The Problem: Pencil sharpening throughout the school day can lead to major distractions and off-task time. Classroom management skills can be put to the test when student after student suddenly needs to sharpen their pencils. How can you keep pencil sharpening to a minimum while still providing students with effective writing tools? How do you plan ahead for all of the pencils that students will need throughout the day? It is time for a Really Good Solution!
Solution: For non-teachers, this issue sounds almost silly, but every teacher knows that pencil sharpening during lessons can cause quite a distraction. Instead of having students disturb the class, try one of the simple and effective solutions below.
- Pencil Helper – On your classroom’s job list, include a designated Pencil Helper. This person is then responsible for sharpening the pencils in the morning or in the afternoon at the designated clean-up time. Only this helper is allowed to touch the pencil sharpener during the week and only at the times allotted. Students can get a sharpened pencil from the “Sharpened Pencil” cup when they return their used pencils to the “Needs to Be Sharpened” holder. If you have a daily parent helper, this may be a job that you assign to them when students are at a special or at lunch.
- Mechanical Pencils – For some classrooms, mechanical pencils make more sense than pencils that need to be sharpened manually. Students can simply click their pencils for more lead when they need it. For younger elementary grades, the delicate points on the mechanical pencils may make this an unappealing alternative, but for middle school and high school students it is a viable option.
- One-Two-Three – During the morning routine, pencil sharpening can be a task that students need to complete before the first bell. Make students responsible for sharpening three pencils to get through their morning work. Use pencil clips on the side of their desks to hold their back-up pencils. You may want to invest in a second pencil sharpener so that the sharpening process goes more quickly each morning.
- Trade With Me – Instituting a policy of being able to trade with another student is also an option. If a student’s pencil point breaks, he has the option to trade it with another student for a sharpened one. If trading with other students does not work well for your class, consider letting students trade with you. Keep a cup of pencils at the front of the classroom or on a side table where students can go to exchange their broken pencils. If students walking around during a lesson to get pencils becomes a problem, tie a small apron around your waist where you can store a few extra pencils to hand out to students who need them.
- Table Top Pencils – If you students sit at tables or their desks are pushed together in groups, keep a caddy in the center with pencils, scissors, glue sticks, etc. Assign one child from each group to sharpen all of the pencils in the caddy each day. Remember to leave an empty spot in the caddy so that students can put their used pencils in it. Labeling the compartments will also help them keep track of which pencils are where.
How do you solve the problem of pencil sharpening in your classroom? Share your advice with us below!
Solution Sunday Giveaway!
Leave a comment describing how you manage pencil sharpening below before 11:59pm EST on Sunday, January 13, 2013 and be automatically entered to win a Set of 6 Four Compartment Caddies in Primary Colors (pictured above). One random winner will be selected from all valid entries and announced on or before January 16, 2013. The contest is open to all US and Canadian residents who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Only one entry per person please. The winner will be contacted by email, so be sure to leave a valid email address with your pencil sharpening management tip. Good luck!
UPDATE: Congratulations to Cynthia, the random winner of the giveaway! Join us next Sunday for another chance to win!