The Great Pencil Challenge (managing pencils!)

  1. Runde's Room says:

    OMG! I SO need to do this! "I don't have a pencil" {insert whine} is the bane of my existence! My response is, "How are you going to solve your problem?" … but it's getting old. Great Pencil Challenge, here we come!


    • Laurel says:

      That's usually my response too! I'm so excited to have something different to help keep things together at the end of the year.

  2. You are so darn smart Kristen! Thanks for sharing your sign. I am going to try this tomorrow!!!! I wish I could say I was on spring break but ours was a couple of weeks ago. We have state testing Tuesday and Wednesday. πŸ™
    Thanks again for being so smart and sharing!
    Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies
    Visit my facebook page

  3. LOVE this! We're doing group supplies this year, but I have been wanting to incorporate a bit more personal responsibility around everyday supplies (um, I think my kids must eat pencils & erasers, they disappear so quickly!). This looks like so much fun- thanks for sharing!!!

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  4. Tara says:

    My friend, what a brilliant idea!!!! So clever:) I SO needed this last year:) I swear my kiddos last year, ate their pencils….like daily… seriously! This year it's not the pencils that are killing me, although I wish it was…it would be a lot less money….it's the dry erase markers!!!!! Good grief… much I have spent on those:) I will be filing this lovely idea into my Summer Bucket list and have it ready to roll next year… year???! That's scary as heck!!! It's almost over already:/ Enjoy your break:) Relax!!! You deserve it:)

    4th Grade Frolics

    • Hey Tara- For your dry erase markers you can put their name and class number on each marker to help them be responsible for the marker. You just write it on paper and then glue it to the marker. Then you know who keeps messing them up or pushing down really hard. It might be to late in the year to start that but I think it would definitly help. Then you could do the great dry erase marker challenge instead of the pencil challenge. Good luck πŸ™‚

  5. Diane R says:

    Oh my gosh! I am totally with you on that one. My favorite is when they wait until thirty minutes into class to tell you that they don't have a pencil, and only because I asked them why they weren't writing anything. All the time they were sitting there helpless, having no idea how to solve this problem. And yes, I have fifth graders, too!

    I tried a similar thing, but instead of numbering pencils, I used green duct tape at the ends. Everyday I would do a pencil check (just holding up the pencil so I could see the tape), and I would cross off those on my weekly list who didn't have one. At the end of the week, those who didn't get crossed off got a PBIS buck for our school store. Amazingly, almost everyone avoided any pencil mishaps, ie. laziness. On Mondays, I issued new tape and swapped pencils if they were too short etc. I blogged about it {here}. I'm totally using your sign next time, though πŸ˜‰ Everything's cuter with a sign!

    Fifth in the Middle

  6. Terri says:

    This is genius and I am definitely trying it. I already have your wonderful poster printed and the laminator is heating up!!!! Thank you for this πŸ™‚
    Terri's Teaching Treasures

  7. This is so brilliant! I am totally starting this tomorrow! πŸ™‚
    Kindiekins & Looping Firsties

  8. Ugh. Pencils. Between the sharpening and the losing of them…if we didn't have to have them I'd say, forget them!! But, we do. Ugh. I reeeeeally like this idea. I asked my kids at the beginning of the year if they were eating them because every time I put out new pencils they were gone and no one had one!?! What!?! What are you doing? Eating them?? No, that would be nasty. But we still don't have one. Nice.

    It's gotten a little better lately, but not great. I will have to borrow this idea. I think it's a great motivator!! You are so clever!

    (And one day I'm going to get you to teach me how to take those neat pictures!!)

    Enjoy you break!
    Collaboration Cuties

  9. I'm with you! The pencil issue is a problem! I downloaded your sign and will issuing a challenge soon! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  10. Katrina says:

    My question is where do the pencils go? My students have lost so many pencils this year. I hate hearing that dreaded phrase, "I can't find my pencil." I just don't get it. I think they do eat them. That's the only thing I can think of. I love your idea. I may have to try it. Thanks for sharing.


  11. I've already gone through over 100 pencils this year! I finally switched my kids to lead pencils and that (so far) seems to be working.

