Skills 4 Life’s Favorite School Supplies

With endless options for school supplies, it can be overwhelming to know what to purchase. We work with many students who have overly complicated systems, making it difficult for students to stay organized and find what is needed quickly and easily.

Here are our top school supply picks to create a simple, unified system that students in middle and high school can use:


Purchase one durable 1.5-inch binder that has pockets on the inside of the front and back covers. We love “view binders,” so students can customize the cover and easily distinguish their binder from those of their peers.

Now we know what you’re thinking. How am I possibly going to fit everything into just one small binder? The key is in having an effective system for archiving old work. More on that in a moment, but for now don’t be tempted by that big bulky 3-inch binder—they’re cumbersome to carry and hard to fit into backpacks!

Suggested Resource: Avery Heavy-Duty Binder Touch Avery Binder

Plastic Binder Dividers with Two Pockets

These plastic pocket dividers will go into your 3-ring binder to separate papers for each class. They come in 5- or 8- Tab options depending on how many courses you have. We are big fans of the 2-pocket folders. Use the top pocket for homework to turn in and the back pocket for current work and reference materials for quick and easy access.

Suggested Resource: Avery Big Tab™ Insertable Divider with Double Slash Pocket

Avery Pockets

Notebook Paper

Get reinforced loose-leaf notebook paper. It’s worth it to have those papers stay put!

Suggested Resource: Five Star Loose Leaf Paper, 3 Hole Punched, Reinforced Filler Paper

Five Star Notebook Paper

Focus Notes

This is excellent paper for students using the Cornell Note Taking System. This double-entry method is highly effective and works great for finding critical points and studying for tests. Read more about how to use them effectively in our Top 7 Notetaking Tips or  Abbreviations for Note Taking.

Suggested Resource: TOPS FocusNotes Note Taking System Filler Paper

Focus Notes

Archive Paper System

Most middle and high school students get approximately 400-600 sheets of paper per semester. That’s a lot to carry around each day! Creating an easily accessible designated place to store documents is imperative to lightening your load.

Take old work out of your binder on a daily or weekly basis and file it in your archive system. Our students (and parents) love the colorful cascading pocket organizer pictured below. It often gets lots of oohs and ahs when we demonstrate it.

Suggested Resource: Smead Cascading Wall Organizer, 6 Pockets, Letter Size

Wall Organizer

OR for those students who prefer a desktop file system, these silver mesh desktop files from the Container Store are great. They have a lot of great options for desktop file boxes in various colors and materials.

Suggested Resources: Silver Mesh Desktop File

Desk Organizer

Academic Planners

We are huge fans of the Order Out of Chaos Academic Planner. Learn more about its unique features and why it works on our Academic Planners page. We also talk about the best way to utilize your planner in 12 Steps to Use Your Planner Like a Pro

Our top tip? Make sure to get a bookmark for your planner or use a binder clip on the left side so you can easily find the current day.

Suggested Resource: Order Out of Chaos Academic PlannerAcademic Planners 2021

*Skills 4 Life is an Order Out of Chaos affiliate.

Mechanical Pencil

Keep one in the spiral of your planner, so you always have a writing implement handy to record your homework.

Suggested Resource: BIC Xtra-Sparkle Mechanical Pencil, Medium Point (0.7 mm)

School Supplies - Mechanical Pencils

Lined Sticky Notes with Tabs

These are great for annotating textbooks, indexing class notes, or even making monthly tabs for your planner.

Suggested Resource: Redi-Tag Divider Sticky Notes, Tabbed Self-Stick Lined Note Pad, 60 Ruled Notes, 4 x 6 Inches


Sticky Notes

We like these Post-it Super Sticky notes with 2x the sticking power.

Suggested Resource: Post-it Super Sticky Notes, 2x Sticking Power, 3 in x 3 inPost-It Notes


Carry a variety of highlighter colors for annotating books and notes. As you read, highlight keywords and phrases in different colors. Using the same color for all information can be confusing and overwhelming. Having a color-coding system can help your brain visually comprehend the type of information you are viewing. Here is a suggested color-coding system:

  • Blue:  Definitions or defining information.
  • Green:  Quotes
  • Pink:  Statistics (e.g., percentages, dates, case studies, etc.)
  • Yellow:  Miscellaneous information (Information or critical points that don’t fall in another category and maybe on a test.)

Make sure you label your highlighters to help you remember what each color means!

Suggested Resource: Sharpie Pocket Highlighters, Chisel Tip

School Supplies - Highlighters

Pens & Pencils

We all have our favorites, so choose yours, and you should be ready to go! We do recommend keeping one red pen on hand to edit handwritten work.

Locker Organizers

These super-durable locker organizers are our favorites and are great for full or half lockers. The bottom section folds up and snaps to fit in half lockers, leaving two shelves instead of three. They come in an assortment of fun colors and will last for years.

Suggested Resource: Locker Works Hanging Organizer

School Supplies - Locker Works Hanging Organizer


*Skills 4 Life is a Locker Works affiliate. Use SKL19 in the “code” field when entering a shipping address at checkout.

If your child needs support with using their school supplies efficiently, or organizing, planning and implementing what they need to do in order to achieve the desired goal, Skills 4 Life offers individual executive function coaching.

Email or call our office at 303.351.1828 to talk with one of our therapists about how they can teach your child practical and effective strategies to develop and improve their executive function skills.

About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to children from birth to high school. We help children master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success, & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding, & executive function coaching. We also work with children on the building blocks of writing, social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies, sensory integration, early intervention, & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to succeed in learning and life. Learn more about our team & services at You also can contact our office by email at or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.

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