Where Have All The Pencils Gone? 29 Tips for Classroom Pencil Management

Where Have All The Pencils Gone- PinterestLast week there was a great question posted on my Facebook page about how to manage pencils (sharpening, losing, etc) in the classroom. This is a common question and can be such a tough area to manage. Parents and friends have often said to me, “Our child has to take FORTY pencils to school?!?!?!?” Well, if they could only see Junior take half of his pencil off in one sharpening, it would be easier to understand. Our Facebook community weighed in with some great suggestions for pencil management…so great that I had to write this post so that they don’t get lost on my FB page. Here goes!

    • Diana said, “They are expected to sharpen enough pencils in the morning to get them through the day. The pencil sharpener is unplugged after the morning bell and stays that way. No exceptions. If they forget I say, “I’m sorry. How are you going to solve your problem?” They learn quickly. 


    • Cathy said, “Pencils are a PAIN! We didn’t give parents a choice and went to community supplies. We have TONS of pencils (each brought 25) and I have one of those sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies. My “pencil sharpener” helper sharpens in the morning and then again before school is out. Some days this works and others it isn’t enough.”


    • Dotti said, “Pencils and first graders are tricky too. I 100% dislike sharpening pencils during class. What I do now is the best so far. I got the original idea from Pinterest but have tweeked it a bit for me. We do have community pencils. Each student is to make sure they are ready to start the day with 2 sharp pencils. I keep a can of sharp pencils close to the front on the teacher station and also one for dull or broken. The trade off is that when their pencil is dull or breaks they have to bring that and make the trade. It works well most of the time and I can sharpen the ones from that can in just a couple of minutes at the end of the day. I agree with everyone that it is a universal issue. And let’s face it, not all pencils are created equal!”


    • Granny Bee said, “I teach 2nd & I bought pencils w/ their names on them. They get 10 for the YEAR. One new one each month. If they want more they bring them from home. It’s THEIR responsibility to be prepared with a pencil.”



    • Michelle said, “Take away all pencils. Give each child two (labeled with class number or name written with sharpie). One pencil breaks-cool. If the second pencil breaks in the same day-use a crayon, or borrow from a neighbor. Pencils are sharpened in the morning or at the end of the day. I notice that the less pencils they have, the longer they can keep up with them.”


    • Jan said, “I sharpen up to 5 pencils for each student every morning, and then the pencil sharpener is “closed” for the day. If they didn’t sharpen enough, they can borrow from the lost and found pencil can or ask a neighbor. They soon learn to have enough sharpened pencils and I don’t waste precious time during the day fielding the “can I sharpen my pencil” question.”


    • Amanda said, “My class does the community pencils. Thy can have no more than two in their desk at a time (helps with the horders) and when it breaks hey can switch it out for another quietly. They cannot sharpen during the school day. Only the “pencil sharpener” (assigned class job) may sharpen during the day. If there are no sharp pencils thy have to borrow until he pencil sharpener sharpens pencils. Works really well and I never have to sharpen pencils!”


    • Christa said, “Sharpen pencils before the tardy bell, after both recesses, and again after specialist. If they need a sharp pencil at other times, they can use the small pencil sharpeners in their desk or borrow from a neighbor. (5th grade).”


    • Cat said, “I have 2 pencil sharpeners from classroom friendly supplies to cover problem one. 2 of my kids are in charge of picking up pencils every afternoon. 2 children are in charge of sharpening pencils in the afternoon and 2 are in charge of sharpening more in the morning before school starts. Everyone turns in their pencils every day and they can get another one whenever they need one, but have to turn in a pencil to get another one. The kids are totally in charge of pencils and I pretty much am not involved other than getting a fresh box of pencils from the cabinet when needed.”


    • John Blake said, “We have pencil buckets at each group. There are 4 pencils for each student in the bucket. If a pencil is dull, it is placed point-down in the bucket. Every morning, my Pencil Patrol replaces all dull pencils and makes sure the correct number are in the bucket. As for sharpening, I have 3 parents who volunteered at Open House to sharpen pencils at home. I send about 50-75 pencils home once a week. This has worked great in my room for many years. I never sharpen pencils!”


