let's talk pencils

I was inspired write this post after reading The Inspired Apple.
(Ha! No pun intended!)

Basically, her question was: How do you keep your students supplied with pencils?

Even though my strategy isn't perfect, I thought I'd share!

First of all, my students are NOT allowed to sharpen pencils. 

If they need their pencil sharpened,
then they put their pencil in the "Dull" cup and take a new pencil from the "Sharp" cup.
(Oh and about the erasers... my students always have their own eraser top...
they keep their eraser when they switch their pencil).

I sharpen pencils at every recess (it seriously only takes like 30 seconds). 

This has worked really well for my class. They know that the pencils belong to the whole class and that we share. It also keeps them from chewing and destroying them!

If any of my students come to school with a fancy/colorful pencil, I am a mean teacher, and I send them back home! I just don't have time to sharpen everyones' individual pencils. I also don't allow pencil sharpeners in their desks. I told you, I was mean!!

But seriously, it is amazing how something as little as a "pencil" can be so annoying! However, if you just keep it simple, then it goes by the wayside, unnoticed. (Which is what we want, right?)

How do you manage pencils in your classroom?


  1. HmMMMmm, I do this too but still find they go through them...I'm constantly buying eraser tops because they chew them off or stash them in places unknown!


  2. Hello Lindsey! Is that pencil sharpener in the picture quiet like it says? One year I went through 4 of the cheap-o ones that they put on the wall. The custodian was not happy with me! :) I'm glad you found my blog, so I could find yours! he-he!

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  4. OMG, we do the SAME thing!!! I'm so the mean teacher also. I think you may be my teacher twin. lol


  5. @Laurie: it isn't quiet at all!!! haha! which is why i only sharpen during recess. if i don't, then i have a line of 10 kids when they hear the sharpener (whether they need it or not)...

  6. I do the exact same thing except my students don't get pencil topperheyI always start the year with them but they always take them home. :( So now I have several large erasers at each table basket for those chewed off erasers. Still anproblem because they draw on them but it better.

    I even have the same sharpener. Laurie, it's not as quiet as I would like so I would say no. Plus I don't know if it just mine but I don't feel it sharpens that well. Not happy that it cost $50.00. Glad I didn't pay for it, but my team did. :(

    Ms. M

  7. I've actually tried this before to no avail!!!! I'm telling you, my kiddos are relentless! I was using skinny pencils and am now back to big, fat pencils AND I write their names on them. I have about 10 students that can keep up with them...and the rest are driving me bananas!!!!!

    Thanks for the shout-out, sweet friend! Have a great sharp penciled kinda day tomorrow ;)

  8. I have writer workshop bins that hold sharpened pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and large erasers. When we're writing each group has one on their desk where they can use what's in the bin. There's always a supply in the bins of everything they need.


  9. I have helpers in the morning come into my room and sharpen pencils. I also have sharpened/unsharpened baskets in the classroom. I do let the children use the sharpener at certain times of the day. I have a sign in a clear, plastic 8X10 frame. One side has sharpener open and the other says sharpener closed. I will turn the frame to let the children know when it is available and unavailable for use.

  10. I do the same. I have a "sharpened pencils" cup and a "broken pencils" cup. I got the cute labels online somewhere. Anyway, my kids sit at tables (6 students at each table), and there are community supplies on each table. They are always stocked with plenty of sharpened pencils, but if they happen to run out, they know how to trade out with the "sharpened" pencil cup. I also don't allow fancy pencils and only the teachers use the sharpener (usually every 2-3 days).

  11. I use the same system as you, and it works out well. I do allow my 4th graders to use a mechanical pencil on a trial run basis. If they can prove that it is not a distraction, then they can use them. But once I start to see them fumbling around with lead or overly clicking their pencil, then they lose the privilege.

  12. I used to do this system, but then H1N1 happened last year and we were told not to have the kids share pencils. I may have to go back to this though....pencil sharpening drives me mad!!

    I love your blog! I'm new to blogging, follow if you'd like! :)


  13. Hi Lindsey! I just found your blog and had to laugh. My name is also Lindsay (except with an a) and I am also a first year teacher this year (third grade). How funny!

    I do the same thing with my pencils but I agree with some of the above, the pencils still seem to disappear faster than I ever could have imagined. I swear the kids eat them or something! I made one of my classroom jobs pencil sharpener and have a kid stay in for a minute at the beginning of recess and do the sharpening for me. Time saver and they like doing it.

    Lindsay Living

  14. Hey Lindsay! Thanks for the love on my blog. It's pretty new, but you have to start somewhere, right?! :) Your is great, too. We are both newlyweds and teachers...I'm sure we'd have a LOT to discuss!

    For pencils, I run mine very similar but my only down time to sharpen is before/after school because I'm with my kids during lunch and recess. I asked for parent volunteers with sharpeners at home and I send a bag home with each of them about once a week. That way I always have fresh pencils and colored pencils to put in the jar! (The only difference is I have one jar for pencils. If it's sharp, it points up, if it needs to be sharpened, it goes face down!)

  15. We are Pencil Nazi twins! I have cans too, but mine say "I'm sharp!" and "Please sharpen me!" I only sharpen after school, so I have extras and if they run out they have to scrounge around in their desks to find missing ones--though that doesn't usually help because I'm kind of a Clean Desk Nazi too! I just got my kids brand new pencils with pencil top erasers TODAY and already I noticed one missing it's new topper and the metal off the top of the pencil. It drives me crazy when the pencils are all scraggly and nasty. I swear they could care less that they chew on a pencil that they may not get again. Ick! Anyway, love your blog!

