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How I Tamed My Classroom Pencils: Classroom Pencil Hack


Need a way to tame your classroom pencils to save your sanity from endless days searching for pencils in your classrooms?  A few years ago, I was down to my last nerve when it came to pencils in my classroom.  

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Students were always losing their classroom pencils and never seemed to have one when they needed one. It was an endless cycle! That’s when I developed this amazing classroom pencil hack that changed my life…literally!

That’s when I developed this amazing classroom pencil hack that changed my life…literally! Click To Tweet

Never mind the fact that we never get all the school supplies requested at the beginning of each year. Before school started I was at WalMart stocking up in Ticonderoga pencils because let's face it…these are the best! Regardless of how many I bought….it was never enough!!! That's when I developed a hack, and fun way, to keep my kids organized with their classroom pencils!

classroom-pencils
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The Process

Well FINALLY I was DONE! This pencil hack was super easy to get started. I decided that I would assign everyone a pencil and see, just see, if they could possibly keep up with it! I mean how hard could it be to keep up with a stinking pencil? Apparently IMPOSSIBLE before this classroom pencil hack!

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So, to save my sanity and my pocketbook I was willing to try anything. I implemented a system that completely changed my life and my classroom! Here are all the details of how I started a PENCIL WAR!

Each student was given a brand new pencil on Monday..  I had four table groups each labeled with a color. Also, assigned each student a number at the beginning of the year that we use for EVERYTHING we do in class. so, naturally their pencil was numbered as well.

I purchased some colored dot stickers from Avery (there are enough to last me through next year I am sure) and I went to work.  Then, I put a dot on their pencil in their table color and then wrote their number on the sticker.

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Next, I put a piece of tape around it just to secure it so they didn't take the sticker off.  I gave them all new eraser tops at that time as well!

classroom-pencils
classroom-pencils

The Classroom Pencil Hack Rules 

  • You may not sharpen your pencil.  If it needs to be sharpened, trade it in and when I see them in the “please sharpen” bucket I will sharpen and lay out for you to come get. You must return my pencil you borrowed when you pick up your sharpened pencil.
  • If I find your pencil on the floor…it's MINE…and you lose it and must borrow one from me and you owe me 2 min of your recess each day for the rest of the week. (Usually spent cleaning the classroom with me)!
  • At the end of each day, the student of the day will pick up all the pencils and turn them into the bucket to be sharpened for the next day.  Student of the day will sharpen pencils before we leave each day and lay them out at the supply station.  You may pick your pencil up each morning.
  • On Friday, at lunch, all pencils will be turned in for a final inspection.  Your pencil must be free of chew marks..can I get an AMEN…and must have their eraser toppers. If you have your pencil and it is in good condition you will be rewarded a SUPER IMPROVER star on our Super Improver Wall.

Easy…Peesy…Lemon Squeezy!!!

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The Results

I was skeptical but this is what was turned in on Friday!  WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!  Every child turned in their pencil! I was so proud!  Even my little who didn't have her eraser was excused because it broke during an activity we were doing while she was erasing and she just hadn't had time to get a new one.  No pencils on the floor, no fighting over whose pencil was whose…SUCCESS!

classroom-pencils

The best part was watching my students keep each other accountable. When a student left a pencil in a station or at the small group table, a teammate from their table would usually grab it and return it to the student it belonged to. Teamwork!!!

The SUCCESS didn't stop with Week 1! By the end of the second week we were rocking and rolling and 24 pencils had lasted two full weeks! WOOOO HOOOOO!  The NEW pencil you see on the top is because me…yes the teacher…dropped her pencil behind the bookcase (a really heavy one) and I haven't been able to retrieve it!  Leave it to the teacher to lose the pencil! 🙂  It's all COOL!  I got my new pencil for next week a little early!

classroom-pencils

Over the course of the last five years, this has been my routine with pencils. On average, we use a 24 pack of Ticonderoga pencils every three to four weeks. Depending on how much writing we are doing I might need to replace them more often. But it is a far cry from the 24 pack a week we were using before I implemented pencil war.

Final Thoughts

The words, “Teacher I can't find my pencil!” Are rarely heard in my classroom anymore. Students are learning responsibility, community teamwork, and accountability when needed. Best of all, this teacher is able to afford more resources for us to learn in fun and engaging ways.

Want to stop the pencil madness in your own classroom? Have another system that is working for you? Share your insights below and let me know if you try PENCILWARS in your classroom!