    • Tiffany said, “Each student had two pencils with their number on it. They must make sure they have 2 sharpened each morning by turning them in to exchange for one of my loaner pencils. I sharpen all pencils turned in at end of day and return students numbered pencils. They are only allowed to trade dull or broken ones in by asking. Is has been best system I have used and no problems!”


    • Susan said, “I like Ticonderoga pencils but have found that some of them even have sharpening issues. They are pricey compared to others but worth it most of the time.”


    • Bobette said, “I give each table of 4 kids 8 pencils. At the end of the day 8 pencils have to be turned back in or their table is last to line up. You should see them scrambling to find pencils at the end of the day!”


    • Krista said, “Get golf pencils for students who aren’t prepared! They won’t like them, so they will start bringing their own! At least it worked for me!”


    • Felicia said, “Pens do work for 1st graders. We use them in my school. It’s just not what teachers are used to. What’s the difference if the write with a pen or a pencil? No sharpening, no erasing, and they are usually motivated to write more because it’s a novelty. Just use pencils during math. Have a cup for each table or group with the pencils, give out the cup at the beginning of the math lesson and collect them at the end.”


    • Linda said, “I have an incentive program in my classroom and the kids have to purchase a pencil and or school supplies. They learn quickly that they need to keep their stuff. They also have to purchase a pass to use the restroom. It’s funny to hear other kids say, stop going to the bathroom, you are spending to much. It is a token system. I use poker chips to reward the kids. All the chips have different value amounts. red=50, green-30, blue=20, black=10 and white=5.If I decide to do a surprise desk check or even name tag check the kids can earn 50. I give them out for good behavior, for answering questions correctly, desk checks, homework check and anything else I come up with to reward the kids. If the kids talk or do anything that warrants them to be taken I take them. I usually take them for what they are worth for that day. Then to use the restroom costs 200 and school supplies are 300. It has really helped my kids add and subtract.”


    • Stacy said, “Allow them to have the pencils that you put lead in or erasable pens. That takes the sharpening completely away.”


    • Kim said, “I teach first. These pencils from School Specialty are the perfect size for primary grades. They aren’t as big as the old kind but are bigger than a regular pencil. They seldom break! Mostly, they get too dull to write! I love them!” SEE THEM HERE.


    • Fiona said, “I have seriously never sharpened my class’ pencils, maybe the odd one but that’s it. The actual teaching a child how to use a hand sharpener is very good for their motor control. I have also used mechanical pencils for the last few years. Have found these especially help those children who press so hard, the lead breaks so they have to adjust their pressure. They are finer and the children’s handwriting appears to become a lot neater far more quickly. I have year 2’s, 7/8 yo. I use 0.7mm lead in the mechanical pencils.”


    • Otelia said, “if a child pencil breaks, they go to your container and get one, but they have to leave their broken one in the container next to it. That way, at the end of the day you sharpen the pencils in the container of broken pencils and pit them in with some more sharpen pencils and you will not be without pencils. It worked for me.”
    • Brandon said, “You can add “Sharpen Pencils or school supplies” to Class dojo (a classroom management website) and would only be a click away with keeping up with points!”


    • Heather said, “The primary fat pencils work great!! I used them with 4th graders and they were way too much trouble to break, plus since they didn’t break, there wasn’t a need for the noisy sharpener. Yes, they cost a little more, but well worth it!”


    • Lori said, “Pens! That is my answer…AND…my students love to use pen!!! If the pencils weren’t so “cheaply” made along with the sharpeners, I think we all would be talking about something else. However, when the time arises that they must use pencil, they MUST sharpen before morning announcements AND only if it breaks during the day. Other than that, PEN is the way to go!”


    • Jennifer said, “I give students three pencils at the beginning of the year with. 3 pencil cap erasers and random ones for holidays from dollar store. Then about 2 Fridays a month, we do pencil check when they have to show me three pencils and three cap erasers otherwise they use their class cash to pay for new ones. At the end if each day, they can put pencils. “Four, no more” on their name tags for me to sharpen after school. They can trade throughout the day but since we just use the boring yellow pencils, they don’t tend to hoard.”