  12. Thanks for sharing this idea and awesome sign! We are not doing too bad this year but I have had some years that I had to announce in April (and we are in school to June) that I was officially out of pencils!! I too have added pretty tape to the top of my pencils – not to keep track of them but so students wouldn't get them stuck in the sharpener by pushing them in way to far.

    Have a great Spring Break, wow it seems late, ours was in March.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  13. Teachntex says:

    Perfect timing! I just told my class on Friday that I wasn't Wal-Mart and would no longer be supplying them with pencils.

    Now I feel guilty and will try your positive approach Monday. Thanks for the great idea!


  14. Yes, we will be using this. I have 4 classes throughout the day, and each one refers to the class before them as "the pencil thieves."

    Everyone deServes to Learn

  15. Miss B. says:

    YES! This year I bought 2 gross of discounted pencils and I'm about out… definitely doing this! πŸ™‚

    Miss B.
    Real Teachers Learn

  16. icesk8abc says:

    I hand out on pencil per student every Monday. There are no extras. If you have to write in colored pencil or crayon, you have to copy the work over during Friday catch-up time. That means you don't have as long for free choice activities. With a particularly pencil eating class, I will number the pencils, but usually it isn't necessary after a few weeks. I do offer pencils in my class store (cute ones), but they are expensive and the kids don't usually want to "waste" their hard earned money that way. Some times there is the parent who will sent 100 extra pencils just for their kid so their kid can lose as many pencils as he/she wants, but it doesn't happen very often.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    This is like the funniest thing ever, Kristen. Funny because I am in this great challenge with my kids, too. But, I haven't really made it anything official like this…until now πŸ™‚ This is the smartest thing EVER! Enjoy your spring break πŸ™‚

    Fun in Room 4B

  18. Love it! I'm soooo doing the pencil challenge tomorrow! I think I'm going to start with seeing who can keep it for a DAY… πŸ™‚

    My Kinder-Garden

  19. 4321Teach says:

    Great idea! I wish the kids loved school supplies as much as I do. Then maybe they would care about knowing where they are! πŸ™‚ At back to school time, I have the students put all their excess pencils in a ziploc bag with their name on it. Each morning they can dip into their supply bag if they need to. Out of sight, out of mind. 90% of my kids have pencils until the end of the year. I like the idea of numbering them. That way if strays are found you can return them to their owner.


    • Anonymous says:

      I love the idea of putting each child's pencils in their own ziploc. I think I would put their ziplocs in a cabinet though!

  20. Kristin says:

    I love this!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ I have no strategy whatsoever and I'm pretty sure first graders eat ther pencils! πŸ™‚

  21. Lindsay says:

    I love this! I reached my breaking point with pencils this past week. (& needed to buy more over the weekend.) The great pencil challenge will be taking place in my classroom this week – thanks for sharing!

  22. Suzy Q says:

    I just have my students bring their own pencils. When we find one on the floor it goes in our lost and found spot and every now and then I draw their attention to the ever-increasing pile and most are claimed.

  23. Anonymous says:

    oh goodness! I am starting this TOMORROW! My kids cannot keep a pencil to SAVE THEIR LIVES. I will probably have to offer some type of prize incentive, but we will see how this goes!


  24. Tonya says:

    I started doing this a month ago. I added tape flags with their numbers. I was soooo sick of losing pencils. I even bought the expensive kind. No more tape flags…I'll just write their number on them. I like the idea of one pencil on Mondays…but what if they break? Do you let them sharpen them in the middle of class??? I hate that!

    Tonyas Treats for Teachers

    • Kristen says:

      Hey Tonya, thanks! I like the tape flag idea, so smart! If they break, I just give them a new one. The sharpening I don't mind too much this year (my group is very easy-going) πŸ™‚

  25. Kim says:

    Hi Kristen-Dear!

    I just bought 200 pencils (at WalMart!) an hour ago! Needless to say, this could not have come at a more perfect time.
    Just printed the sign (SO CUTE!) so I am ready for tomorrow morning.
    Thanks for sharing your talent–and your brilliance!

    : )
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  26. You must have been standing in the back of my classroom!! Thank you so much!! This sign goes up tomorrow!
    Mrs. Stoltenberg's Second Grade Class

  27. My problem this year is not so much the disappearing as the horrible quality of the pencils. I open a new pack and by the time they are all sharpened for the first time half of them are short already!!