Thanks for stopping by teacher friends and as always…let your passion find it's inspiration to be the best teacher your students need each and every day!  

Teachers are you burned out?  Jump over and check out my post on How I Survived Teacher Burnout.

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20 Responses

  1. Profe Sarah says:

    Do you have any suggestions for me as a specialist? I teach Spanish and pencils are driving me crazy.

    1. Hello! The above suggestions will work regardless of class size! 🙂

  2. Curious what you would do if you have 80 students?

    1. Having that many students could pose a challenge. You could however number them 1a, 1b, 1c…etc. That’s probably what I would do to start and see if that would be easiest. If not then I may number them 1-80. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Mrs. Shipley,
        Do you have 4 different classes with 20 in each one? If so I would choose 4 colors (red, blue, green, yellow) and number them 1-20. 🙂

    2. Tracey Hammons says:

      If my middle school students need to borrow a pencil, they give me a shoe to hold as collateral. They love it, and I still have the bucket of pencils I had at the beginning of the semester.

      1. How funny! I have heard of other teachers doing this same thing! I can totally see myself doing this with middle schoolers!

  3. Pure genius! I love it!

  4. Melissa Johnson says:

    I absolutely hated pencils my first 2 years of teaching. I would often question why God didn’t just give us a finger we could write with. 🙂
    My 3rd year of teaching I tried something new and it saved my sanity. Each student received 10 sharpened pencils on Monday. For a while throughout the week I would hear “my pencil broke” my response was always, “you have 9 more.” On Friday, I collect pencils bags to sharpen pencils and if you still have your 10 pencils you get a prize. If not, you were given 10 pencils to try again next week.
    I don’t hear, “can you sharpen my pencil” during class anymore.
    My struggle is with pencil thieves. They find them on the floor and claim them as their own. I would get kids who had 28 pencils at the end of the week because they “found” some. I like your idea to color code and number them. I’m going to try that this year! Thanks so much!

    1. Shannon Hopkins says:

      I tried that method this year and it took so much time out of my afternoon every Friday to sharpen pencils and put numbers on new ones and then put tape over them. Very time consuming! You may want to try ordering pencils with numbers that are engraved from, for example, Oriental Trading .

      1. Shannon! Thank you for your feedback! This is surprising to me as it usually only took a portion of my planning period to create a new set of pencils if needed. Throughout the process my student helpers were sharpening pencils and putting them out for the next day. I of course had only 25 pencils to create at the beginning. I’m not sure how many pencils you were creating and could see if you were doing this for multiple classes you might want to order numbered pencils. But then you wouldn’t get the Ticonderoga benefits. Again thanks for your input!!

  5. 150+students a day – 5 periods of 25+(Junior & Senior high school students)
    I bought a gross of eraserless golf pencils. I dipped the eraserless end in bright pink paint. Kept the box on my desk. No pencil, borrow one and leave your ID badge by the box. Trade back at the end of class.

  6. Stampnsnip says:

    What age group do you use this with? I have first graders and I know they could do this! It’s totally worth a try! Thank you!

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by! I used this with my first graders the first time! Used it every year after! I have used it with my kiddos I 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th! Happy Teaching!

  7. The first day of school I give one pencil to each student with his number as well as books and other supplies. At my school we use PBIS, so I created my own store. I open it after our morning meetings. Students can buy one pencil at the time with their PBIS points (or glue stick, pen, eraser, etc.) I even charge them for sharpening their pencil during the day…lol! At the end of the day students place their pencil on a cup to be sharpen and ready for the next day by me…no more broken sharperner!

  8. I teach third grade and we used a method similar to this. I put their names on a tape “flag”. After 4 (4 day) weeks, no pencil, no prize. No flag, no prize.

  9. I have a question about the Monday pencils… did everyone get a new pencil every Monday regardless of whether or not they still had their pencil? I guess I’m confused.

    1. Hello Amanda! On Monday only those that needed new pencils got them. Like if they were really short or they had lost them. Short pencils went into a box and I would use them as “back up pencils” throughout the week or for center boxes if needed. Thanks for reaching out!

  10. This was a life saver and the students are competitive. They also help each other too. My pencil supply lasted the year and when I dont have home support for supplies it was the greatest thing I implemented.

    1. This is awesome to hear Tonya! I am so glad that it helped you tame your pencils in the classroom! Happy Teaching!!

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