The Pencil Wars
Are you frustrated by the lack of success with your pencil procedure? I was! Until I discovered the world’s best pencil procedure and I cannot wait to share it with you!
Here are a few things I have tried through the years to ensure students have a pencil or writing utensil:
- Golf pencils. I purchased large boxes of golf pencils because they were a bit cheaper and I figured they would be undesirable to write with, so students would bring one. Haha! Instead, we went through them faster and I was refilling more often. They knew they were readily available and because they were not meeting their needs (no eraser!), they treated them poorly and often broke, threw, or trashed them.
- Sharpened/Unsharpened bins. I saw this on Pinterest many years of teaching ago and thought it looked so organized and perfect for my classroom! I made cute signage and taught the students how to use it as a classroom procedure. I had it full of great, sharpened pencils and thought that an occasional student who misplaced theirs would innocently borrow and return them for a helper or me to sharpen. I even used the trendy straw dispenser for an extra element of care and fun! Ugh. The mess that was returned to the “Need to be Sharpened” bin was such a disaster that I should not have even tried.
- Trading an item for a pencil. I tried this, but I struggled to manage it throughout the class period. Students came up to me throughout the lesson wanting to trade something and would try to negotiate to find something they were willing to give up for an hour that was consequential enough for me to leverage the return of my pencil…I found it exhausting. Procedures that are exhausting never last or work efficiently.
World's Best Pencil Procedure
So, what does work? Well, no pencil procedure is perfect. But this is as close as I have found. And it is so simple, you can implement it almost immediately.
Use your whiteboard to have students sign out a pencil for the class period. Have a few hanging on the board with magnet clips. These are the ones I used. (Not an affiliate link.)
Students borrow a pencil and write their name with a dry-erase marker in its place. They return it at the end of class and erase their name. If they accidentally leave with it, it’s easy to track down who has it.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS: Keep an “It’s been ______ days since a pencil went missing” note on the board. Students and classes love to keep the streak alive, so they will encourage their classmates to remember to return the pencil. For a BONUS motivation tool, set a goal together. My students and I would come up with a goal number of days and a reward that they could earn if they met the goal. Then, the students really took ownership of making sure all pencils were returned and would even sacrifice one of their own if one went missing.
I only lost 3-4 pencils ALL YEAR! And, it saved my sanity. The only work for me was to remember to check the board at the end of class. But, usually, the students monitored themselves and each other, so I didn’t have to.
If you would like all my Pencil Procedure signage, grab them in the FREE download below! And let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!