How do we solve the pencil problem?
Pencils, pencils, pencils. We still use them you know. Computers, smartphones, devices are all the rage but the good old pencil is still a valuable tool for students. I would never have imagined that keeping sharped pencils in the hands of second graders could be so complicated! Having entered a second grade classroom after teaching fifth and sixth grades for so long was a transition, but I found out that of all the adjustments that were needed to be made, managing pencils proved to be the biggest “challenge” at the beginning of the year. Upper grade students managed this beautifully, but I quickly found I needed to reach out to veteran primary teachers for solutions as to how to keep sharpened pencils in the hands of students with minimal disruption. Here were some great ideas provided by these talented and seasoned teachers. Maybe one of them will work for you!
Have a cute decorated coffee can that holds lots of sharpened pencils. Send pile of pencils and the electric sharpener home with a volunteer at Back to School Night. Train students to place all broken/dull pencils in a basket beside that can.
To help prevent “chewed pencils”, start with a masking tape flag at the end of each pencil with the child’s number on it to teach responsibility. You can also have colored bows or personalized designs (etsy.com). The ownership of the pencil helps students care for pencils better
Each student has 3 pencils in their school They decide in the morning if they need to trade them. Use individual whiteboards during direct instruction to avoid unnecessary pencil disruption.
When students rotate in centers, have a special basket for pencils for those stations so students won’t have to remember to bring their own or get into each others’ desks.
I have 2 decorated cups; one says sharp, the other dull. I have 2 students whose “job” it is to sharpen pencils from the dull cup in the am, before the bell rings. Students should start the day with 2 sharpened pencils at their desk. I always remind them as they are getting settled. During the day if their pencil breaks or becomes dull they simply put their dull in the cup and take a sharpened one. No pencils are sharpened during the day.
Do avoid students getting out of their desk or needing the raise their hand to “alert the teacher” that they need a pencil, use the rule “Solve your problem”. Teach students that they are all nice and kind classmates, so if a student who sits near you needs a sharpened pencil, give them one of yours. This teaches kindness, teamwork, and problem-solving collaboration!
If you have any other ideas let us know, after all we’re all in this together!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
The Teacher Team