Imagine your surgeon performing a procedure on you using broken scalpels. Imagine an auto mechanic trying to fix your Ferrari using nothing but a hammer. The right tools for the job are important there and in the classroom. Your child’s academic success is partly determined by the tools he or she brings to school.
In consideration of the economy we tried to trim down the 4th and 5th grade shopping list, but we advise you not to waste your money on the cheap stuff. Generic-brands will only need to be replaced shortly after the school year begins, costing you more money in the long run. The official CPE supply list can be found here, while a supply list specific to Room 15 can be found here (use this one). Be sure to consider the following tips to help make your school supply shopping more effective and less-expensive:
Pencils: It sounds silly, but I STRONGLY encourage purchasing Ticonderoga pencils. In twenty years in the classroom I have witnessed the use of approximately fifteen thousand pencils, and I can tell you there’s a huge difference between brands. Pencils made in China and those typically sold by Wal-mart and Dollar Tree are horrific. Also avoid mechanical pencils and pencils with graphic “wraps” (if you look closely you can tell when a pencil has been wrapped in plastic; the plastic decals may look cool, but they’re a disaster in the pencil sharpener). The supply list calls for two dozen pencils. If they’re Ticonderoga, you can half that, but if they’re Office Works or some other cheapo brand, you’ll need four dozen. As of July 28th, Fred Meyer had a two dozen box of Ticonderoga for just $2.99.
Glue Sticks: We use a lot of glue in Room 15, so this is a biggie. Good brands: Avery, Elmer’s, Roseart. Stay away from Office Works, Staples, Scholastic, Office Deport, and all generic brands. (While Staples and Depot are good places to shop for name brand products, their store brands are a waste of money.)
Calculators: Texas Instruments TI-30XIIS, which sells for between $9 and $15, is the official calculator for all District 6 students from 4th through 8th grade. Buy it once and use it until high school. Classwork and state test practice is aligned with this specific calculator, so no other brands or models will do.
Rulers: Avoid those with gimmicks. Inexpensive wood or plastic ones are best, but make sure it shows both inches and centimeters. The same goes for protractors.
Spiral Notebooks: Avoid the kind that have book binding, perforated pages, or a “wireless” label. Instead, buy the 70 page theme books that are typically on sale about now for ten for a buck. Kids who struggle with hand-writing should use wide-ruled, while those who have already developed a sense for neatness can get college-ruled (this same rule-of-thumb applies to your paper purchase).
Three-ring binders: I’m not a big fan of using binders, but we find if we do a good job of teaching kids binder organization while at CPE, they’re more successful in middle school. Thus, a good binder is important. Instead of getting one with lots of silly features, go for toughness. Kids tend to abuse their binders, so you want one that can take a lickin’. (You might also want to suggest your child pays for any replacement binder on their own . . . maybe then they’ll take better care of it.)
Dividers: Students will use these to set-up their binders. They should have tabs on them, but students should wait to write on their tabs until getting specific instructions in class.
Colored-pencils and crayons: A simple box of each is fine, and here the brand is less significant. We use colored-pencils extensively, but mostly just standard colors. Students tend to lose their colored-pencils, so plan on buying another set mid-year. Scissors also tend to disappear quickly, so if you can buy a two-pack, you’re better off in the long run.
Community supplies: Some of what your student buys will be turned in immediately to the teacher so that it can be dispensed appropriately throughout the year. This process protects you, the consumer, from having to replace items too frequently. Pencils, paper, tissue, and glue sticks are all items we’ll “control” in this way. Therefore, students should avoid labeling their supplies until arriving in class.
Optional items: Items each student may find useful (but are not required) include a manual pencil sharpener, a black sharpie, a set of water-color markers, and a four-pack of dry-erase markers. These items will be retained by the student.
Other items: A good backpack (avoid those with wheels), a water bottle (BPA free or stainless steel, but no disposable water bottles, please!), and a deodorant stick for post-fitness/PE use will also help your child have a great fifth grade year!
Finally, one last thing that costs nothing: I encourage you to set your student up with his or her own e-mail account such as through Google (gmail) or Yahoo. You should set it up so that both you and the student have access. This will facilitate a variety of classroom activities, including the building of student webpages/portfolios. These days, more and more academic content is delivered via the Internet. I’ve had great success motivating kids to higher levels of learning, but e-mail and Internet access is the basic requirement.