Putting an End to Pencil Problems in the Classroom

Teaching primary students, pencils have been a HUGE headache for me in the past. Every single day someone would find their pencil missing, or needed it sharpened when I was in the middle of teaching a small group, and when I placed new pencils in the sharpened bin half the class seemed to all of a sudden be missing a pencil! To solve these pencil problems I started a new system based on some ideas I'd read about on Facebook and Pinterest, and now I never have to think about pencil problems!

Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!

At the beginning of the year, I provided every student in my class with a pencil case from the dollar store. I labeled them with each student's name so there could be no mix-ups!

Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!

Inside every case I included seven sharp pencils and one eraser. The second year I did this I changed it up to 5 pencils and it has worked just fine! 

Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!

At the end of every week, my lunch helpers collect the pencil cases and sharpen all of the pencils. Any student who still has all seven (or five) pencils AND their eraser gets a small treat back in their case - an eraser, sticker, small wrapped candy. Any pencils missing, or nearing the end of their usable life, are replaced at this time and pencils are NEVER needing to be sharpened throughout the week! (Insert happy teacher face here!) I shared this idea at the beginning of this school year, but I'm so thrilled with how well it is going I needed to revisit! Pencil problems - solved!

You might also be interested in this post about getting organized in your classroom:

Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!
Take a look at some of the other classroom organization ideas and resources on this HUGE Pinterest board:

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Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!

Until next time,

Pencil problems in the classroom? Solve them for good with this simple pencil solution that will save you money and time! You'll never have pencil problems again!

60 comments

  1. I use almost the exact same system! We use pencil boxes instead of pouches. I'm always amazed at how excited the students are to get a sticker and a Friend of Pencils card. Thanks for starting a new linky!
    Jan
    Laughter and Consistency

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    1. Isn't it awesome?! It has truly saved my sanity (and my pencil budget!!) this year! Thanks for linking up. :)

      ~Erin

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  2. I love this idea. You would never believe how many pencils end up on the floor at the end of the day! I can't do this this year but will keep it in mind for the fall. I have a diabetic child so I never ever use candy or any type of food for a reward. It has certainly been challenging this year!! Thanks! :-)

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    1. Oh, I can believe it!! I can tell you that my students have been just as excited and motivated by a sticker, special pencil or fun eraser as they have been for a candy. Any little surprise gift works wonders!

      ~Erin

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  3. Erin, I love this fantastic idea!
    Diane
    One Giggle At A Time

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    1. Thanks, Diane! It truly has been a sanity saver! :)

      Erin

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  4. I have a silly question...where did you get your pouches? I love this idea

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    1. Hi Jayme,

      Thanks for stopping by! Not a silly question at all! I got them from our dollar store, Dollarama. :) It is a routine that I will establish year after year. It has made my life SO much easier!

      Erin

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  5. I can't wait to try it next year. Going to add a few items. Dry erase marker and eraser.

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  6. Did you have to buy any additional pencils as you restocked the pouches or did the students provide enough at the beginning of the year?

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    1. Hi Paula!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I actually purchased all of the pencil cases using some of my classroom funds. I believe they were $1.25 each at our dollar store. You certainly could request that families send one in, but I would definitely have a few extras on hand, just in case!

      Erin

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  7. I do something similar, using pencil boxes and tucking one inside each chair pocket. I also include crayons, scissors, and one glue stick. For the pencils, though, I include a couple 'regular' pencils with erasers, as well as a 'golf' pencil, and one thicker primary pencil. I don't have assigned seats, so the 'tool kits' (as we call them) belong to everybody, and are everybody's responsibility. This works better some years than others. Love the idea of personalizing it, though, AND regularly checking and giving rewards. Might try that next year!

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    1. I do have community bins for the other supplies, like glue sticks and colored pencils, but this has been the best system I've ever used for regular pencil management!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  8. Erin,
    What happens when all 5 are broken or need sharpening before then end of the week?

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    1. Hi Sherri,

      The whole point of this system, for me, is that I am not playing the "Rescue Ranger" and my students need to show responsibility for their supplies. Almost never does anyone have a week where all 5 pencils are broken or so dull they can't work with them, and if that happens my students are quick to help each other out by lending to a friend or making a trade.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  9. What are your ideas for doing something like this ,but for middle school? I have 130 7th graders. Any ideas to modify your (awesome) idea?

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    1. Oooh, great question, Erin! What if you teamed up with the other teachers who see these kids and organize so that each of you is only responsible for managing one of the groups? That's a win-win for everyone! :)

      Let me know if you come up with something and I'll add it to the post for others!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Erin

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    2. I teach middle school ELA and what I do is I assigned each student a number, which I use all through out the class, and so at the end of the period I check the bags, and then teach the students at the beginning of the class to make sure everything is there. That way I'm not doing the work. They soon learn who else has their bags, so it's funny to watch them react to a friend or someone else losing 'their supplies'.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Hi Erin!

      Some ideas have been added by other readers! Check out the comments section! :)

      Erin

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  11. What do you do about that student who has no pencils in his or her pencil pouch. I'm thinking I would just give them one. What if the 5 pencils in the pouch at the end of the week are pencils I had given him or her rather than the 5 they started the week with? I hope this makes sense.

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    1. Hi there!

      I can tell you this almost never happens! I had one student who would occasionally hand the pencil case in at the end of the week with only one or two pencils. While my position is that any missing will be replaced at that time, we almost always found them hiding in his desk. Throughout the week, though, I don't provide pencils. The whole point of this system, for me, is that I am not playing the "Rescue Ranger" and my students need to show responsibility for their supplies. If someone is missing theirs, they borrow from a friend until their supply is replenished.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Erin

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  12. Did anyone come up with a middle school adapatation?