    I love this idea and I'm going to save it for a pencil challenged class – this year isn't bad. I have sharpened and broken pencil cups centrally located in my kinder classroom and the kids are responsible for keeping 2 (and only 2) sharpened pencils at their desks. In order to take a new sharpened pencil they must return a broken or dull one first. I throw a few "fancy" pencils in every couple of days to motivate them to turn in their broken pencil for a new one. I don't monitor after the first few weeks of school, so I'm sure not all the pencil get returned, but enough that it's not a big deal. I also have "rubish" helpers at the end of the day that are in charge of making sure that useful items are not left on the floor to be swept away by the custodian – they usually return a handful of pencils to the broken cup.

  28. Kelly Hall says:

    I have been using this method nfor a few years. I give the children 3 in the beginning of the year, along with an eraser and glue stick. I put their numbers on everything. They can sharpen only in the morning or end of day. They need to trade in their "Dead" items for a new one. It does help….there are still a few who can't manage their stuff no matter what!

  29. Forget all the other challenges facing our classrooms…. this is the biggest one-PENCILS! I love this and downloaded the sign. What a great idea!

    Visit me at Teaching By The Sea

  30. How is it that you can make PENCILS look SOOOO beautiful! I love the poster! I started a couple of weeks ago a classroom economy and that has curbed my pencil problems and extra bathroom break problems! YAHOOOOOO! Your idea is brillant!! πŸ™‚ I might use that next year! πŸ™‚


  31. Lita Lita says:

    Love the poster! and the name! So dramatic, my secondgraders would love it! I used to do something similar like a museum for old and wised pencils that lasted enough to learn.

  32. Sydney Cohn says:

    I love this sign and I would love a Pencil of Honor sign. In my class this year I have given my students a labeled ziploc with 2 pencils. If by Friday they have two pencils to return to me then they get a prize. I your signs because it would save me some $ for the treasure box.

    Also, I have to ask – all your black backgrounds in your classroom, is it paper or contact paper? If it is contact paper, does the adhesive mess things up?

    – Sydney

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Sydney, thanks! I'm working on the Pencil Honors sign right now πŸ™‚

      The black backgrounds are fabric. Those are old chalkboards. I used liquid starch to put the fabric up. I love them!

  33. i used to write their numbers on their pencils all the time…but I never did a check-in…you are BRILLIANT, my friend!!
    The Teacher’s Cauldron

  34. This is a huge pet peeve of mine that for Valentines day I special ordered pencils with their names on them since I had a set and they always knew which pencils were mine. I gave them to them and I think it lasted a week or maybe 2 that I didn't hear it…they all had 4 each. This is a great idea tho!!

  35. Kelly says:

    I agree with everyone else, this is a TERRIFIC idea! I have several kids who purposely break pencils, but I can never seem to catch them. I also have one that will cut the erasers off of the pencils. If he has to use the same pencil everyday, I wonder if he will continue to cut the erasers off????
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  36. Katie says:

    I love this idea!!! I'm going to start it tomorrow!!! πŸ™‚
    Pencils are driving me crazy right now. I tried doing the dull and sharp, but they don't' even attempt to keep their pencils, they just rush to get one from the sharp bin. I can't wait to try this out! THanks!! πŸ™‚

    Smiles from 2nd Grade

  37. teachtrue2 says:

    You are brilliant!! I didn't realize that so many of us spend this much instuctional time dealing with the pencil problem!! I love your Challenge sign and think the Pencil Honors sign would be nice. (Hint.)We'll be starting this tomorrow as well!

  38. Mrs Cupcake says:

    Oh, this is awesome!! I'd also love the Pencil Honors sign… ANYthing to keep those pencils from disappearing, girl!
    A Cupcake for the Teacher

  39. I love this idea! I remember having this high drama in ALL the grades I taught-from my little first graders all the way up to my 8th graders…lol…

    With my little ones, I had "pencil managment" as a class job. Perhaps, some "cool pencils" like smencils or those sparkly ones are in order for your honor roll…

    The Classroom Creative

  40. So PERFECT! I will never understand how a kiddo can LOSE a pencil less that 15 seconds after using it! It's just a constant phenomenon.

