French Language Blog

À l’École!: Fournitures Scolaires (School Supplies) Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Try to recall, for a moment, your days in grammar school. What kinds of school supplies did you use? Pens and paper? Pencils and erasers? One of my favorite back-to-school memories was going shopping for new supplies for the new year. Although I never really enjoyed school in my younger years, getting shiny new supplies always made the end of summer a little more bearable. However, the novelty quickly wore off once I had to use them to actually study.

As a student in France, I clearly remember our new maître (teacher) handing me a list three pages long of new supplies to purchase during la première semaine (the first week) of September. Naturellement (Naturally), my parents tried to get me to re-use many of the supplies from the previous year to cut costs. I tried hard to use up all supplies by the end of the school year so I could get new ones for the following year. This didn’t always work but it was worth a try.

So what supplies did French students typically have to purchase? Let’s take a look…

Stylo Plume (fountain pen; “plume” is the word for “feather”): Yes, in France, beginning au Cour préparatoire (1st grade), students were required to use pens, namely fountain pens pour apprendre à écrire (to learn how to write). I used a plastic Waterman pen beginning in 1st grade and I still write with a fountain pen today.

Encre (ink): This was pour le stylo plume, bien sûr (for the fountain pen, of course). Ink usually came in the form of cartouches (cartridges) that were easy to use less messy than encriers (inkwells).

Stylo bille (ballpoint pen): These came in a variety of colors, usually bleu, noir, rouge et vert (blue, black, red and green)

Colle (glue): Glue was usually sold in the form of a stick and was either blanc ou violet (white or purple/violet) in color.

Crayons et crayons de couleur (pencils and colored pencils): Pencils were used for art mostly, not for writing.

Gommes (erasers): These usually had to be purchased separately and did not come on the end of pencils.

Taille-crayon (pencil sharpener): To be used with crayons and gommes.

Règle (ruler): Rulers were often purchased in pairs (one metal and another plastic) and were used for different purposes.

Trousse (pencil case): This was a soft case where we stored the majority of our supplies.

Ciseaux (scissors): Scissors, like pencils were often used in arts and crafts.

Compas (math compass): Math compasses were used to create circles or arcs in géométrie (geometry).

Équerre (square): Used alongside math compasses, squares were used to create right angles in geometry.

Calculatrice (calculator): Calculators were mostly used as a last resort and were not to be relied upon during math class.

Cahiers (notebooks): Cahiers were purchased in different colors and sizes and were characterized by the five-line Seyès ruling, also known as French ruling. Every subject required a separate cahier. I still use Seyès cahiers made by Clairefontaine to this day.

Classeur (binder): A classeur was used to hold feuilles de papier (loose sheets of paper) and were not be confused with cahiers.

Cartable/sac à dos (backpack): the classic French cartable differs from the American one but it was still worn on the back and was usually filled to the brim with cahiers, livres (books) and all the above supplies on a daily basis.

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