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Back-to-School with the Basics

This back to school season, post a hodgepodge Basics project with all of the essential supplies you need!


One project. All your essentials. Funded by donors.

This back to school season, post a hodgepodge Basics project. (It’s more than allowed, it’s encouraged!) Give your project a snazzy name, then add-to-cart all the essential items that will make your year run more smoothly. 

Through DonorsChoose, your school year prep can be one-stop shopping, funded by the DonorsChoose community.

Need some inspiration? We’ve rounded up suggestions from the DonorsChoose Teacher Community on Facebook (thanks, teacher friends!), stellar projects, and 22 years of DonorsChoose back-to-school seasons to bring you the Top 10 Back-to-School Must-haves:

1. Pencils ✏️

A super sharp tip (pencil pun intended) from Ms. McGinley in Chicago:

“My students need pencils to write fabulous stories and persuasive essays. We want to maximize our learning time and use every minute on learning, not pencil sharpening.” – “Pencils to Increase Time on Task!”

Pre-sharpened pencils are a time-saving, inexpensive, and totally necessary item for every subject and grade, making the classic yellow #2 the #1 item on our list.

2. Ziploc bags

Here’s one item from Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Davis-Foxworth’s essentials lists that absolutely makes ours, too:

“We use ziploc bags daily to hold game pieces, left over snacks, paper when a backpack is forgotten at home or even loose teeth that have fallen out!” – “New Supplies for a New Year!”

**For an extra-environmentally friendly alternative, shop DonorsChoose vendors for BPA-free reusable storage bags (they come in gallon, sandwich, and snack sizes just like Ziplocs!) Check out Mrs. Sturgis’s project “Eco Friendly Storage for Individual Student Book Bags” for ideas.

3. Paper 📎

Graph paper. Printer paper. Lined index cards. Unlined index cards. Notebooks. Sketch pads. Drawing paper. Sticky notes. Bigger sticky notes. Rainbow colored sticky notes. Manuscript paper. Butcher paper. College-ruled paper. Construction Paper. Chart paper.

Types of paper are as varied as the ways you and your students use them. Check out:

4. Batteries & Chargers 🔋

New school year, new technology? Check out your calculators, noise canceling headphones, robotics kits, tablets, and toys for their power source. Then request batteries or back-up chargers to match.

Rechargeable batteries are saving Mr. Farley’s classroom and they can save yours, too:

“If you have ever reached for batteries only to find them dead even though they have been sitting in a charger forever, then you know my pain. I spend way too much on batteries and I still never have enough. These rechargeable batteries and chargers help us to have a constant supply of batteries.” – “Can We Just Have Charged Batteries Already?”

5. Markers 🖊️

From your dry-erase collection to your highlighter assortment, it’s a Proven Law of the Public School Classroom™ that your markers will dry up exactly when you need them most. 

Mrs. Collins and her South Carolina kindergartners know best:

“We have our hands in everything, which means we use a large variety of materials. One of those things, in particular, is markers. We use dry erase markers, highlighters, washable markers…If you can name it we probably do it with our markers.” – “Making Our Mark with Markers”

6. Band-aids and tissues 🤧

Clean and healthy classrooms are happy classrooms! Re-stock your shelves with first-aid basics, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, and other cleaning supplies.

Here’s a reminder from Ms. Michalek that these materials can directly impact learning:

“Healthy students are more likely to come to school, be engaged, and gain confidence. If students are at home, or constantly going to the nurse for bandaids and cough drops they are disrupting their learning and the learning of their peers. I am asking for things like bandaids, cough drops, and Kleenex so that kids can stay in good health.” – “Healthy and Happy Students”

7. Stickers 🌟

Motivational incentives (lots of them) will set your year on the right track. And before you skip past this one as being for the “little kids”, take a look at Mrs. Khatadia’s project for her high schoolers…

“Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are doing a job well done. And who doesn't like an eye-catching sticker to add to a water bottle, Chromebook, or folder?

Quiet student in the back making all the right choices and working hard? Sticker! Squirrly student came to class and got straight to work? Sticker! Classmate helping out another student understand what to do? Sticker! Work turned in on time? Sticker! Help me place emphasis on positivity.” – “Celebrating Success with Stickers”

8. Nutritious snacks 🍎

Nothing sidetracks learning faster than a grumbling stomach. Stocking your classroom with healthy snacks can make the day significantly more successful for all growing students, especially those for whom breakfast at home isn’t readily available.

Mrs. Mailhiot’s students (and probably yours, too?) need to be able to recharge throughout the day:

“Many of my students are hungry throughout the school day and simply eating a snack helps their brains to be more focused on completing these tasks more successfully. My students utilize a work to reward system and love the snacks listed in the cart (applesauce, jello, pudding, oatmeal- and hey, it's nutritious too!).” – “Nutritious Snacks”

9. Folders 📂

Good habits start from Day One. Color-coded, 3-ring, or pocket – folders are a great first step to keeping students organized.

Ms. Favors’ has home communicator folders, daily seatwork folders, and subject area folders…here’s why:

“For the upcoming school year, I want my students to be organized each day with their assignments. I find that when students are organized, the school day seems to flow better." – “Let’s Get Organized”

10. Glue

And finally, the item to make this whole list stick together, glue. Glue sticks, glitter glue, white glue, and a hot glue gun can make all your creative projects come to life this year.

Wondering why your glue supply is always gone? Fifth-grade teacher Ms. Varga has a few ideas…

"We go through glue sticks like candy, I'm not sure if my students are using the glue sticks for our class work, wasting it, or eating it. We do a lot of gluing in 5th grade, even though you wouldn't think that-- we do a lot of project based and hands-on learning. It also helps my students with their dexterity.” – “Glue, Glue, and More Glue”

Back-to-School Bundles

Mix and match the materials listed above (plus any others your classroom needs!) to create a back-to-school bundle, like these teachers:

  • Ms. O’s First Classroom!
    Index cards, rubber bands, thank you cards, bubble mailers, pencils, glue sticks, tissues, permanent markers, portable speaker, tape, multi-purpose paper, pens, staples, 3-hole punch, monthly planner, stickers, paper clips, and scissors

  • So Cool Back-to-School
    3-ring binders, crayons, headphone earbuds, dry erase markers, pre-sharpened pencils, colored pencils, mesh zipper pouches, glue sticks
  • Back to School Basics
    Spiral notebooks, washable markers, 3-ring pencil pouches, #2 pencils, glue, highlighters
  • Basic Needs
    Laminating pouches, scissors, notebooks, super sticky big notes, dry erase markers, highlighters, construction paper, permanent markers, binder clips
  • Supplies for Scholars
    Printer paper, sheet protectors, 2-pocket folders, highlighters, expanding file folders, whiteboard/chalkboard erasers, markers, pre-sharpened #2 pencils, permanent markers

To shop for basics on Donorschoose, create a project and shop at Amazon Business, DonorsChoose Featured Favorites, Kaplan Early Learning Company, Lakeshore, Nasco, School Specialty, Staples, Teachers’ School Supply, and Quill.com

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