    ❀ Traci

  41. Anonymous says:

    Wow – I just love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing this great tip! I sometimes have students use pens instead of pencils, and that solved the problem for older students. This year, with 2/3, pencils are the way to go.


  42. Melissa says:

    This is such a great idea, and the sign is adorable as usual! Thanks for sharing!

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late

  43. Nikki Lutzke says:

    Love this, however, I'm getting zinged out of downloading the sign which is soooo cute. Any ideas?


  44. Miss Reade says:

    Just started our pencil challenge and my students love it! Great idea and love the sign! =)
    Thank You!

  45. Doodle Bugs says:

    Love it! you rock!

  46. Kristen says:

    I am unable to print the sign because it won't let me download it. it says that the site has been moved.. Any ideas or help!? It's a great idea!

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Kristen, thanks for letting me know, I will try to fix it. I will be back tomorrow (hopefully!) with another related sign and will try to get it working then. Thanks for reading!!

  47. Brilliant! I will begin this on Monday! I usually duct tape the pencils or give out a specific color, yet…they STILL can't find the all black ones! I've threatened "you shall write in your BLOOD!" hahah
    Let's see how this works, thanks!

  48. Amber Unger says:

    Wow! What a clever and nearly effortless (on the teacher's part) idea! I'm in love. <3 I can even see this being effective for Kinders. As always, THANK YOU for your amazing printables. πŸ™‚

  49. Brilliant!!! I am definitely going to use this!!! Thank you for the fabulous idea!!

    Sweet n Sassy in 2nd

  50. Unknown says:

    Better late than never. I love this! I want to get one of those dollar store reward charts and put a sticker uo for each week that they have it. They could then add up to rewards…such as fancy pencils or pens.

  51. SummerBeech says:

    I had to get rid of my sharpened/dull pencil cups. My children would drop a pencil and rather than pick it up off the floor, they would go to the cup and get a new one. I changed my strategy. Now my children get four pencils. I sharpen as many as they need on Monday and Friday and I sharpen 2 on the other days. On a random day I will do a pencil check, they get ten minutes of extra time to play or free choice. It is amazing now I hardly ever see a pencil on the floor and no more travel time during lessons. Next year, I will add numbers to the pencils, which I have done in the past. I do trade out when the pencils are too short to sharpen.

  52. Once again, YOU ARE AMAZING!!! I shared this with my entire staff! It is SUCH a wonderful idea!

    Young Teacher Love 5th Grade Blog

  53. oh' boy says:

    love this LOVE LOVE {puffy} heart love!!!

  54. I LOVE this! I am starting this on Monday!

  55. What a GREAT idea. I will absolutely be starting the challenge on Monday! 5 more weeks-I can do it, lol!

    Teach On.

  56. ThIs Is A Fabulous Idea…I Have A Used Pencil Cup…The Kids Can Borrow A Pencil If They Leave A Shoe…I Get The Pencils Back Most Of The Time…I Need To Monitor It more. I Think This Would Work So Much better

  57. ThIs Is A Fabulous Idea…I Have A Used Pencil Cup…The Kids Can Borrow A Pencil If They Leave A Shoe…I Get The Pencils Back Most Of The Time…I Need To Monitor It more. I Think This Would Work So Much better

    • Tara says:

      I used to do that and it was so effective! My principal told me that our district's risk management person wouldn't allow students to be shoeless, so I had to change my policy. πŸ™

  58. Ms.B says:

    This is awesome. My first graders loose pencils like literally every assignment. Im always thinking, you was just writing, what could you have possibly done with that pencil. I'm doing starting this tomorrow with a new set of pencils.

  59. Jessica says:

    Love, love, love this brilliant idea!! I definitely will be trying this out. I swear there are over 60 pencils floating around in our room, but I never see them. My students are always up for a challenge.

    Apples and Papers

  60. goodsie says:

    This is wonderful…I may think about accommodating this for my high school classroom. You think it's bad when 1st graders or 5th graders are constantly asking you for pencils? Imagine how frustrated I get when my 11th graders do the same thing.

  61. AmyH says:

    I love this idea! I feel like I teach a bunch of beevers instead of students! Thanks for the idea – I'm going to give it a shot!