    • Lynn said, “I have the students take their pencil pouches home every Friday and parents know to refresh any supplies needed and 7 sharpen pencils come back. It is amazing how they keep up with their own supplies. I have very few that I have to give supplies to.”


    • Melissa said, “When I taught 1st & 3rd, they had to sharpen 3 pencils first thing in the morning and that lasted all day. I kept their extra pencils in a bag with their name on it and would replace one at a time. When they were out, they got a note home to send in more. While teaching 4th and 5th, I have an electric pencil sharpener. As long as I’m not teaching, I’m fine with them sharpening pencils whenever they need them. It is their responsibility to keep up with their pencils and replace them when they need more. I don’t supply pencils.”


    • Alisha said, “I have seat pockets with a pouch, each month I write the students’ names on pencils with a sharpie and wrap a piece of tape around it, they get a new eraser at the end of the month if they still have a pencil longer than their finger. If they happen to lose it or it is too short to sharpen I have a reject pencil can they can choose from. I also have one person in charge of sharpening every morning.”


  • Maureen said, “I do 5 pencil Friday – that shows me you will be ready for the week to come. After you earn 4 stickers ( one every Friday) you get a mini ice cream sandwich. It’s a little costly but well worth it . Guideline – all tall #2 pencils sharpened.”

Wow, what awesome suggestions! Do you have a great solution to share? Please add it to the comment section below.



  • I do what is called the great pencil challenge. Basically, you number every child’s pencil with their class number. Then at the end of every day, week (whatever suits you) you check to see if they still have their pencil. The last person standing wins. It kept my fifth graders really on track with keeping their pencil.

    • I got this from a teacher, who found it on Pinterest. I give each student a pencil pouch just for pencils. They keep 8 pencils in it at all times. One of my Student jobs is to check each bag on Friday and sharpen the pencils that need it. If they have all 8 they get a treat. Sticker, piece of candy etc.

  • We play The Pencil Game. Every child had a pouch with 7 sharpened pencils at the start of the year. Each Thursday the kids leave their pencil pouches out so that their pencils can be sharpened for the week. If they have 7 pencils (they may not be mutilated), they get a prize. If not, pencils are added to equal 7-no prize. They scramble to make sure they have 7 pencils! No sharpeners heard during the day! Whew!

  • I teach 6th grade math and science. I have tried attaching flowers etc. The kids shred the flowers and take them off and take my pencils. If I don’t do something, I don’t remember to collect them and lose them. A few months ago, I named all of my pencils that I loan out after all of the pets I’ve had in my life so that I could remember to collect them all. For example, pencil # 1 is Petey, my first dog. I’ve had 11 pets so that’s how many loaner pencils I have. I have a simple paper tag with a photo of the pet, it’s name, and the number of the pet in order that I had it, that way, I can remember if I’m missing #4 I know I’m missing Jack and can yell out, “who has Jack?” I have a laminated paper with the pets faces, names and numbers that they sign out the pencils on. The kids really take it seriously… if a pet falls on the floor, they will yell something like, “PETEY IS ON THE FLOOR!” I always get every pencil back and they all look out for each other to return my “pets” to me. The students also really like borrowing their favorite pet so they remember to return it so they can use it the next day.

  • I have a sign by my sharpener that reads, “Need a pencil? Leave a shoe!”. We have a container of sharpened pencils and if they need to borrow one, they leave their shoe. When I get my pencil back, they get their shoe back. This is strictly voluntary but I’ve never had a fifth grader not like it. It is a lot of fun and I keep my pencils.

    • I did that my first year teaching and the VP had an issue with the student not wearing his shoe in 7th grade as it was a hazard if we had a fire drill, We actually sold pencils for a quarter with proceeds going to our school’s foster child in Kenya. I also had a basket of pencils that were found on the floor for students who did not have 25c

  • I teach middle school and I make them pay for pencils. Just $.25 but they learn quick that when they come to my class to either have their own, have that change, or borrow from a friend. They are old enough to remember to bring all the supplies they need for school. When it comes to sharpen its as long as no one is talking and they ask permission first they can sharpen it.

