Who doesn’t love fresh clean notebooks, sharpened pencils, and a brand new set of crayons? And what could be more baffling than the list of required school supplies from your child’s school? Here’s a quick guide to the school supply vocabulary, including an explanation of some of the items that may be new to you. These lists tend to be very specific in terms of the size, style, and color of the items. Double check what you’ve got before you head to the register.
Stylo: Pen. It comes in several varieties: le stylo à bille (ballpoint), stylo à plume (a fountain pen).
Crayon: Aack! The word crayon is a faux ami because it’s not from Crayola. It’s simply what we Anglophones call a pencil. The designation H.B. is roughly akin to the American designation No. 2.
Crayons de couleur: Colored pencils
Porte mine: Mechanical pencil
Stylo correcteur : correction fluid in a pen
Pochette de 12 feutres de couleur : A package of magic markers. Your list may specify lavable (washable), pointe fine (small point) or pointe large (larger sized point).
Feutre d’ardoise: White board marker
Effaceur: Eraser. Available in the same shape as a pen or pencil to fit neatly in your trousse (see below)
Gomme: The classic eraser
Cartouches d’encre : ink cartridges (On the supply list, this would mean cartridges for a pen but the same word is used for your computer.)
Ardoise: Traditionally a chalkboard but now it’s also used to describe an erasable white board. With this, you need feutres d’ardoise (see above) and a chiffon (a rag).
Taille-crayons: Pencil sharpener. If it says avec reservoir, that means it has a piece to capture the shavings.
Règle plate: a ruler. These come in 20 and 30 centimeter sizes
Ciseaux: scissors. If your child is young, you probably need to get those with the rounded tips (bout rond).
Baton de colle: glue stick
Scotch: Yes! It’s tape.
Rouleau de ruban adhésif sans dévidoir: Tape without a dispenser
Tubes de gouache: watercolors that come in tubes
Pinceaux de tailles différentes: paintbrushes in different sizes
Gobelet en plastique, sans couvercle : a plastic cup without a cover
Cahier: a notebook, usually bound and stapled, rather than spiral. And don’t go looking for one that’s lined. Instead there are two formats: grand carreaux, which has large squares with horizontal lines for normal writing and petits carreaux, which has 5mm squares for technical drawing and geometry. Cahiers come in various sizes, both in terms of the size of the paper and the number of pages. Make sure you check the list carefully!
The grand is the same size as a piece of A4 paper, which is the standard paper you would use in your printer or copier in France (slightly larger than an American 8 ½ x 11 sheet). There are also specialized cahiers such as the cahier de musique, cahier de texte, and cahier de travaux pratiques.
Pochette de papier dessin : drawing paper
Feuillets mobiles perforés : looseleaf paper for a binder (see below)
Copies doubles perforées : small sized paper (equivalent to an A3 sheet folded in half)
Oeillets: reinforcements for your looseleaf paper
Porte-documents: A plasticized folder with plastic sleeves for papers. You can buy these in a variety of sizes: 40, 60, 80 or 100 vues.
Chemise rabats à élastiques: A cardboard folder with elastic bands that keep everything secure.
Classeur: a loose leaf binder. It can be souple (made of a flexible plastic) or rigide (made of a stiff cardboard).
Pochettes: Usually used to describe plasticized sleeves for documents. These can be perforated to fit in a looseleaf binder
Intercalaires: Subject dividers for use with your classeur.
Trousse: A pencil case and no proper French student (no matter what age) would be caught dead without one.
Cartable: a school bag. Traditionally, it was a satchel with a handle and maybe a shoulder strap. But it’s also now used to refer to backpacks (sacs à dos) as well.
Protège-cahiers : See through plastic covers for your cahiers. These come in different sizes and colors.
Rouleau de plastique pour couvrir les livres : plastic that can be used to cover textbooks.
General notes: Sometimes the supply list will note the desired brand (marque).