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Starting With the Tools for Success

August 26, 1993|MARY LAINE YARBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Mary Laine Yarber teaches English at Santa Monica High School

The first day of school is right around the corner, and along with it comes renewal. There will be new clothes, new haircuts, new friends and a new determination to succeed.

Unfortunately, some students still won't have the things they need most to get off to a good start: the right school supplies. Even the shiniest Doc Martens shoes won't do as much for a student in my English class, for example, as a decent ballpoint pen.

A few dollars and one trip to a discount department store is all it takes to properly equip your son or daughter for school. The following shopping list, with minor variations, will meet the need of almost anyone from lower elementary levels through high school:

* First, get a backpack to hold everything. Students who don't have one are always losing books and jamming important papers into their pockets. Nylon packs, which best repel rain and dirt, cost $12 to $30.

* A notebook is indispensable, but too many are chosen for their color or the rock star on the cover. Find a three-ring, hardcover binder that has a separate section for each class and a pocket in which to keep assignments or handouts. These run from $8.95 to $12, depending on how organized your children want to be.

Avoid spiral notebooks. The fringe on the torn-out pages is a pet peeve of many teachers, and it mars the appearance of even the most carefully prepared assignment. Also avoid the separate, thin folders that many students like to use for each class; the folders are too easy to lose and students often hurriedly grab the wrong one from their lockers, leaving them stuck with algebra notes in American literature class.

* White college-ruled paper is the safest bet for stocking the notebook. Some teachers are picky about the size, color and format of the paper that is used for assignments, but I don't know of any teacher who won't accept this standard paper for handwritten work. A 200-sheet package usually costs less than $2.

* A bag of 10 ballpoints runs about $1.59. It's amazing how many students come to class without pens, considering that by junior high school, nearly all formal assignments must be written in ink. Avoid artsy colors such as pink, lavender and teal. You can't go wrong with black or dark blue. Above all, leave the sacred privilege of red ink for the teacher.

* Highlighting pens are very helpful in marking ideas in books or notes and usually come in a variety of pastels. Having a couple of colors for different purposes is handy. A single highlighting pen ranges from $1 to $4.

* Calculators are an unquestioned necessity. Every student completes a series of math courses for the high school diploma, and more teachers are allowing calculators to be used in exams, so the machines can save precious time and mental energy.

Because calculators differ in capability and price ($5 to $100 and more), ask the math teacher to suggest a model. That way you're not paying extra for functions your children will never use, but you're also not getting a machine that can't do enough.

* A $5 wall map for the student's bedroom wall is a wise purchase. History or geography are part of the curriculum from first through 12th grade these days. We've all read or heard about high school students who can't locate Washington or the Equator on a map, but there's no reason for your child to suffer from such ignorance. You might also pick up some colored tacks to label cities or historic sites that the children have learned about.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure that your children have the right supplies is to ask their teachers to recommend materials. Most students, however, will find that this list will serve them pretty well in the school year ahead.

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