Pencil Challenge

I love my containers for sharpened and unsharpened pencils. They are so pretty. But most of the time, they are empty. Students are taking pencils instead of trading, and I'm burning through my stash. (On the bright side, I do get to use my new pencil sharpener often.) Since our fifth graders switch rooms for every class, they never seem to have their supplies with them. And then they wait until ten minutes into class to tell me that they don't have their supplies. Grr...

Then I turned to my tried-and-true classroom management strategy - bribery. For each student in every class, I wrapped a piece of brightly-colored duct tape around the end of his/her pencil, near the eraser. The next day, I took "pencil attendance" after taking regular attendance. Anyone who had their taped pencil got a small treat, ie. Dum-Dum sucker or Hershey's Kiss. Then whoever had their pencil every day for the week got a "check" to spend at our school PBIS store. This is so that they just don't stash their pencil in their lockers for the week. They have to actually bring it to class every day. Eventually, I'll just do the checks (since it won't cost me anything but is still highly-motivating), but I needed some immediate rewards to get them going.

If a student is using a pencil that is getting close to the end, they can trade in that taped pencil for a new taped pencil.

If a student lost his/her taped pencil, then I will tape another pencil that they provide on Mondays.

Update: I decided to duct tape any replacement pencils in yellow so I could see who still had their original. They may be eligible for extra prizes :)

Update #2: This worked really well this past week. Only a few students from each class lost their pencil during the week. They even reminded me to take pencil attendance :) And a tip - Not all duct tape is the same in quality. The yellow tape that I used kept peeling off. Make sure you use super-sticky tape! I'm also making this my Friday Flashback since it was pretty successful this week!


  1. What a great idea!

    I duct-tape my supplies too (mostly markers, scissors, and pencils - they seem to "walk away" so often!), so I can easily look out over the room of hard-working students and see who is using mine. I sometimes do a random check on the way out (our fifth graders travel also) to see if there is any duct tape - if there is, it goes back in my supply drawers. I love your idea of keeping them responsible for the pencils you give out. I went through about 1000 pencils last year and have been looking for a way to monitor that!


  2. My fifth graders also switch, and supplying 3 classes with pencils is just more than I can do ha! I use black & white polka dot tape that I picked up at Target and just wrap around my own pencils. At the end of the period, I ask that all polka dot pencils be returned to my jar. Either way, tape to the recue! :-)

    1. I collect their supplies at the beginning of the year, so they are really their pencils. To begin, I taped a pencil that they already had, so I'm only replacing short pencils. Once I run out of those, I might have to change strategies :)

  3. I love this! Oh, the things we teachers will do for a little sanity! :) So far, we're not having pencil problems this year, but I've definitely had classes in the past that this would have been wonderful for....well, probably just jinxed this class! :)

    Thanks for linking up with this great idea!

    Teaching Maddeness

  4. Love this idea! This is a must do for my class...we had a great first nine weeks, but I can sense the need for this coming on! Love your blog too! I'm your newest follower!

  5. I love this idea! I have fifth graders that rotate classrooms as well. To add to the issue, I have a latex allergy so I can't let kids use pencils with erasers that are not latex free. (I break out in hives when they start erasing). I think I'll be using your tape strategy soon. I think I'll have a random pencil check and let them clip up whenever they are using their taped pencil. I'm your newest follower. I found you through the teacher tip linky.

    Surfing to Success

    1. That is so crazy that you mentioned that. I JUST got a new student today with a latex allergy, and she said that she thought duct tape might have latex. So I took one of her latex-free rubber bands and wrapped it around the end of hers. Thanks for following!

  6. I teach middle school, so sadly, this comes to mind: have you had any issues with thievery? There are always that small handful of kids I'd worry would try to steal someone else's pencil.


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