  62. Muriel Rand says:

    Terrific idea! I'm going to share this with my student teachers. I love the game-like atmosphere and the way your kids helped each other!

  63. Mrs. Hereau says:

    I actually do something quite similar and have had great success. Not only were my students losing pencils, they were chewing on them, removing the erasers, or making countless trips to the pencil sharpener. So I challenged my students to be "parents" and take good care of their pencils. I gave them each two pencils with their name/number on them and instructed them to treat them like their babies. They were told to keep them "healthy"(in good condition), and to keep track them. We checked in at predetermined dates and at unannounced times. We also compared pencils (great measurement activity) and I gave out small prizes for the longest pencils and the best erasers. It didn't take long to see the results…less pencil sharpening, no more destruction, and no more lost pencils. And as a side benefit, I found the students were more careful when working so they didn't have to use their erasers!

  64. J says:

    When my students borrow one of my pencils, I make them give me their shoe. When I get my pencil back, they get their shoe back. πŸ™‚

  65. Dawn Miller says:

    You are a genius!!! I Teach middle and high school students and go through about 500 pencils a year. I would much rather hand out Jolly Ranchers on Fridays for those who are responsible!!! (I have learned that kids are willing to jump through fire for a Jolly Rancher) Thanks for the great idea!

  66. I am so doing this in my class tomorrow!!! My kids chew on, break in half, and strategically "lose" their pencils throughout the day. This is a wonderful idea! I think I'm going to start this on the first day of school next year! Thanks for this great idea!

  67. What an awesome idea! You're a genius!

  68. Melody Brock says:

    I wrote student names in sharpie near the eraser & then wrapped clear tape around to keep names from rubbing off. I average sharpening each student's pencil only 1 time per week & only in the morning. They bring them up for inspection & I only sharpen if they really need it. I invested in TriWrite My First pencils this year & will never go back to regular ones. They are super sturdy & encourage proper grip. Rarely do they break. Most students used the same pencil from August to January/February, but a few made it to April. Wow! We use skinny block erasers with their names on them when the erasers wear off.

  69. Melody Brock says:

    And if their pencil breaks, they can trade it for one if mine until I have time to sharpen & return theirs. It has been great this year. It also helps them learn how to recognize each others names quicker. They like helping pencils find their way back to the owners.

  70. Kelly T says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! What a great idea, and such lovely signs.

  71. A says:

    I had a friend who made her students' nightly homework would be to bring three sharp pencils to school daily. They were never allowed to sharpen during the day. It totally worked but my principal said I can't do that because it's our responsibility to supply pencils. I've gone through at LEAST 250 this year!! I've been keeping track. And I only have 23 students!

  72. I had the same problem with my kids misplacing their pencils. I started almost the same challenge. I made each child a smart choices punch card. Each card had 10 punch spots. At the end of every day, if they turned their pencil in to be sharpened and it was still in good shape, they got their card punched. Once they filled their card they got to pick a prize out of the prize box. It made them completely responsible for keeping up with their own pencils. It worked like a charm.

  73. supermrsc says:

    You have changed the elementary school world as we know it, and I'm going to nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize, Teacher of the Year, and anything else deserving of your awesome imagination.

  74. Heidy Roman says:

    What a great idea! I'm always having pencil issues with my 4th graders. I should give this a try. Thank you for sharing.
    Heidy Roman

  75. Veronica says:

    I teach first grade. This year I started only dealing with pencils on Monday morning. I would allow each student 3 pencils. I would use the electric pencil sharpener and sharpen 3!! pencils for each student on Monday. If they did not have 3, I would give them another one. If they lost their pencils they had to borrow from a friend or the bucket where pencils found on the floor were put. I would not sharpen pencils during the day or get any out. They actually did really well with this process.

  76. Kelli Prue says:

    I got so tired of replacing pencils in my Kinder classroom this year that I finally placed them all in a jar on my desk and at the end of the day all 35 pencils had to be accounted for. The first couple of days it took 5+ minutes to track down the missing pencils, but after that it there were only 1 or 2 unaccounted for each day and with everyone searching (floor, table boxes, book boxes, center areas, etc) they were found quickly. It was so simple and effective! Just wish I'd thought of it sooner!


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