No Pencil

What if a student doesn’t have a pencil?

24 Responses to No Pencil

  1. zshiner says:

    Kate Nowak talked about starting a classroom store where she would sell batteries, pocket folders, and Nspire faceplates. I am curious how well this worked out, and whether or not I could do a similar thing, selling pencils (and paper) to my students for a quarter. My only qualm with this is that I am afraid of anything having to do with money changing hands inside the classroom (even if I am not making a profit).

    The idea I am toying with currently is that I can rely on the overall balance of students’ forgetfulness.  In the past year of teaching it seemed that at the end of every class 1 to 2 students would leave a pen or pencil in the room and never come back to pick it up.  At the end of the day I would often take the leftover writing utensils and keep them at my desk.  When a student would come to class without a pencil I could offer one which another student previously forgot.  I’d ask them to return the pencil at the end of the period, but since they came so easily, I was not too torn up when the student would end up keeping it.

  2. mshelft says:

    I wonder if there can just actually be a place for that in the room…part of the student materials center or something. I have found it unnecessarily taxing to be on students for not having pencils and needing to find them one. It might also encourage some sort of independence (even in a seemingly non-meaningful way).

  3. ratzelster says:

    I have done it so many different ways…none of which I love. But if there are just a couple of offenders, you can have pencils with things duct taped onto the top of them. Could be a flower or a sign that it belongs in Room ____ or really anything that gives them a visual clue to return it? If it’s someone who can’t afford them, I just keep a stash for them which we privately talk about and they just use without having to ask me everytime.

    Like you I scour the floor for lost pencils. Then I keep them at my desk.

    If I have many offenders, I use the pencil out/shoe in method. They just take off one shoe and leave it at my desk. When they return the pencil, I give them their shoe back. It works really well but doesn’t solve the problem for the next hour.

    I do have emails home that I send if it becomes a crutch or strategy instead of a intervention. I have also been known (if I have a good relationship with the parents) to suggest that they get pencils in the Christmas stocking as a stuffer since they are so short on supplies. That usually gets the kids to remember because the last thing they want as a stocking stuffer are pencils.

    I don’t think you can ever solve it. You just have to find a way that helps you not be crazy with no pencils and/or managing it.

  4. MBP says:

    This year I just sucked it up and had a box of pens/pencils on my desk for students who forgot. This year, I’m hoping to have student binders that stay in the classroom. I’d like to require them to keep a pen/pencil inside the binder.

  5. zshiner says:

    Last year we would trade valuables for TI calculators when students needed them, but since pencils are such a low-value commodity, it seems kind of like overkill to require students to ‘check’ them out. I do like the idea of marking them so that students know they belong to your room.

    I wonder if I could build off Ms. Helft’s idea and publicly keep a box in the room from which students to put in/take out pencils. I would add pencils that I find at the end of the day (and try marking them somehow), but in the end it would be the roll of the the students to ensure that there is always a pencil available. I think that if my classroom is community based enough, and if students are sufficiently willing to look out for each other, it could work off of the honor system. I suppose now I am getting from pencils to classroom values and characteristics.

    My only fear is that if I do implement something like this, it would merely become an empty box in the room and lose all semblance of a helpful system. Nonetheless, I believe it may be worth a shot.

  6. Peter Petto says:

    I am an unreliable source for pencils, because I’ve found that when I’m reliable my students learn that it’s not important to remember everything they need.

    My grading includes a scoring penalty for most work done in non-erasable pen of 10%.

    The loaner pencils I (sometimes) have are all found or abandoned. Last year there was a chart of the count of pencils in the loaner tray first period every day. (I suppose I should compute statistics and construct a box plot and histogram of that data.)

  7. Theresa says:

    I have tried everything. Then in defeat just gave out pencils. BUT then more and more students showed up without supplies thinking I was the school supply handout lady! I don’t want to waste instructional time with money and loans. That said….I think I will try the suggestion of taping something to the pencil so that everyone can see who needs to give me back a loaner. Worth a try!

  8. I scour the floors and halls, but ultimately it comes down to a Staples purchase of two gross at 2.79 apiece at a summer special. That five dollars saved endless grief.

    They have to ask and I’ll give one with no comment for the first couple times but I will soon get to the point of asking THAT KID to make sure and get one before the bell rings. “You know that you’ll use a pencil in this class every day. Make it a habit.” “Yeah, but I don’t write anything in my previous period so I always forget.” (Truth)

  9. Sarah says:

    I want to implement some sort of class jobs system. I know who the students are the continue to borrow pencils and I have desks that need to be cleaned and papers to be organized. Not sure how to make it work, but I want to problem solve it.

  10. I think I’m pretty happy with this arrangement:

    1) 25-Cents Only store has pencils, erasers, rulers, pens, highlighters. I buy these throughout the year for less than 25 cents each. The store is in a corner of the room with a plastic peanut jar with a slot cut in the lid. Accessible all day other than class hours. Semi honor system.

    2) Supplies table outside the classroom with junky pencils, pencil sharpener, stapler (attached by zip ties to table), straightedges (card stock, recycled from post cards, brochures, etc.). Anyone can use these during passing periods, lunch, etc.

    3) Points off for work written in pen.

    4) No discussion of missing pencils during class other than, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

  11. Molly says:

    I bought a box of compass pencils and just keep them on my desk in a jar for kids to use and put back when they’re done. Compass pencils are cheap, already sharpened and short, so a box of 100 for a few dollars covers the whole year.

  12. Out here in Palm Springs we call those golf pencils.

    Come to think of it, I should look for a local source to donate several gross of those.

