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Sharpening Pencils & Lost Pencil Procedures

Compiled By: Mrs. G

This seems to be a hot topic with teachers. This collection will give you a lot of advice on how to handle pencils in your classroom.

sharpening pencils and losing pencils
Posted by: Cathy-Dee

Sometimes I think they actually must eat the pencils. I had a couple of boys this year who couldn't keep a pencil in their hands or desks for more than one class. It almost drove me crazy! I did have to get tough on them and constantly have them put their pencils on my desk after every class so we'd know where to find them.

I bought a ton of extra pencils this year. Next year I am asking parents to send along 2 extras to be put into a community container - these I'll keep sharpened and they will be for the kids who lose their pencils or break their pencils. I don't mind picking up a few extra pencils - but I'm sure over the course of the year I ended up giving out over 80 pencils or more. And probably 60 of them to those two boys

Something I have used (don't know where I got the idea from), is a stop sign. I made a large circle - one side red and the other green. When the sign is green (and only I can turn it around), the sharpener is open. When it is red, no one can use the sharpener. This does help reduce the amount of sharpening and pencils may last longer (I didn't use it this past year - my big mistake).

I also keep an electric pencil sharper by my desk - only I can use it. They don't break as often and it's great especially at the beginning of the year.

I also have kids borrow pencils if necessary - especially this time of year. I also do reward stickers on charts - so I added the pencil to the rewards. If the students were ready first thing in the morning, pencil sharpened, books out, they got a sticker on their chart. 10 stickers they get to go to the prize box. This helped a few of my kids become more organized.

If after all this I still have a few who just can't seem to get organized and have their pencils ready - then I get really tough for a couple of days. I close the sharpener and let the class know that if they were not ready, the sharpener will reopen at recess. So if they don't have a pencil they can listen to the lesson, then read a book and do their "pencil" work at recess. I've only had to do this once or twice during the year to get those few much more motivated. And no borrowing of pencils during this time either.

Posted by: Tanya

When I first began to teach I'd buy beautiful pencils on sale and always have them on my desk for kids to use if they didn't have one. I was always buying pencils because the kids were always taking them. So last year I did something a bit different. When I assigned the supply list I told parents to buy 2 boxes of pencils. This helped for about 1 1/2 months. During September and October those new pencils were always on the floor at the end of the day. Those got picked up and placed into my extra pencil box (but last year those pencils were never new.) The extra pencil box is now away from my desk. As the year went on I stopped filling that box with pencils as frequently. When the kids said they didn't have a pencil I'd ask them to get one from a friend. I always do have extras somewhere just in case. What was interesting to see is that the problem was much less last year because I wasn't providing lovely new pencils to the kid who didn't have a pencil. I too buy these as a treat but generally I keep basic yellow #2 in that extra pencil box. Oh, I bought the golf pencils last week at Staples. I'm interested to see how they are received.

P.S. I still keep a few pencils on my desk for me and those get taken by the kids who sit right in front of me. I just couldn't put enough energy into making a change here.

Posted by: jess

I knew a teacher who only let certain pencils into the class which were purchased by her. that worked for her, but it seems like more work and certainly more money for the teacher to spend. I like to let kids buy their own pencils, sometimes it's so exciting for them to choose which pencil to use! I have all the kids keep a little case in their desk which holds crayons, pencils, erasers, and scissors and glue stick. My class was so good about pencils this year, and I think I owe it to my electric pencil sharpener that was quite ornary! It would shut off when it was overused, so the kids would never know if they'd be able to get their pencil sharpened when I attempted to do the whole class. (I would only sharpen once a day for everyone, if that.) Also, I would never really let them sharpen themselves. I would call by table, and let them bring 2 pencils only, so they'd have to choose which 2 to bring, and if they were purposely broken, I would not sharpen till next day. Believe it or not, this seldom happened after the 2nd week of school! In the event that a student broke a pencil and had no more in his or her case, I had a pencil can with usually plain pencils in it that they could help them selves to. Yes, the contents of this can would sometimes dwindle down to nothing, but I didn't care because I would just get more from my desk or from the ones that I had found on the floor! And whenever I bought pencils for the whole class, I'd put their initials on it with a sharpie toward the top. They loved it! jess

Posted by: Jess

I do buy a couple of boxes of pencils at the beginning of the year that I am willing to give away. I have found them for 44 cents for a box of 24 before school starts (Target). Then I have a cup that students may borrow from. All pencils go in there even broken ones from the floor. Some have no erasers. If my students need one they borrow from there. I fill the box with 12 pencils each quarter and when they are gone they are gone. Students sometimes borrow from each other. They definitely take better care of their friend's pencils then mine. I am in a self-contained third grade class so it's not a problem. I have tried the happy/sad pencil and it did not work for me. My students are allowed 40 minutes to sharpen pencils. Then if they need to after that 40 minutes they owe me a ticket. If they lose theirs and need to borrow one they owe me a ticket. They have laminated tickets with their names. Each student has three. At the end of each week if they still have three tickets they get a treat. They have done a really good job at holding on to pencils and making sure they were sharpened since I started this.

