Generic vs. Brand Name School Supplies


Have you ever wondered why teachers ask for or recommend a specific brand of school supplies? We’re not just being difficult, demanding, and picky. There’s a rhyme and reason to our suggestions. 

I hear the same thing every year. If you log on social media or wander down the school supply aisle when school starts, you’ll hear a common complaint in the form of a question: “Why does it matter what brand of pencils/scissor/crayons/glue I buy for school? This is ridiculous!”

First things first, here is something I do want you ALL to know:

I, or any other teacher I know, would never belittle a student or scoff at store brand supplies. We are all well aware of school supply donation drives, and the fact that not every parent can afford to shell out an equal amount of money for supplies. 

We don’t expect perfection; we never have. I think I can speak for all teachers when I say this: it’s not a hill we are willing to die on. 

Teachers don’t get upset when we see store brand supplies. Believe it or not, we have a remarkable amount of tolerance and appreciation for diversity and variety. We are adaptable and patient in any given circumstance. So parents, please don’t think you are being disrespectful when you bring in a different brand that is suggested. 

I’m here to show you WHY we recommend these supplies. Here are a few common brand comparisons: 

Winner: Crayola

Teachers prefer Crayola crayons for a number of reasons. First of all, Crayola crayons don’t have a synthetic waxy texture like other brands. Not only are they more pigmented and visually beautiful on paper, but they also have a lot less wax fallout and residue with coloring. They don’t break as easily either. If you’re interested in the science behind why Crayola is truly the best crayon out there, here’s a detailed and researched explanation.


Winner: Elmer’s

The winner here is backed by experience from teachers all around the world. Both types of glue stick very well, but off-brand glue dries up more quickly and doesn’t last as long. Elmer’s has been around since the 1940s, and they’re a tried and true teacher favorite. Scotch brand glue sticks come to a close second place, but they are more expensive.  

Winner: Expo 

Dry Erase markers are an important commodity in the classroom. I almost called a tie in this category because there were many times during the lesson where I appreciated some of those off-brand markers with the erasers on the end. However, after doing a small test, I can confirm that they don’t erase as well. Off-brand white board markers leave a residue and are more difficult to erase from a whiteboard. Expo markers erase easily, and the cap fits firmly on the marker. The caps are more difficult for tiny fingers to lose because they are bulky. You can find a detailed comparison on several different brands here.


Winner: Ticonderoga
(Shout-out to USA Gold, a very close second!)

Dixon makes several different kinds of pencils, but the teacher favorite by far is the Ticonderoga pencil. In this article, you can find a complete guide to the different yellow pencils, and what makes them all different. In a nutshell, the Ticonderoga pencil sharpens very well. It sharpens quickly, easily, with minimal residue, making them last longer for teachers and students. Other pencils are fine, but nothing really beats the Ticonderoga brand. 


My personal favorite, and a close second, is the USA gold pencil. It is similar to the Ticonderoga pencil in so many ways, down to the smoothness of the eraser and lead. If your teacher prefers Ticonderoga pencils, and you can’t find them, this brand is also excellent.

It’s good to stay away from pencils with funny pictures and plastic coverings. Usually, pencils with characters and designs are covered in plastic. These pencils don’t sharpen very well, and I can’t tell you how many pencil sharpeners I have had to unjam because of plastic covered pencils. 

Winner: It’s a TIE!

Many teachers say they prefer Fiskar’s scissors. However, I’m taking it upon myself to call a tie on this one. I’ve seen no difference in performance and durability between Fiskar’s brand and comparable off-brand scissors. Make sure to get scissors with a blunt tip (such as the photo on the right) for younger elementary school children. If your child is left-handed, you can find left-handed scissors on Amazon! 

I hope this sheds some light on why teachers recommend or prefer certain brands. Drop a comment below and let us know which brands you prefer! 


  1. Pencils with cute designs are fun prizes to give out during class though, and brighten students’ day. Thanks for this article. It is great to have parents that support teachers and try to understanding their reasoning!

  2. I’m dying over the scissors in the glue stick. That’s totally something my son would do, b/c why wouldn’t he?? Lol! I loved this post and although I know it’s a year old, I just had to say that I whole heartedly support whatever preferences teachers have. My son’s teachers have been transformational for him so far (he has HF autism, and is going into third grade this year), and I’m humbled by how much of their time and soul they put into their work. I always try to restock things for them if they will let me, and usually they do! 🙂 Thanks for all your hard work!


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