Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: Never Sharpen Another Pencil

Never Sharpen Another Pencil

I wrote this post for the iTeach Third blog! Make sure you are following!

Let's be honest, pencils are a constant battle in the classroom! I decided early on that students would not be permitted to sharpen pencils in my classroom. I did this for several reasons: I find the sound to be a HUGE distraction to myself and my students. Certain students seem to NEED to sharpen their pencil all the time and I don't have time to police it. And, pencil sharpeners can be expensive and I have had at least one break every year. I also decided that I didn't want to allow the small hand-held sharpeners in my students' desks. Let's be real- they ALWAYS make a mess, no matter how much we talk about sharpening over the trash can!

Instead of students sharpening pencils, I decided that I would sharpen the pencils. So I set out two cans: sharp and not sharp. I filled the can with new pencils and felt like I had solved the pencil problem. Then, halfway through the day, I hear "Mrs. Sears, the sharp pencils are gone." How can that be?!!! I sharpened like 100 of those bad boys last night! But sure enough, the "not sharp" can is overflowing with both sharp and not sharp pencils. Sigh.

My next plan was to have volunteers sharpen the pencils in the workroom. So I set out a huge bag of pencils with a note that said "Please sharpen :-)" The note and the pencils sat there for weeks. I kid you not. WEEKS. Apparently, volunteers don't like sharpening germ infested pencils either. Darn.

I got SOOO fed up...and that is when an idea came to me. An idea that solved all my pencil woes. And it is so simple that I nearly slapped myself for not thinking of it sooner. I gave all of my kids a MECHANICAL pencil!

I LOVE looking at this picture! Instead of looking at a can of pencils screaming "Stay late and sharpen me!" I am looking at pencils that say, "We are ready for tomorrow."

Now I can already hear some of you, "But some kids just can't use mechanical pencils." And you are correct. Some kids cannot. This is my second year using mechanical pencils and I have one kids who cannot use a mechanical pencil. So I have to keep yellow pencils for him. I coerce beg a parent to sharpen a dozen pencils every month or so. Much better than hundreds of pencils a day, don't ya think? The key is to give proper training and procedures.

Some of my Rules:
-Students must put their mechanical pencil back in the pencil block at the end of each day. This allows me to quickly do an inventory or add lead when necessary.

-Students are issued a pencil at the beginning of the year and again after winter break. If you break or lose your pencil in between, you have to use yellow pencils or buy a new one from the class store for a hefty price. (It helps that I put their student number on the pencils with sharpie.)

-You can only use the mechanical pencils that I provide for you. The reason I do this is because I get a separate brand of pencils for myself and the small group table. I can easily tell if a kiddo has walked off with one of MY pencils. It also forces them to be more careful.

-I will only replace lead once per month. If you run out before that time, you will have to buy lead from me for a hefty fine. (I give them enough lead to last a month as long as they are not playing with the lead. This year, I asked parents for lead donations.)

I am loving the pencil block that my husband made for me! It is just a block of wood with holes drilled into the top. I numbered the holes so that it is easy for me to see what pencils are missing. I added some letter stickers to the front and now it is cute and functional.

I have used my mechanical pencils for a little over a year now. I have only had one student who couldn't use the mechanical pencil (they pushed way too hard) and two students who lost their pencil. I spend about $5-$8 per year on pencils and zero time sharpening! Never going back!


  1. What a great idea!! Thanks, Jamie!

  2. Marvelous idea! We have a grade-level-wide supply list that requests lots of wooden pencils, but I wonder if the parents would mind if I sent those home & went this route instead... definitely something to ponder!

  3. Do you think this could be adapted for first graders? Or am I bound to sharpen pencils forever?

  4. I like the concept and wonder if it would work with 2nd graders? Also, how do you figure how much lead would work for about a month and do you use 7mm? I hate pencil sharpening - and I have several kiddos that also tear the erasers off the minute they get a new pencil... :/ I give them one large white polymer eraser in the beginning of the year - with clear instructions that I don't replace them all year long. If they poke holes, break, crumble, or whatever... It's their loss, and they're crossing out mistakes or borrowing erasers from neighbors. They never believe me until about November when it starts to become clear who has listened and who hasn't! Thanks for the idea!

  5. When I was in school I used manual pencil sharpener because that time there were no concept of electric pencil sharpener, but by the passage of time everything becomes electronic which ease our life. good electric pencil sharpener

  6. This is a great idea! How do you fine students? Do you have an in-class economy or does your school use tickets? I love the design of your blog, too.

  7. My students only can sharpen during morning work/arrival. After that, they can borrow someone else's pencil or use a personal mannual sharpener but if they are playing with the sharpener or make a mess, I take it. I have had no issues. I have fourth graders.

  8. I also came to this conclusion about pencils. I like the block idea... What I've been doing is issuing 2 pencils perquarter but student are responsible for lead. I think I may use the block for inventory at the very least... I charge for new ones too! Thanks for the idea. I love it!!!


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