Posted by: Lynn H.

I taught second grade last year and tried a new pencil policy, which worked great. At a central location in my room, I have two pencil boxes -- one labeled "broken pencils" and one labeled "sharp pencils." I had four sharpened pencils in each table bucket (four students sit at each table in my room) on Monday morning. If someone's pencil broke, they simply got up and put it in the broken pencil box and got a sharp pencil out of the other box (which was filled with pencils.) I warned the kids that I only sharpen pencils once a week (I'm sure you could give the job to a kid, too), which really cut down on the number of "accidentally" broken pencils. I tried to make the Monday morning pencils fun (bright colors, cool designs) so the kids would rather use those than the yellow pencils in the sharp pencil box.
As for the arguing over pencils, erasers, etc, I solved that by having a rotating weekly table captain who passed out materials as needed however he/she saw fit. Whenever an arguement started, all I had to say was, "When it's your week, you can do it differently." Everyone seemed to respect that. Good luck. Second grade is a blast!

Mechanical Pencils
Posted by: yesteach

I strongly encourage students to buy mechanical pencils. I know many teachers don't like them, but they work for me. I've done this with third, fifth and sixth grades. Third graders seem to be the worst about taking them apart to see what makes them work... but for the most part the hold up well. I buy a pack of 24 at Walmart at the beginning of the year and give each student one on the first day. I write their names on with permanent marker. I give them another one at Christmas... and a third when we do TAKS reading tests in February. I take up the TAKS one, and they get it back when they take the math test in April (and yes you can use mechanical pencils on TAKS as long as you make sure they are #2 lead/HB leadl)

For those who just can't seem to keep theirs together, I have a Panasonic pencil sharpener. They sharpen pencils first thing in the morning... they keep their own, I don't deal with pencils. I do keep a few on my desk in case they've forgotten theirs or don't have one... they tend to sharpen three or four in the mornings, so we don't have a problem. They sharpen again after lunch before we change for reading classes. If they should need one sharpened between, most of them have the hand held sharpeners.. or they wait until instruction is over and go sharpen it at the electric one.

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Posted by: D

The spare pencil trade really works for me. I solved the problem with not having pencils to trade by telling the students they could only have two pencils in their desks. Whenever the "Needs Sharpened" can gets low, I just have them check their desks (usually at the end of the day) and have them return any extra pencils they have. (I usually get plenty back during desk cleaning which we do every other Friday).

As a class job, one student (the pencil manager) sharpens the pencils either during recess or at the end of the day so it doesn't take up my time. I invested in an electric pencil sharpener so it is faster/easier for him/her. My manual one is awful!

I was worried about the students wasting pencils (breaking pencils purposefully etc.) so I told the class I would only open one box of pencils a month. If they used up the pencils, they would owe me class money. It worked so well I had 10 spare boxes at the end of the year!

Good luck!

Posted by: bdw

I no longer teach in the classroom, but one of the things I did was send out a supply list for the entire school year (48 pencils - NOT 12 and enough notebooks and folders for the year). On the first day of school, we would keep out what was needed for the first quarter and store the rest in a LARGE Ziploc Bag (the ones used for traveling - not the freezer size--they're not big enough for the notebooks). Anyway, the student number goes on each bag in marker and they are stored in the bottom of my cabinet in number order). I would only go in the bags at the beginning of each quarter (sometimes in an emergency I would "sneak in" while the class was away if I knew the student had a lot stored). Quarterly,if the students were low on anything that was the time to get them. Also, pencils that were found on the floor at the end of the day,or by the custodian,were put in the lost pencil can and students knew to look there first. If there are none, they must borrow from a neighbor. I decided not to make pencil supply MY #1 responsibility but theirs (I did however, make anonymous donations of old pencils to the pencil can a few times a week to help out - or if the student had no support at home (mom doesn't respond) I would just place a few new ones in their desk at the end of the day). Once you put the responsibility on the student EARLY and don't fret over it, they work together to figure it out . In the end there is always a pencil!

