The pencil quandry

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by missalli, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. missalli

    missalli Companion

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    Aug 2, 2010

    This wasn't an issue back when I taught kindergarten, but it's bugged me for the last two years. So, this year I want to deal with it head on.

    I dislike pencil sharpening. Generally I give kids time during their seatwork to sharpen at least two pencils, and if they need more than that over the course of the class they have to get a sort of skanky one from the share tub. They whine about this because generally these pencils lost their erasers long ago.

    I saw on some of the teacher forums - maybe this one - the suggestion of giving all of the kids mechanical pencils so that there's no sharpening at all.

    The problem is, as much as I dislike sharpening, I loathe mechanical pencils. They're just so distracting. I remember being a 6th grader and spending more time to deal with jammed lead or no lead or playing with the stupid spring mechanism than to my teacher. And in the last two years I had to deal with so many kids dissecting their mech. pencils during the lesson, or claiming another student stole theirs, or asking me for lead, or claiming another student stole their lead, or dropping lead on the floor and having to dive down after it... :dizzy: I got to the point last year where I told students they bought mechanical pencils into class at their own risk and I didn't. want. to. hear. about. it.

    So what do I do? Give out mechanical pencils and embrace the insanity? Make an outright ban complete with smackdown? I've even toyed with the idea of giving some kind of reward ('gift') to kids at the end of the year who respected my mechanical pencil-free zone.
     
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  3. cutelilram

    cutelilram Rookie

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    Aug 2, 2010

    I thought about trying mechanical pencils until a coworker said that it was a bad idea because the kids could press down too hard and the lead could shoot up and hit them in the eye.

    So I started to set up mini sharpeners at each table for them to use so that they wouldn't get up from their seats. That worked for all of about a month and then my sharpeners started to disappear.

    Another thing about last year. My classroom was a total dictatorship for the first half of the year. I teach in a rough neighborhood and I too experienced a lot of that nonsense over stolen pencils and smuggling those game like pencils and pens into the classroom. I gave a warning to not bring them anymore and if they did, I would keep them until either their parents came in or June 28th. Some didn't believe me but they soon realized that I didn't play games with them. It was rough but you have to put your foot down.

    This year I am going to try something else. I saw Westcott, I think that is the name of the company, pencil sharpeners that have this little metal loop thing at one end. Anyway, I was thinking of having a sharpening station and tie the sharpeners with a string so that they don't walk away. The students have to hold up three fingers to notify me that they need to sharpen their pencil and wait for permission to get up.

    Edit: I saw those sharpeners at Rite Aid. They work well. If I were you, I would do the ban/smackdown on mechanical pencils.
     
  4. Starista

    Starista Cohort

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    Aug 3, 2010

    Ah.. the Great Pencil Debate.

    I, too, loathe pencils. When I taught 1st grade I loved that they used the "thick" pencils at my school. They wouldn't dull as quickly and the tips were thick so even your most determined kid can't really break the tip off.

    I have spent the past years in 2nd grade... all "thin" pencils...

    Scenario #1:
    Me: Okay, blue group, please bring me your pencils and I'll sharpen them... Next, yellow group please...

    Me: (frantically scrubbing my hands together with Purell as I am almost positive that a child from green group had his pencil down his pants earlier that day.)

    Me: Okay, boys and girls, it's time for our "mad minute math."

    Me: (passes out 32 worksheets and sets timer)

    INEVITABLY...

    Kid: (raises hand)

    Me: (in dismay, because I KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING)

    Kid: Mrs. W, my pencil trip broke.

    Me: (uselessly comments) We just sharpened pencils.

    Kid: But mine is broken!!!!!!

    Me: Please use one of your 2 spare pencils.

    Kid: I lost them or I lent one to Sara and the other to Steve or Tim stole them out of my supply pouch or what spare pencils?

    Me: (feeling blood pressure rise): Please take one from the writing center.

    3 minute math fact test continues, with Mrs. W rotating the room hoping that the students watch their + and - signs and secretly prays to the Great Pencil Gods that no other pencils break.

    Scene!

    Pencils are more annoying that your most "annoying" student, parent, and principal put together in one locked room with you for 8 hours.

    If you choose to let your class sharpen on your own...

    1. They may spend too long at the sharpener and break their pencil or your sharpener. Some of those sharpeners are expensive!

    2. They use pencil time as an opportunity to socialize.

    I have tried this route with lots of rules and modeling. It works and it doesn't. On the one hand, you are not spending time sharpening 2 pencils per kid, which can result in 60 pencils. But on the other hand the children aren't doing it themselves!

    As for the teacher only sharpening... That works, but it's tedious and when the sharpener sounds, the students sometimes will think they need to talk louder than the sharpener. It's a contest, really. ;)

    MY BEST RESULT EVER:
    Putting a kid in charge of the pencil sharpener. When you do this, strategically start and pick the kid that you KNOW has a small "bossy" streak in him or her. That kid who constantly chimes in with "Mrs. W. YOU SAID we were gonna do math flash cards? When?" and "Mrs. W it;s 10:16 and YOU SAID recess was at 10:15." and "Mrs. W you forgot to put stickers on the behavior chart."

    Channel that kid's energy and ridiculous memory! Put him or her as your first pencil monitor. My 2nd graders loved this job and it was the most coveted by the end of the year.

    When you introduce "Bob" as pencil monitor make it a BIG deal. In my class, the pencil monitor changed weekly and she/he got access to my special, elite pencil collection. (Sparkle pencils from Dollar Tree.)

    This worked for me. It was not a cure all from pencil woes and often arguments would break out but it was my best pencil scenario the whole year.

