It’s that time of year again! It’s time for kids to go back to school. At this time of year, lots of stores have back-to-school sales (special prices). Teachers may send home lists of school supplies (things you need to do a job) that students need. Because it’s back-to-school time, we put together some back-to-school vocabulary for you.

I always love back-to-school time. It’s the beginning of fall, which is my favorite season. People go back into a routine (set schedule). And I can start wearing sweaters again! What do you like about back-to-school season?

Notebook (lined/blank)

At the top of our back-to-school vocabulary is notebook. A notebook is used by students in most classes. It is a book of paper that you can write your own (comes from you, your hand) notes in. The pages can be lined (have straight, even lines to write on), blank (empty, no printing), or with gridlines (crossed lines). In most notebooks, you can tear (rip) the pages out cleanly.

For example:

  • You will need one lined notebook per class for taking notes.
  • Everyone open your notebooks and show me your math homework.

Subject / Elective

What classes did you take in school? Subjects and electives are classes you take in school. Subjects are the main classes you have to take, like math, science, history, and literature. Electives are classes you choose (pick, decide) to take that are not part of the core curriculum (main subjects), like creative writing, choir, theatre, or cooking.

For example:

  • Math and Science are the most popular subjects for tutoring (extra help).
  • Which electives did you choose this year?

Grade (1st, 3rd, 8th, 10th, etc.)

What was your favorite grade in school? Your grade is your level of schooling. Most people advance (go up, further) a grade each year. The lessons change and get harder with each year. In the United States, the lowest grades are pre-school, kindergarten, and then 1st grade, and the highest grade is 12th grade.

For example:

  • What grade is your son in?
  • I’m in 1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th etc. grade.
  • My 8th grade English teacher was my favorite.

Grades (A, B, C, D, F)

In school, the word grade can also be used to talk about the score (percentage you answered correctly) you got on a test. An A is the best grade, and an F is the worst.

For example:

  • What grade did you get on your project?
  • You need to receive a higher grade to pass the class.


Students need something to carry their books, notebooks, and supplies around in school. Most students use a backpack to do so (this). A backpack is a large bag with two straps you put around your shoulders that is used to carry around school supplies.

For example:

  • Get your homework out of your backpacks, please.
  • Remember to take your backpack!
  • No backpacks are allowed in the museum.


Where do students keep their coats and supplies they’re not using? In a locker! A locker is a large metal cabinet with a lock (something you use to keep it closed) on it. Students can store (keep things) they’re not using in it. Usually school children are given lockers when they change classes for each subject, starting in middle school or 6th grade.

For example:

  • I have to stop at my locker before my next class to get my math notebook.
  • My coat is in my locker.


Young children need a break from school sometimes. They need time to run around and play with their friends on a playground. This is exactly what recess is for! Recess is a small break from school, usually after mid-morning, for kids to play.

For example:

  • The children had recess inside today because it was raining.
  • My favorite part of school was recess and lunch! Haha!

Home room

Once you’re in middle or latest high school, you’ll usually have home room. Home room is your very first class of the day. There, the teacher can see that you’re at school and go through the daily news. After home room, you move to different classes and teachers throughout the day.

For example:

  • Who do you have for home room this year?
  • Every student goes to home room before they attend (go to) their first class.


Some people like homework, and some people don’t. Homework is work given by the teacher to do at home. Homework is meant to help you practice what you learned in school that day.

For example:

  • I have no homework tonight!
  • What did your teacher give you for homework today?

Test / Quiz / Pop Quiz

Tests, quizzes, and pop quizzes are an important part of school work. They help show your teachers how much you’ve learned and give you a good idea of what you still need to work on.

A pop quiz is a surprise quiz that the teacher didn’t tell you about beforehand (before the quiz took place). A quiz is a couple of questions that tests your progress. A test is much longer than a quiz, usually worth more for the class, and is given at the end of a unit or semester. There are usually more quizzes in a class than big tests.

For example:

  • Our teacher gave us a pop quiz today-I’m so glad I studied my back-to-school vocabulary last night!
  • There’s going to be a short quiz on Monday.
  • We have a test on Friday that I need to study for.


How do you prepare for a quiz or test? You study! Studying is when you review the information you were taught in class in order to (so that you can) prepare (get ready) for a test or quiz. Studying helps you to remember (review) what you’ve learned.

For example:

  • I can’t go out this weekend. I have to study for an exam on Tuesday.
  • He studied very hard for the end of year tests.

Do you know someone going back to school soon? Why not share this back-to-school vocabulary with them? Share your back-to-school experiences with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is sure this back-to-school vocabulary will get you ready for the new school year!

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