Posted by: JR

I used to have trouble with pencils but this year worked great for me. I sharpen all pencils. Each cluster of desk have 10-12 pencils in a cup on a desk. There are 2 trade off cups one on each side of the room which they may trade with if all their pencils are broken. During the day when they are independently working if I notice a cup with pencils broken I will sharpen them Points up erasers down means that these need to be sharpened. At the end of the day a helper will ask for all pencils to be turned in and they collect the cups and put them by the pencil sharpener. I sharpen them before I leave in the afternoon or as soon as I get in in the morning. My helper picks up the cups when they come into the room and puts them on the desk clusters. I have an excellent electric pencil sharpener that will sharpen 60 pencils in a flash without overheating. The students may sharpen their colored pencils in the regular pencil sharpener but only as needed. This worked quite well for me this year.

Posted by: Jennifer in OK

I teach 5th grade. Here is the rule I give my kids at the beginning of the year. Pencils are sharpened at the sharpener only at these 3 times: before the bell in the morning (giving them 15 minutes), after recess, and at the end of the day as we are preparing to leave. I keep hand held sharpeners at the back of my room for their use at those in-between times. They are not to use them while I am teaching - only during their work time. No complaints and it saves my sanity. It also helps with those that are the pencil breakers just so they can avoid work. I used this when I taught at the inner city schools and still use it in the 'burbs.

Stick to your guns. Establish the rule and don't bend. Yes, they have to be responsible. I don't loan pencils, paper, etc. I don't make enough money. They can borrow from someone and I tell them to write in their planner that they need more of whatever it is they don't have.

They should have folders to keep papers in. Make them have a homework folder. Any unfinished work goes in it to go home and then they have only one thing to keep track of homework in. They need to learn responsibility. I taught 2nd grade in the inner city 5 years ago. I know they are capable of doing it. Yes, there are always a few who can't grasp it, but nothing in life is perfect. Just keep reminding them of what they should be doing. Everyone slips up once in awhile. We just have to be understanding.

Posted by: Sarah

I teach first grade and have tried several things. What works for me is the students are assigned jobs every week--one is the pencil sharpener (electric sharpener). From day one, pencils are not that important in my room (color, size, shape, etc.). I try not to make them a big deal--we share...I do not allow them to erase (they cross out instead) so that helps if pencils do not have erasers. They get pencils in the morning from the sharpened basket and at the end of the day the pencil sharpener collects all pencils and sharpens them for the next day. Throughout the day, if a student breaks the lead, they just go get another pencil out of the sharpened basket and put the broken one in the other basket. I have not had any problems so far. Oh yea, no pencil sharpening during the day. There are enough pencils in the sharpened basket to last. Hope this helps.

Posted by: apple324

I have 2nd grade...

All pencils are given to the teacher from day one (no one is allowed to take pencils home or keep them in their desk)

So each afternoon I sharpen pencils for both their tables and the pencil tray.

My class has a community pencil policy, the pencils are owned by the class...this way no one says "someone took my pencil" If their pencil break, they go get one out of the pencil tray.

So, I am the only person who ever sharpens pencils...I hate the sound of the pencil sharpener :) This has been one of the best things I have ever done as a teacher!

Parents love it! students have nothing to argue about and no one is ever sharpening when I am teaching. If I have a substitute I have designated 1 student to sharpen all pencils.

Hope this helps :)

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Posted by: Lynn

I'm throwing in my two cents for what it's worth. I used to do the trade idea: a shoe for a pencil. However, I found that many of my students were too embarrassed to part with their shoe (holey socks, dirty ones, etc.) so while it worked in order to get my pencils back, it caused too much negativity for the students.
I have gone to giving away 'found' pencils. The custodians are usually a great source for these. I also have a box of golf pencils. They're only about 3 - 4 inches long without erasers. These were given to me as a gag gift one time but they work perfectly. When a student takes one and tells me there's no eraser I kindly point out that they need to a)remember their own b) borrow one from a friend or c)not make any mistakes. I always say it with a smile on my face and it seems to help drive home the point that they need to be responsible without my having to continually remind them.