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    1. No one has shared anything with me. I would think that it could work the same way, unless you see different classes throughout the day. In that case, I was thinking it would work if you teamed up with the other teachers who see these kids and organize so that each of you is only responsible for managing one of the groups? That's a win-win for everyone! :)

      Let me know if you come up with something and I'll add it to the post for others!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Erin

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  13. Do you have a student check each bag at the end of the week?

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    1. Yep! That's explained in the post. I have lunch helpers who do all the sharpening at the end of the week. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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    2. Sorry, I meant do the students put the surprise in the bags or do you?

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  14. As far as the whole high school or middle school thing goes....could you simply number the pencil pouches instead of name them? Then you would still need only 30 pencil pouches and you're teaching your kids that their classroom is a communal space and therefore supplies need to be treated well. That would also mean that groups of kids would be assigned one pouch to take care of which may hold them more accountable with their peers. Just a thought?

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    1. That's a great idea, Abby! Thanks for sharing!

      Glad you stopped by!

      Erin

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  15. How do you keep them from taking pencils from someone else's case?

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    1. A classroom culture of kindness, respect and caring for each other! It has never happened!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  16. Love this idea! Though I don't think it would work well, as it is, in my middle school. All my students have different teachers for each subject and different schedules, so teaming up with even a few other teachers wouldn't work. I am still going to think about some type of adaptation. Pencils are in high demand in my intervention classes!

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    1. There are a few suggestions in the comments, Shirley!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  17. Door middle school, how about using numbers on a clear pencil pouch. Number your class list and the student gets the pack corresponding to their number. At the end of class you dismiss clad in number order and do a quick check that everything is there and issue a sticker. If all class pouches are correct for a set time, they ca n earn a classic prize for team work

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    1. I think that's a great idea, Karen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  18. I am a teacher in Spain. Our schools are ruled in a slightly different way. Each student has a pencil case and his/ her own pencil, eraser and sharpener which has a small compartment for the chips. We help them labelling their pencils (so when they fall to the floor or get confused they can find it back) and they sharpen them themselves anytime they need it without even standing up. I suppose you could do the same with the pencils in boxes too, as long as they are labelled

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    1. The labeling just takes so much time... this eliminates that for me!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  19. Nice idea for an elementary classroom. Wouldn't work in a high school class...

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    1. Yep! This is an elementary blog!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  20. Do you have them keep the pencil bags in their desk or a centralized location so they don't get lost? I have a feeling my kids would take the bag home and lose it.

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    1. Hi Autumn!

      My students just keep them inside their desks. They know that they're NOT to go home and it has never yet been a problem!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  21. Thank you! This is a great idea and I think it will help solve my pencil problem in 2nd grade.

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    1. Glad to help! Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  22. When my dad retired he became a substitute teacher. This was always a problem for him. His solution was to offer kids a pencil to borrow for the hour but they usually ran off with them. So he began a system if you borrow a pencil you leave your shoe with him and it is returned when the pencil was returned. It solved the pencil consumption problem for him. Not sure about sharpening? He would have liked your idea!

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    1. Yeah, I've heard the shoe suggestion quite a bit, but I'm not sure how that would go in a lot of classrooms these days... It is a safety issue and I can think of several families that would have a problem with their children being centered out that way!

      Thanks for stopping by, Colleen!

      Erin

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  23. I'm not a teacher but a mom. My daughter and my niece both do homework at my house after school and I really like this idea. Last year was our first year of school and a BIG learning experience for all of us. Everyday was a struggle to find pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, etc... I am thinking of trying this and teaching them to be more reponsible with the tools they need for homework. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. I am not a teacher but a frustrated mom. My daughter and niece do their homework at my house after school and I really like this idea. Last year was our first year of school and a BIG learning experience for all of us. Everyday we would have to search for the pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, etc... I am really thinking of trying this with them this year in hopes of saving time and my sanity. Thanks for sharing this idea.

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    1. I love that this is helpful for you at home, April! Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment! So glad you stopped by!

      Erin

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  25. What time of day would you have your kids sharpen? I am going into first grade and trying to figure out what instruction period I would have to cut into for any job. Thanks!

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    1. Hi there!

      I actually have older students come to my classroom during the lunch break to help out with home communication and other small jobs daily, and I have them do the sharpening during the recess break, so no instructional time is impacted at all!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  26. Do you let the students use their own pencil sharpeners to sharpen pencils throughout the week?

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    1. Hi Kimberley,

      If my students have personal sharpeners and use them correctly (no piles of shavings inside their desk or pencil case) then I have no problem with them being used throughout the week. That said, I don't encourage my students to bring them since they are usually more of a headache than a help!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  27. This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for sharing :) I am excited to try it with my first graders this year :)

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    1. I'm so glad this is useful to you, Angela! Thanks for stopping by!

      Erin

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  28. Love this idea wonder if you could use Pringles cans that you could cover in decorative paper

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    1. I think you could use any sort of container you wished! Glad you stopped by!

      Erin

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  29. I am a teacher and a mom. My daughter was in Kindergarten last year, and I provided her with a pencil pouch with 5 pencils that were neon color and labeled with her name. Every other day it was her job to sharpen the pencils at home. She used the same 5 pencils for about 2 months! The reason I did this is because of all the germs that get spread by students sharing pencils from the "sharp" and "dull" bins that the pencils were located. She only got sick once during the entire school year!

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  30. This is such a neat idea! I'm definitely giving it a try this year, but with our small pencil boxes. Thanks for sharing!

    www.thebutterflyteacher.com

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