Pencils, they are a useful tool at school, but they are also a source of frustration for teachers. What’s a teacher to do?
Frustration #1: The pencil that doesn’t sharpen or the tip keeps breaking off.
Different brands of pencil sharpen different ways. If your school allows it, write a specific brand of pencil on your school supply list. Non-teachers don’t realize how much difference there is between brands of pencils. My favorite brand is Ticonderoga.
Frustration #2: Sharpening at the wrong time
Accidents do happen and pencil tips do break in the middle of a lesson. Keep a cup of sharpened pencils that students may borrow if this happens during a lesson. Put a small piece of colored duct tape at the top of the pencil near the eraser so you can easily identify your pencil. If students need to borrow a pencil during a lesson, they leave their pencil next to the Teacher’s Pencil Cup and borrow one from the cup. This seems to be quicker and quieter than letting students sharpen their pencil during a lesson.
Here are some freebie signs you can attach to your pencil cups. The “write on” sign is for pencils that are ready to write. The sign with the stop sign is where students put their pencils that have stopped working. There is a sign that you can put on your cup of pencils that you use at your reading table.
Frustration #3: Lost pencil syndrome
How many times have you begun a lesson, when a student raises his or her hand to tell you that once again this student has lost his/her pencil? It takes up valuable class time, it is frustrating to you, the student with the lost pencil, and the other students in your class. Here are a couple of things to try:
- Assign each student a number and write their number at the top of the pencil near the eraser with a sharpie.
- Give each student a small amount of sticky tak to put on their desk. They stick their pencil to their desk using the sticky tak.
Frustration #4: Fighting over the special pencil
I have been on teams that requested “only plain, yellow pencils” on the supply list. Yet, it never fails, there is always one or two students who bring the sparkly pencils or pencils with the latest favorite cartoon character on them. This creates an issue in the classroom when the 90% of the class that purchased the supplies requested, wished they had the sparky/cartoon pencil.
When I had community supplies instead of having my students keep their own, I used the decorated pencils that parents send in for “special assignments”. You know, those assignments that you want them to do their absolute best work on, like a quarterly writing prompt or something you are going to hang in the hallway. It’s funny how a sparkly pencil has so much influence.
*Two cups (sharpened and unsharpened) system was a popular tip. Sarah Miller Ford has the two cup management system. She has a red cup (stopped working) and a green cup (ready to go).
*Barbara Bailey recommends the prop and park from Really Good Stuff (see picture above).
*Jason Fortenbacher is friends with the custodian. His custodian brings him about 60 pencils a week. Custodians can help you in more ways than you thought!
*Michelle Caffrey Carpenter, a middle school teacher, shared two ideas. She teaches with someone who makes the students leave collateral, like a shoe, when they borrow a pencil. She, personally, bought pencils with her name on them from a site called For Teachers Only.