lost pencils
Posted by: maryellen

My children each have a "magic number". To get this number, I put them in abc order by first name, then number them. I use both name and number on their "mailbox", and their homefolder. You can put just the numbers on their pencils, either with a colored tape flag, a blank sticker, or by scraping a small spot of the paint off, and printing the number there. Some on my staff put the magic number on every crayon, felt marker and eraser. When its found on the ground, you know who to give it back to. I give out a new pencil at the end of every month, and collect their old one, with a reward for children who turn in the longest pencil. I keep those leftovers in a lending jar for children who can't find their pencil just before seatwork, and they give the pencil back when they find their own. I've also heard of teachers collecting those little short pencils from the golf course, and lending those....children find their pencil more quickly. Also - just a thought, maybe they each need a pencil box inside their desk - I make them from 1/2 milk carton, and everything fits and doesn't fall out. Hope this helps.

Pencils are not FREE
Posted by: Joy

Pencils are definitely not free in my room. Everytime a child needs to sharpen a pencil during my instruction, I automatically deduct 5 minutes from their Friday Funtime. It worked like a charm. The pencils were always sharp. When a child forgot his/her pencil, I would loan them one. Here is the catch: They had to provide collateral. I sometimes took their shoe or watch. It had to be something that was valuable to them. I always managed to get the pencil back because they couldn't possibly go to lunch or leave school without their shoes on their feet. It was somewhat comical. Very seldom did I have students ask to borrow my pencils.

Magic Pencil Flower Pot
Posted by: tweet

I have a flowerpot of pencils that we call "magic pencils". I tell the kids that when using one, it helps creative story ideas come out on paper. I buy cheap, $1 flower bushes from the dollar store, pull the blooms off, enlarge the hole in the middle of the petals just slightly, then slide a pencil through the hole. The eraser becomes the flower center. I am the only one who is allowed to sharpen magic pencils. Last year's pencils are still usable!

My friend took that idea, bought some huge sunflowers, used floral tape to attach each blossom to a pencil-covering up the eraser. She then put the dozen or so flower pencils in a flowerpot along with some small "filler" flowers to make a really cute arrangement. The sunflower pencils are now her "borrow" pencils. She had a problem with some kids never having a pencil period, then when loaned one, never returning it. She can see at a glance who borrows one of these!! lol. Plus they won't be very appealing to keep because of the lack of eraser.

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"baby" pencils
Posted by: Monica

I keep some of the fat, eraserless "kindergarten baby" pencils as extras. I make sure not to sharpen them too well, so the points are nice and dull. The kids hate being seen using such childish implements, so they always return them.

Interestingly, I suggested this tip to a fifth grade teacher at my school, and it was a failure in her class. I don't know if they were feeling nostalgic or what, but the older kids loved using the kindergarten pencils and didn't return them. I guess third graders are more anxious to establish their big-kid status by scorning the "baby pencils."

I've also heard of teachers buying a box of those tiny little golf pencils.

Broken Pencils
Posted by: Mary

Two years ago I worked as a TA in a 3rd grade class. We were on a broken pencil rampage! It was making me nuts. So, I brought in 27 pencils from home. All brand new, sharpened on an electric sharpener so they were all the same size. I drew a red line about two inches from the bottom of the eraser. In that space I wrote their name and number.
I challenged them to a Two week Pencil Marathon.
The goal was to see who could keep the same pencil the whole time. They could sharpen it and do what ever they wanted with it, but after two weeks I wanted to see it. It had to have the red line visible in order to have 'won'. Anyone who had it left was able to receive a prize. (small candy)
You would have been shocked to see how many students still had their's. In fact the next year in school, I had students hunting me down to show me that they still had it! It was kinda fun!

Pencils! Ugh!
Posted by: Dougbug

Last year it drove be nuts to constantly hear that pencil sharpener.

This year I tried something a bit different. I bought a nice, heavy duty electric sharpener. I cut out paper ears and a long paper tail, all out of gray construction paper. I then made cute paper eyes and a whiskery nose. I named her "Penelope". She has a sign above her that reads "My name is Penelope. I eat only pencils! My feeding times are AM recess and PM recess."

It worked great. Penelope was "not hungry" at any other time except recess. ;)

I like hearing different ideas regarding pencil boxes. I think this year I am going to try to do with out them. They create such a mess in and on their desks.


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Posted by: Barb

I've done this for years and has worked wonderful for me. All the children write have their initials, colorful contact paper or address label up at the top under the eraser. I have a cup on my desk labeled 'dull pencils'. My pencil manager sharpens the dull pencils that are in the cup and retuns them to the owner. Works great.