    :):)
     
  5. Lynnnn725

    Lynnnn725 Connoisseur

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    Aug 3, 2010

    Have a supply of eraser tops and a supply of sharpened pencils. Have a reliable kid, or yourself, sharpen the dull pencils at the end/beginning of each day. When a child's pencil needs to be sharpened, it goes in the dull basket. Then they grab one from the sharpened tub. They keep their eraser and put it on the new pencil.
    I personally don't let kids use my sharpener. It is bought by me and I want it to last. ;)
     
  6. SPECIALEDMAN

    SPECIALEDMAN Companion

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    Aug 3, 2010

    MY BEST RESULT EVER:
    Putting a kid in charge of the pencil sharpener. When you do this, strategically start and pick the kid that you KNOW has a small "bossy" streak in him or her. That kid who constantly chimes in with "Mrs. W. YOU SAID we were gonna do math flash cards? When?" and "Mrs. W it;s 10:16 and YOU SAID recess was at 10:15." and "Mrs. W you forgot to put stickers on the behavior chart."

    This idea actually works great! Let the bossy kid be in charge of sharpening pencils. Now the whole "joy" of getting up and sharpening is lost because someone else will be doing it. Plus, a lot of the kids don't want the "bossy" kid touching their pencil because that will be one more thing that he/she controls in their life lol.
     
  7. jsgirl

    jsgirl Rookie

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    Aug 3, 2010

    I also have a "sharp" container and a "dull" container. The kids are never allowed to sharpen - they just trade their dull pencil in and I do the sharpening at the end of the day. This is not the most sanitary or fair situation - the mysterious eraser eater always has every eraser removed by day 2 of brand new pencils. However, this is the only way I have found in which everyone has a sharp pencil and I can keep my sanity. I am hoping someone has a better idea!
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 3, 2010

    There was a HUGE pencil sharpening discussion about a week ago. I think teachers make a much bigger deal about this issue than need be. Decide on a pencil sharpening procedure that works for you and teach the procedure to the kids. If you allow mechanical pencils, have 'rules' for that as well. Don't let pencil issues distract from your good teaching and kids learning.
     
  9. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    Aug 3, 2010

    I let my students use the smallest pencils without erasers. They try to complain about them, so I tell them if they don't like my pencils, then bring your own. No one uses my pencil sharpener but me.
     
  10. pxydst07

    pxydst07 Comrade

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    Aug 3, 2010

    Hahahahaha! I sure learned my lesson one day last year when I had the great idea of sharpening 25 pencils myself....on an old crank sharpener. You know the ones....bolted to the table top. Well, let me tell you. Immediately, upon completion of this daunting task, the entire pad of my thumb blistered! This was the crank-turning thumb and I've never seen such a huge blister! It was painful and it was my fault. So, I proceeded to take comfort in the one thing that children love when injured....a band-aid! I vowed never to sharpen pencils again!!!!
    I do think the "pencil" person is a good idea! I'll let them use the electric sharpener!
     
  11. missalli

    missalli Companion

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    Aug 4, 2010

    I love all of the stories and ideas in this thread! I really like the idea of having a student with the job of sharpening pencils (probably my designated TA) because they're all so power hungry :lol: They would hate the idea of someone else touching their pencil. Hmm... a pencil gatekeeper... I like...
     
  12. teacherSMK

    teacherSMK Habitué

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    Aug 4, 2010

    :lol::lol:I have never laughed so hard reading a thread!!!Too funny. I have the sharp/dull baskets. It works well for us. My daughters help me sharpen the dullies after school.
     
  13. queenie

    queenie Groupie

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    Aug 4, 2010

    I second everything you said! Works for me. ALL pencils are shared. Period. Trade one in whenever you need it. :thumb:
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 4, 2010

    Can't they just use pen?
     
  15. AKitchin

    AKitchin Companion

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    Aug 4, 2010

    I got so mad at kids that used pen last year... now sometimes I dont have a problem, but most of them were doing it in MATH... it was driving me nuts!! I told them I would not grade a paper in pen!

    However, sometimes I let them use pen!
     
  16. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Aug 4, 2010

    A fellow teacher of mine didn't want to deal with students and their pencil issues. She bought some of those huge pencils that you can buy at party stores or some kids stores (they're about a foot long or so). When a student came without a pencil or their pencil broke, she gave them one of her BIG pencils.

    It worked well because:
    1. A student could not easily walk out the door with one of those things without somebody noticing, so she never lost any of those pencils.

    2. The pencils are heavy and so a child's hand would get tired after awhile--- they still had to do the work though, so they learned pretty quickly to bring their own pencil and not break their tip.

    ~~~~~~
    Something else I learned some where (maybe this site) was to wrap a fake flower around the pencil and put the pencils in a flower pot. That way if your student needs a pencil, they can easily pick one up without asking. (I get really frustrated with the pencil issues too but at this point its something I don't want to waste time on.)
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 4, 2010

    As a math teacher, I have absolutely no issue with kids using pen. If you make a mistake, it can be crossed out neatly. In fact, sometimes it helps to see the incorrect thought processes that led them to the right answer.
     
  18. Toast

    Toast Companion

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    Aug 4, 2010

    In my 3rd grade I have sharp and dull buckets. We share pencils, each kid keeps their own pencil top eraser to move from pencil to pencil.

    I elect a "responsible" kid to come in during morning recess/before school to sharpen the pencils for the day. Before the kids come in I unplug the sharpener and put it away until the next day.
    That way using the sharpener isn't even an option.
     
  19. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    Aug 4, 2010

    When I taught highschool math I actually asked them to use pen and to just put one line through something that they would typically have erased.

    What they write down is part of the mathematical process of figuring things out and it doesnt' need to be erased (just need to inidcate in some way its not part of the final solution). It also allowed me to look at the process the student was doing and made it much easier to spot how I could help them.
     

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