The One Where I Eliminate the Classroom Pencil Problem

“Mrs. Cullip, I do not have a pencil!” “I could not do my bell ringer, because I did not have a pencil.” “May I have a pencil?” “I cannot find a pencil” “I left my pencil in my last class” “I gave my pencil to a friend.”

6th grade students
Pencil Management Fail (first attempt in learning)

If you are an educator, you have heard these comments before. May I even suggest more than twice? So what do you do?

I believe, you give your student a pencil.

I started the school year with the above system. A student takes a sharpened pencil and returns it at the end of the class period and to eliminate the pencil sharpening line one could place their unsharpened pencil in the dull container and grab a sharpened one. In addition, I had a student who stayed after school to sharpen all of the pencils.

This pencil management system worked for about 4 weeks. As the students became comfortable in my classroom and I drifted my focus away from it – two things began to occur: student would not return pencil or student would trade in a short pencil for full size one. Each one left with me with very little to offer students without replenishing the pencil container often. Although, I was happy to help out and buy pencils I knew there had to be a better way.

Pencil Management Win

Over Thanksgiving break, I used my Cricut and created a vinyl sign for my dry erase board which reads: Pencil? Sign, Grab, Return, Erase. I placed it on the board with six brand new sharpened pencils hung by magnetic metal clips. When the students returned to school, we went over the expectations of the pencils and had some volunteers act out what to do and what not to do.

  1. Quietly come up to board and write your name underneath the pencil.
  2. Take pencil.
  3. When the pencil is no longer needed or it is the end of class – return pencil above your name.
  4. Erase name.

Over time, I began to wrap my pencils with washi tape to claim my pencils so they were not trading them as they had done before. This coming school year, I will be assigning a classroom job to ensure the return of the pencil at the end of class to remove another task I am doing before the bell rings. I also will add the expectation that they sharpen the pencil if needed before they return it so that it is ready to use at the beginning of the class period.

I replaced the pencils at the end of the school week. The pencils that remained went into a container I kept for those who asked if they could have a pencil as other teachers did not have any type of pencil system or would charge them PBIS points or a tardy in exchange for one. For those times that a pencil did not get returned, I left the magnet empty with the persons name until the end of the week. Sometimes they would bring it back later in the day or later in the week and other times students with an extra supply would replace the pencil with their own to help their classmates out.

I approximate that this set up for a complete school year would cost me 250 pencils. Last year, I made requests during open house, back to school night, parent teacher conferences, and at the beginning of second semester to cut down my cost ( I received over 200 pencils). I believe, this pencil system is totally manageable and definitely worth the out of pocket cost (if any).

How do you eliminate the pencil problem in your classroom? Please share with me in the comments below.

a latte of writing & sparkles until next time,

4 thoughts on “The One Where I Eliminate the Classroom Pencil Problem

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