  13. Josh Winicki says:

    I think this issue goes under the 10/90 rule. There are 10% of the kids you spend 90% of your time on, and it gets infuriating. I agree it is an important issue, but if you look out in the classroom, there are three students that this is an issue for, and they are the ones that will think of something that is the loophole in the system. without a system they are the ones going from desk to desk asking for a pencil or pen to borrow, disturbing most everyone in the class. I usually have the “use pencil/leave shoe” rule. Once I notice someone that never has supplies, I have them call a parent to remind them to get pencils for them. This is a bit of a disruption, and a little funny, but it does two things. It gives this student a lot of attention in front of the class, which many of them want. And it also sends the signal to the parent a little glimpse of what their kid is doing in class.

  14. Karl Mason says:

    Pick yourself a monitor for the class – generally the kid you get on with the least – put them in charge of equipment, give them a notebook – ask them to record what is lent out and to whom and explain to them that their job is to ensure all of the equipment is back in the right place at the end of the lesson. You would be surprised how well this works. If the guy does their job badly, they can be fired and somebody else employed with the task.

    Another way, if you want to be more central is to have a ‘deposit’ of maybe a science book or an english book that the kids trade in for a pencil, but USE THE STUDENTS it’s way better and it helps to create great rapport between you and the ‘naughty’ kid.

  15. sallythorne says:

    I don’t ever lend pencils/pens. I make that clear from the start of the year. I say, “I prepare lessons, look after your books, keep my classroom as a good learning environment – all you need to do is bring a pen, and I’m not doing that as well.”
    If a student is unprepared, they have to borrow a writing implement from another member of the class – and they have to sort that out themselves, without causing a kerfuffle. They get the hang of it quite quickly.

  16. Debbie says:

    Over the years I’ve tried every idea mentioned (apart from the shoes – eeew!). Now I have some available to sell otherwise my answer is, “Really? Well I turned up with all of my stationery” and get them to ask a friend.

    To be honest, the only solution I’ve found that really helps is a whole-school approach – a system for teachers to record the students’ names and someone senior collecting them up for detention.

  17. Karl Mason says:

    The problem with refusing to lend pens or pencils is that it becomes a point of conflict. You will find that most pupils do ask friends first anyways. Another thing you can do is rewards, reward all the pupils that bring everything they need for class, it may take a while but builds good rapport and you reinforce good behaviour which is really important for a good learning environment.

  18. Isabel Wiggins says:

    I like the reward idea…but what is the reward?

    Having gone through 50 dozen pencils this year, I switched to a “give me something of yours to keep until you return the pencil” approach (avoiding shoes). That worked very well and I will continue that this year. Unfortunately our pencil sharpeners don’t like cheap pencils, so it is worth investing in better ones.

    Pencils is really a hot topic for teachers!

  19. Joanna Brownson says:

    In the context that I teach in, being prepared with a pencil for class was a “personal responsibility” battle I didn’t want to fight considering it happened incredibly often and led to a lot of disruption. So here is what I came up with and it has worked extremely well for me. Buy some velcro. Buy a box of pencils. Find some wall space. Cut out velcro squares and stick the rough side to the wall and wrap the soft side around the end of 12-15 pencils. Students simply take a pencil off of its Velcro patch (space out squares so you can easily see if one is missing) on the wall at the beginning of class, and replace it before the end of the period. This last part is key – don’t dismiss students until all pencils are back on the wall! I would recommend going the extra mile and assigning a student to be in charge of making sure all the pencils are put back. This not only provides an end-of-class clean up ritual, but also prevents you from buying thousands of pencils over the course of the year. If they do end up sticking one in their pocket and running away with it, the velcro is a good visual cue that they should return it to your classroom. I replace the whole batch about three times a year.

    Materials needed:

    Pencils
    Velcro tape (available at Staples for $3.50 for 5 ft strip or some hardwares stores sell 20ft for pretty cheap)
    Scissors

  20. Louise Hinz says:

    Our sixth grade made the store a part of our math and language arts lessons. The store was open to all elementary students for 10 minutes in the morning before school started. In math class, sixth grade students acted as a board of directors deciding profit margin, when to put items on sale, how to run special offers for teachers, etc. At the end of the year, the profits (about $1200 annually) were split — 25% as start-up funds for next year’s class, 25% to benefit the current class, and 50% to a charity. Each student researched a charity and wrote a persuasive essay explaining why that charity deserved 50% of the profits. The essays were amazing. Students from each of three 6th grade classrooms voted to choose the top essay from the classroom. The 6th grade teaching team selected the prize winning charity from the top three. All-in-all, the school store was a great teaching tool.

  21. Craig N says:

    I welcome the kids at the door, but to get past me into the classroom, they have to show me “something to write with and something to write on.” There’s a scramble at the back of the line as people lend each other chunks of pads, pens, pencils and as the line is formed in natural friendship groupings it’s not a bullying issue. It allows me to enter the class and find a mob of folk who are good to go.

  22. kateygirard says:

    This would not work in a math classroom (or any other room that required work to be in pencil!), but I bought some of those ridiculously large ball point pins (I’m talking 3 inch diameter, 10 inches long, neon plastic BEASTS). This worked because they were easy for me to see if a student tried to sneak one out of my room AND they’re hard to write with. The problem that I then ran into was that they were so cool that my kids, even if they had a pen or pencil, wanted to use them. There were also some students who were interested in dissecting them. For the most part, though, this was highly effective for me.

  23. For any new teachers who stumble upon this project as they begin creating their classroom, I encourage you to consider the method put in place by outstanding math blogger sqrt(-1): http://squarerootofnegativeoneteachmath.blogspot.com/2011/10/8-weeks-8-pencils.html

  24. hillby says:

    I just always have pencils. They’re dirt cheap. I think I spent a total of $20 on pencils and another $15 on a proper hand cranked sharpener.

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