  16. WOw Linds, I do the same thing EXCEPT I had a student sharpen the pencils, it was there "job" for the week. Even though they missed recess, they LOVED sharpening those pencils. We also had a special set of pencils that I pulled out for tests only. Love the blog!

  17. I hate pencils. They are almost worse than meetings! haha

    My 5th graders are TERRIBLE with turning them into the sharpen cup. This past week they have been complaining to me that there aren't any pencils and I just shrug and say they can't be sharpened if they aren't turned in! I don't let them touch the pencil sharpener either because that grinding noise gets on my nerves! I have one kid who sharpens pencils at the end of the day (and usually they don't because none are ever turned in). These kids go through pencils like nobody's business!

  18. I do this as well!! I've found the the pencils tend to BREAK all the time. So I found a brand that acutally sharpens well and does not break upon first use....I wrote about it in my blog too!! haha we're all thinking pencils! stop by!!


  19. What I di is very similar. I have two baskets of pencils labeled "Good Pencils" and "Broken Pencils." I have two 6th grade helpers come in my room before and after school to help out and they sharpen the broken ones. I am also a "mean" teacher and don't allow colored pencils and markers. I know that I should be providing writing materials as much as possible, but it irritates me when they do their math work in a pink pencil.

  20. I have the same two cups in my classroom, but I've had issues with the erasers! Good idea to have them keep the eraser when they exchange the pencil :)
    Playground Duty

  21. I almost do the exact same thing as you. We even have the exact same cups and labels. HA! I like your idea about the erasers. Maybe I will start offering a blue ticket to the students who kept their eraser all day.

  22. I just wish I had a sharpener that worked. I recently sent this email to our staff asking for help -

    Job opening for electric pencil sharpener!

    Job description: Sharpen multiple pencils each day for eager to learn first graders. Stopping at any point during our pencil sharpening routine is strongly prohibited. Making strange noises is frowned upon.
    Hours: 7:45 – 3:15 (frequent breaks during the day so as not to disturb learning) Summers off!
    Salary: Not applicable. Although you will not be getting paid any money for this job, you will end the day on a positive note, knowing that you contributed to the future scholars of America.

    Seriously, if anyone has an extra pencil sharpener they could loan me until I can find one that can handle the heavy workload in first grade, that would be great. My husband has offered to bring his pocket knife here to sharpen the pencils the old fashioned way, but I told him this was school, not boy scouts.

    All applicants will be considered!!

  23. Oh, I'm sure my students eat mine! I have two cups "sharpened" and "needs to be sharpened" and I'm constantly refilling pencils. I have a student who's job for the week is to sharpen each day. We just sharpen when we need to. I don't ever have students bring fancy pencils, but sometimes if we have a special holiday,(like V-Day) I'll buy the cheap packages of pencils and let the kids use them. The kids don't get to take them home and they all belong to me, but I let them use them!

  24. I do the same thing in third grade as well but it seems as though certain students always lose or go through mass amounts of pencils. Every once in a while I have kids do a desk dive to hunt down the sheer amount of missing ones. Also, I just read somewhere on someone else's blog (can't recall who...sorry) that they give certain kids "special" pencils with a tag made from tape and their name on it. They were much less likely to lose them.

    I'm a new blogger too and was happy to find your site!
    Please check out mine when you have a chance. Thanks, Kelley

  25. Why does such a simple little, common tool cause so many teachers so much stress??? I bit a child's head off this week over a pencil!!!

    I use the same cup system, but one of my kids' morning jobs is to be sure they have 2 sharpened pencils...not that that always works...

    I found a pencil hoarder the other day! She had (seriously) over 20 pencils!!! ugh....pencils!!

  26. This is one of the few annoying parts of teaching...the dreaded need to sharpen a pencil. I cringe when my kids ask for me to sharpen their pencil.
    My first year teaching, I let them do it, and they broke the pencil sharpener in one week. I bought another, and since then, I've done it. So I am going to the "Sharp Cup, Dull Cup" thing. I don't mind being "mean" about them not being able to bring their own pretty pencils.

  27. I have the same sharpener and I've had it for three years and this year it started acting up. I'm sad because I don't think I'll have the budget to replace it. We may only get $50 this year! I also have the pencil cups but I have a student assigned to this job. This year however I have one boy who just can't keep the pencils out of his mouth and it's pretty gross. Everyone knows he's the one who chews off the erasers and they're starting to say things to him. So I've had to let them have their own pencils if they want to.

    Stop by my blog for a Freebie this week!
    Little Priorities

  28. I super glue (yup, serious) the eraser caps to the tops of the pencils. They were constantly getting lost (or thrown at someone when I wasn't looking)... so - this was the easy fix! :)

  29. I did the same thing in my classroom! It worked like a charm and cut down on pencil sharpener noise! Awesome idea with the sharp/ dull cups, I wish I thought about that.

  30. I taught HS last year, I bought golf pencils. So when someone didn't have a pencil, they got a golf pencil. Yes, a little short one with no eraser. TERRIBLE. They brought a pencil to class the next time :)

  31. Ok, me too with the cups. One difference is that I do keep the cute pencils that they bring in. I keep them in a separate basket and we use them only for testing. That way we always have sharpened pencils for our weekly tests. I change these out once a month. It gives me a way to treat my kids to the cute holiday pencil or fancy designed ones and I don't seem SO mean!! Got this idea from pinterest--and LOVE it!!

    Anyone have a great sharpener that will stand up to the heavy load of a first grade classroom? I need to order a new one?


thanks for the love ♥

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