Rewind about 4 weeks ago, I am in my classroom and about to pull my hair out as open yet another box of pencils to sharpen. Didn’t I just do this? Yes, yes I did. I don’t know where the pencils go. My students don’t know where the pencils go. Who knows where the pencils go???? I decided to try something new – my little attempt at teaching my students to be responsible with their supplies and tools. I grab a roll of masking tape and the new box of pencils.
I created a little flag on each pencil by wrapping the tape around it and then I put a number on each pencil. When my students arrived the next morning we had a little pow-wow. I told them that from now on they would have their own pencil. (I have always been a “we share the tools in our classroom” kind of teacher). I explained that they would each get a number and that the pencil would have the same number on it. I also gave them a challenge – be responsible with your pencil until Friday at lunch time and you can have lunch in the classroom. What did I mean by “be responsible” with your pencil? Well for me that meant keeping track of your pencil, taking care of it (no tearing off or chewing off the eraser) and turning it in each afternoon to be sharpened before the next day. I also explained that any pencils found on the floor would have the number tag removed and added to the general pencil bucket. I handed out the pencils and off they went.
Friday rolled around and I had 13 of my 22 kiddos eating lunch with me in the classroom! They were so excited and loved it. We started over after lunch on Friday and repeated the same drill. Next Friday, 19 out of 22! Then off to spring break. I wasn’t so sure what would happen upon our return, but week 3, all 22 kiddos kept their pencil!!! Ah-May-Zing! In just 3 short weeks we went from losing a class set of pencils to using and reusing a class set of pencils!
If a pencil breaks, I don’t stop everything just to sharpen it. They put their pencil in the “please sharpen” bucket and grab another pencil from the “already sharp” bucket. When I have a chance, I sharpen pencils and return them to the rightful owner. (Yes, I said I sharpen pencils. After 3 years of allowing my students to sharpen their own pencils in my electric pencil sharpener, and having the pencil sharpener break before the year was over, I changed my rule. I am the only one to sharpen pencils. I do not sharpen pencils with plastic coating on them or colored pencils. Voila! No more replacing pencil sharpeners annually!) During clean-up time at the end of the day, all of the pencils are put in the “please sharpen” bucket so they will be ready to go the next day.
I was really amazed at how well my students did with this challenge. I love that pencils aren’t disappearing any more and even more I LOVE that my kiddos are learning about responsibility. Sometimes its the little things that can make a big difference!
Amy is a kindergarten teacher and the blogger behind Teaching in Blue Jeans. No, she doesn’t get to wear blue jeans everyday, but she uses her Blue Jean Mentality to make her classroom a place where students are comfortable, active and willing to try new things.