lunch stuff – for students with Executive Functioning deficits, it is vital to make sure you are eating, hydrating, sleeping, and exercising regularly. In Junior High, I ate Cheez-Its and milkshakes every day because they were cheap, easy, and I didn’t have anybody telling me not to. Now, as an old person, I wish I had learned better eating habits and took my health more seriously. When you take care of your body, your brain functions better allowing you to learn more and reduce some of the challenges that come with lack of memory, poor organization, distraction, and other difficulties.

Binder – This is a topic that I can be very passionate about, so stick with me on this. Unless your teacher requires you to—do not buy different binders for each class! This seems like a good idea, but what if you grab the wrong one? And now you need to keep track of five times as much stuff as before! Plus, you might want to start on math corrections during some free time in English, but you can’t do that because the math binder is in your locker so you end up just wasting time!! Alright, you get my point. I recommend a typical view binder. You can slide your school calendar into the front, or a picture of your cat, or whatever you want—it can be changed!

Inside the binder you will need a zippered pencil case. I tried the ones that you press like a Ziplock baggie and they never work right. Get the kind with the three-rings so it stays in the binder. You can go super fancy (Five Star, my love) or super basic.  This holds all of your pens, pencils (I have a lot of thoughts on pens and pencils—mostly, buy stuff you love! I am a mechanical pencil girl myself, so I always have an extra package of lead and erasers for my pencils), calculator, index cards for notes or flash cards.

Dividers – I have been around and around with these and what I have decided is your dividers MUST have a pocket of some kind (in case you get handed something small or without holes punched), but not so many pockets that you get lost. These are my favorite right now. I got really excited when Five Star launched their dividers because they were plastic (durable), hole-punched, and had a pocket, but they are too thick for the binder and are basically an entire folder unto themselves, so I am going back to my old faves.

College-ruled loose-leaf paper

Now you may have noticed there are a few items missing on my school supply list, and I am going to address those things. I will say that if a teacher specifically asks for something—just get it—it isn’t worth fighting over, but if they are open to different products, here’s my work around:

Highlighters – I almost never use these. Students get a highlighter in their hand and then boom—the whole page is neon which defeats the point of highlighting at all. I read with a pencil and an eraser and make notes that way—I am happy to show you my system. I find that annotating this way is much easier for me to remember what I was thinking anyhow.

Composition books – These are my nightmare. They are so hard to repurpose and if you start writing in it and make a mistake, it becomes a scribbled-out disaster. Instead, I opt for the Five Star (surprised?) 1-subject notebook. These are awesome because they have a built-in storage pocket that you can move as a bookmark (which is great for labs or whatever), has a holder for a pen so you can keep a lab pen with the notebook, is spiral so it is all held together but if you want to rip it out, it has perforations so you don’t get little dangly pieces of paper on the left side and it is hole-punched to go directly into your binder. This kind can even be put into your binder as-is and taken out when needed.

Anything I missed? Any questions you might have about supplies? Anything you want a blog post about? Let me know!!


File crate

Hanging file folders

Over-the-door shoe storage

Hole punch for papers to go in binder


Scotch tape

Glue sticks

Anything else you want (tape, thumb tacks, paper clips, colored pencils, markers, paints, glitter, stickers, etc.)




Combo lock

Bag with extra deodorant, hair ties, feminine hygiene products, flossers and braces brushes, Advil or Tylenol for headaches, etc.



Small First Aid kit

Water bottle

Wet Wipes

Flash cards


Lunch stuff



Pencil case with pens, pencils, calculator, index/flash cards


Loose-leaf paper

NOTE: I was not paid or given any supplies in exchange for this post. I am just a school supply nerd.