    • I do that, too. I charge a quarter for lead pencils. Just enough to break even and purchase more.

  • Each table has a small sharpener and a cup where they keep shavings. Simple! I also connect pencils to lanyards with binder clips and the kids wear them around there necks at all times. Haven’t lost a pencil or sharpened a pencil since!

  • Believe it or not, high school students have a problem keeping up with writing utensils, too. In my high school English classes, I keep a can on my desk of pencils and pens. If a student needs to borrow one, they have to give me a personal item that I hold ransom until they return my supplies. I always get my things back, and students usually start bringing their own after a couple times of doing it my way.

  • So many good ideas! I, too, like Ticonderoga pencils. A box of 96 costs $10.49 online. About a dime apiece. Their erasers also do a great job. As someone said, They are pricey compared to others but worth it most of the time.” Also, mechanical pencils with colored barrels. And, the idea of a classroom where kids work in groups having a hand held pencil sharpener in each of their groups? Brilliant!

  • I buy a box of the little golf pencils and have them available just in case. Kids know they always have a pencil, but if they prefer larger-sized pencils they are more ready to bring their own supplies.

  • As a parent, I found what works for my four boys, even my youngest who loses everything, is for them to bring their pencil box home. I am able to sharpen their pencil, check their supplies for broken crayons, dried out dry erase markers, and used up erasers.

  • I currently do take a pencil, leave a pencil and just replenish the supply as needed because sharpening was so frustrating . I am considering going to pens and am wondering if I would need to use erasable pens???? What type of pens do you have in your classroom (for those of you who use them). I teach fourth grade.

    • I tried pens this week. No sharpening yea! but my 6th graders need to take them apart and chew on ends! I am at my whits end also.

  • I teach 6th grade math and the pencil issue drives me crazy…not having them, needing to sharpen them, etc. At the moment (because I just got tired of it all, but my school supplies pencils to teachers when needed), I have a “sharpened” and “dull” bucket, I only refill the sharpened one at the 1st of the month. After that it is up to them.

    I did see an idea on FB, that I have thought about using. Have a stash of nifty pencils (that kids ooh and ahh over). When someone doesn’t have one, ask the class who needs an “upgrade”? Pick a volunteer, take their pencil and give it to the student who doesn’t have one, and give one of your nifty pencils to the student that gave theirs up.

    I, too, prefer Ticonderoga pencils…but I save those for end of year testing.

    I like the idea of charging $0.25…just not sure if it would fly at my school.

  • I teach 4 different classes of 5th grade math throughout the day. I am wanting to do something different with the pencil issue. I am going to try something with my homeroom students and I am pretty sure it will work. My question is, how do I get the other 3 classes to be prepared when they arrive in my class throughout the day? We spend several minutes at the beginning of the period sharpening pencils. The other teachers don’t seem to mind losing out on class time to do this. It just drives me crazy! Any suggestions are appreciated!!

  • I teach the “Cause I Ain’t Got a Pencil” kids. We just give them a pencil. It’s infuriating when they’re never sharpened or disappear or get left all over the place. But I moved past putting all my energy into it.

  • I taught prescchool and never had to worry bout it the center supplied everything.. and the older kids in the after school class sharpened all the pencils and colored pencils for us at teh assking.. I am now finishing up classes to teach elementary grades and I am browsing to get ideas.. I do however personally use the “fat” pencils and may chooser to use them in the classroom as well but around here all the grade supply lists are the same and they all use the Taraconda ( how ever it is spelled) pencils.. but we will see when I start in my own room

  • In California, we are not allowed to charge students money for ANYTHING, not even a quarter for a pencil. A teacher had students leave a dime for a pencil (which she had bought with her own money) and was told by admin that she couldn’t dot that. We have no field trips because we cannot charge for a bus ride. Yeah, it sucks.


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