12 May 2014

Management Monday - Pencils

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Happy Monday, Friends! 

Today is my second to last Monday of the school year! Say WHAT?!?! I have no idea where this year went...but it's come, and it's just about gone. cray-zee.

Anyway, it's Monday, so that means it's time for Management Monday. Normally, I would save today's topic for a beginning of the year post, however, I keep seeing and talking to teachers who have the same problem. Pencils.

Here are some of the complaints:
  • the pencil monster...you know, constantly having to ask parents for more pencils, beg from your neighbor, or buy them yourself because they just disappear
  • sharpening - right.in.the.middle.of.your.mini-lesson. GAH! 
  • the pencil sharpener keeps breaking
So let me start by telling you that I used this pencil sharpener for my first 3 years teaching. It was $20 and I got it from Staples. Nothing exciting. It never broke. In fact, the only reason I had to buy a new one is because I accidentally left it in my old classroom when I moved. It was a sad, sad day when I realized this.
At the beginning of this year, I had to pick up a new one, and I ended up just grabbing another $20 one at Target. I think I actually got it for like $14-$16 because it was on sale with the rest of the back to school loot.
I've never had a problem with this one either. I do like it a little better than the previous one, just because I don't have to hold it in place to keep it from sliding. Other than that, they both got the job done perfectly, and never failed me.

So what's my secret? I never, ever, without fail let my students sharpen pencils. EVER! I know it sounds silly, but most of my teacher friends go through several sharpeners a year. Now, I know that there's a pencil sharpener out there that teacher's swear by, and I've never used it, so I'm not knocking it if you have one and love it. However, I still hate the idea that students are sharpening pencils in the middle of your lesson, or the day for that matter!

So, why don't my students need to constantly sharpen a pencil? Easy. I start by having Team Supplies. My desks are arranged in groups of four, which means each team has 8 sharpened pencils in their team tubs. I train my kiddos that the points go UP because it keeps the tips from constantly breaking. When a pencil is dull or the tip does break, the pencil goes eraser up. 
Pencils don't ever go in my students' desks. Sounds crazy, but it works. The "Desk Inspector" makes it part of his/her job to ensure that desks are clear of pencils each afternoon. Here's a look at a student's desk sans pencils. It's messy, and there's probably a bit of trash in there, but there aren't any pencils!
Next, each afternoon or every two or three days (yes, we really can go three days with the same pencils!), the Equipment Manager collects all the pencils, places them in the "Please Sharpen" basket,  and then passes pencils from the "Ready to Write" basket back out to team tubs. Then, before I leave, I take about 5 minutes to sharpen a decent supply of pencils to put in the "Ready to Write" basket.
Should a pencil break in the middle of the day, students just grab another one from their team tub. On the off-chance that there aren't any sharpened pencils in their team tub, they grab one from the "Ready to Write" basket.

Here are my recommendations:
  • Use some sort of team/group supplies that house pencils in a central location
  • Don't let your students use the pencil sharpener
  • Have a central location for all pencils that need to be sharpened, as well as for pencils that are ready to be used
  • Train your students to know that they don't use the pencil sharpener (students have never even asked!), what to do when they need a sharpened pencil, and what to do with a pencil that needs to be sharpened
  • Have a periodic "10 Second Floor Check" in which students look for "Pencils without a Home" (this will also make your classroom sparkle, and your custodian love you!
Happy Teaching & Pencil Sharpening!



  1. What do you do about colored pencils?

  2. Hi! What do you do about "special pencils"? You know, the ones students get as rewards or hand out for birthdays/Valentine's or bring from home?


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