Pencils can be the root of many distractions. Kids wander the classroom to sharpen them… or worse, they intentionally break the tip as an excuse to wander the classroom pretending to need to sharpen them. There are three options for sharpening pencils and each is more annoying than the other: the choice of a grinding sound from the traditional sharpener; the screechy sound of an electric sharpener or the inevitable pile of pencil shavings that land on the floor when a hand-held sharpener gets dropped; and kids fight over who owns the longest, sharpest, most awesomest pencil and who gets the stubby one. I could continue, but I won’t because with a few classroom pencil management tactics you can avoid all of the above. Check out the list of classroom pencil management tips below!
10 Classroom Pencil Management Tips
Below are 10 tips for managing classroom pencils.
1. Provide Each Student a Standard Yellow Number 2 Pencil
Provide a standard issue, yellow, no-frills, number 2 pencil to use to each student. This alone will eliminate a lot of distraction – It will end the disputes over who the Avengers pencil belonged to and put a stop to the kid who would spend the better part of the day refilling his mechanical pencil with lead. Ticonderoga pencils are the best!
2. Write Students’ Numbers on Their Pencils
Write the students’ numbers at the top of the pencil with Sharpie. They typically do not smudge off, but if it is a problem you could also give it a quick swipe of clear nail polish.
3. Lead Class Discussions about Responsibility
Explain how it was their job to try and make a pencil last for an entire month. Setting this goal will eliminate the desire kids have to always have “the best pencil.” You’re likely going through your supply rapidly and finding less desirable pencils scattered around the classroom.
4. Use a Silent Hand Signal for Communicating about Pencils
Teach students to use a silent signal to let you know that their pencil is broken or dull. At the start of the year, make a big show of “inspecting the pencil by holding it up to the light, squinting to look closely at it, testing it on a scrap of paper, etc. to determine if it really needed to be sharpened or not. This helped students quickly understand the difference between needing to sharpen a pencil and wanting to sharpen a pencil.
5. Assign Pencil Sharpener as a Classroom Job
Instead of letting everyone sharpen their own pencil, make it a classroom job. Use two cups in your classroom with pencil labels – one for pencils that need sharpening and one filled with loaner pencils that could be borrowed. The loaner pencils can be marked with tape. The student assigned to pencil sharpening not only can they sharpen the pencils, but also return them to the owners’ tables and desks at the end of each day.
6. Keep a Supply Caddy at Each Small Group Table
Never have your students travel with their pencils when they would move around for centers. Instead, keep a supply caddy at your small group table for them to use. You can also leave supply caddies at each center location that students can access.
7. Employ the Help of Volunteers
Ask parents who are not able to come in and volunteer to sharpen and prepare pencils for you at home. They can sharpen 2 months worth at a time and label them with the students’ numbers for you. This is a time-saver and helps build relationships with families.
8. Invest in a High Quality Pencil Sharpener
The cheaper pencil sharpeners stop working quickly. You won’t regret splurging for a high quality one! I recommend this pencil sharper from Amazon! This is an affiliate link.
This is by far the best pencil sharpener for the classroom. It’s as quiet as a pencil sharpener can be. It’s lightning fast which makes it a teacher time saver. Best of all it sharpens pencils in a way that provides a perfect point that doesn’t easily break.
My former neighbor had one and I always bypassed my sharpener and went next door to use the one in her classroom. She moved to a different school and sadly took it with her.
I’ve been wanting to order one of my own for awhile and I’m embarrassed to say that the only reason I finally logged on to do so was because the ridiculous hand held sharpener (you know the ones that don’t even catch the shavings) I have been using at home for years (sadly I’m not exaggerating) lost a battle with my daughter’s crayons and could no longer be used to (sort of) make a point on a pencil. Seriously, a whittling knife would’ve worked better.
Imagine my delight when I went to finally order the sharpener I’ve been coveting for years and noticed it was on sale for 55% off. Woohoo!
9. Store Your Surplus Stash of Pencils Together
Keep them in a cupboard or drawer that you can easily access each month to restock the pencils in your classroom.
10. Use Fun Decorative Pencils for Special Occasions
Using plain boring yellow pencils on a regular basis also provides the added opportunity to let students use a decorative pencil as a special treat. Let your students use special pencils on their birthday or when they are student of the week. The key is to have students take them home at the end of the day.
In closing, we hope you found these classroom pencil management tips helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts: