School Supply List

As we move into the throes of another August rush back to school, back to that odd bouquet of spoiled milk that most schools tend to proffer, the preparations begin both on our end and on the end of students and parents everywhere. Never is this more evident than on a trip to Staples.

It’s like Christmas, except the lists aren’t created by the children, but by the teachers and staff in each school, grade and classroom. An odd reversal, if you think about it, as the students then present their bounty for inspection to the teacher as they arrive in school, often for the first grade of the year. Imagine if we did that with Santa? What pressure!

On a recent trip through the office superstore, I came across a kiosk that had supply lists from every school in our surrounding area in neat little piles for the taking. Just for giggles and grins, I took one. This is what was on it:

Grade 6-8 Social studies

  • 1 3ring binder
  • 1 composition book
  • Colored pencils

Grades 6—8 Science

  • 1 1-inch three-ring binder and lined paper
  • highlighters
  • pencils
  • paper reinforcements

Grades 6, 7, 8 Language Arts

  • 1 4/6 note card case
  • 200 4×6 note cards
  • 4 multi-colored highlighters
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Pencil case
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • 5 2-pocket folders
  • CD’s, floppy discs or flash drives
  • 1 5-subject notebook-college ruled

Grade 6 Language Arts

  • Pocket folder
  • 1 3-ring binder


  • 1 3-subject notebook
  • 1 set highlighters
  • Erasable pens
  • Non-erasable pens
  • Pencils
  • 1 2-packs of 3/5 index cards
  • index card box

I began to think immediately of how this looked different in some of the schools I read about, like, perhaps, 1:1 schools. Are the students still required to procure the standard items like binders, or, my favorite on this list: paper reinforcements (we had another creative name for these when I was working as a field archaeologist)? As we are currently rethinking our school philosophies, do these lists change? What would they look like in your “school of the future?” What does yours currently look like?

The last few days of mine have been spent working with a group of teachers in a workshop we called Research 2.0. One of the first discussions we had was about research methods and tools. Eric Hoefler (from whose work I borrowed heavily) had come up with this quote and list initially, and it generated some great discussion among my group on Thursday:

These tools and approaches are now “dead” or “almost dead.” If your research plan relies on them, you are probably not adequately preparing your students:

  • Floppy Disks
  • School computers with extreme filtration
  • CD-ROMs
  • Note Cards (or other pen-and-paper-only note-taking methods)
  • Limiting the number of “online resources”
  • Outlawing “citation help” from online services (Who memorizes the MLA handbook, anyway?)
  • Basic web searches or school-database-only searches
  • Completely independent research methods
  • Text-only sources
  • Text-only reports

With this in mind, is there a marriage between old method and new method that needs to be created? I am having trouble seeing it right now. Any ideas?

Image Credit: “Back to School Ad” by chishkilauren at Flickr.


7 thoughts on “School Supply List

  1. Patrick,

    Good post. I looked at your “Research 2.0” wiki and noticed that you posted a YouTube clip of a movie that I created called “CUT AND PASTE” about teacher’s copyright rules. I’m glad you like it and find it worthy enough to share, but isn’t it ironic that on a wiki about citations and plagerism that you didn’t give me the credit for its creation?

    (Update that if you can please)

    Keep up the great posts.

    Barry Bachenheimer

  2. Barry,

    Mea Culpa. That wiki was the result of two unbeleivably late nights, but as such, the irony is not lost on me. Will fix it immediately.

    Another great aspect of personal learning environments? 24hr peer-review.

  3. Great question Patrick! Here’s my list for self-directed, reflective learners coming back from the summer.

    -Bring your appreciative reflections about last year: what you like best, what you got the most interested in, what you accomplished that you’re proud of and still remember doing
    -Bring your critical reflections about last year too: what you had a hard time with, what you’re dreading if it happens again, what you had no interest in doing (but had to do it anyway)
    -Bring your questions that already have you wondering about for this year, the themes we’ll explore (dinosuars, rain forests, etc)
    -Bring your requests for what you’d like to: learn about, experience first hand, team up to accomplish, explore on your own (with a little help perhaps)
    -Bring your ideas about: learning, going to school, becoming smarter, getting new abilities, having fun while finding out about new things
    -Bring your frustrations that others might share and help us resolve together: with your friends at school, with classmates that don’t want to be your friend, with teachers, rules, class activities, homework, or anything else that comes to mind

  4. Tom,

    Absolutely love this list you created. In the right environment, I can see some really confident learners arising from such conversations, that includes the teachers.

    I am truly going to push the teachers I work with to use student feedback in a meaningful way. The questions you include in your “summer checklist” are perfect starters for that process.

    Now the question is, can I find a few before the school year starts..

  5. Patrick,

    I agree that Tom’s list is excellent – I plan to print it out (with proper attribution, of course) for my kids to look at on the first day of class.

    My intention was to have a paper-free course, as much as possible. Unfortunately, since I haven’t been able to obtain a class list yet, none of the students will have internet access until they receive and return their signed AUPs. So we may start off with a survey and a few quick answer tasks (write on this sticky note one current events issue that you’ve seen or heard about in the news…to be arranged on the board and discussed). I’ll also use the LCD projector in the computer lab to preview the wiki and blogs I hope to use with them.

    Our district expresses the desire to help our students become information fluent. We’ll see how far they’re prepared to let us move into the 21st century (What will they unblock??? Dare I hope for YouTube and flickr???)


  6. Looking over my school website, these lists to seem to be outdated
    In a perfect world I wish my supply list just said,
    “Bring your lap top and your brain”

    I feel good that at least I have a flash drive listed!

    I think technology needs to have a spotlight in all STUDENT orientations, not just faculty

  7. Diane-

    We are fortunate in our district that only the most common social networking sites are blocked (MySpace, Facebook, etc.). If you really want to knock their socks off, try something like Gliffy, Mindomo, or as those sticky notes come in on the first class day. Then you will have an embeddable mindmap to play with on whatever blog or wiki you use with them.


    Alas, how do we get at the students without getting at the teachers first? As you say, in a perfect world, leading groups of students through individual programs of study designed by and for them through the use of their school-issued laptop would be lights out! What we need to focus on is how to get from where we are to where that is or where the idea that we have for that is. To do that, I think we need teachers. Scratch that, we need risk-takers, we need people who design lessons meant to confound their students into caring.

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