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The Great Pencil Challenge

Looking for a way to keep your classrooms’ pencils in check? Tired of sharpening pencils or listening to the pencil sharpener all day? The great pencil challenge is the solution for you!


The great pencil challenge is easy. Follow these 5 steps below to implement it in your classroom!


1.Get enough pencils for your entire class to have one pencil each. I usually try to make them obscure colors so that everyone’s pencil is different, and so that they don’t blend in with a regular number two pencil.


2. Number or label the pencils. It is important that the students’ names or numbers stay on the pencil to prevent stealing, swapping, or switching of pencils. I have found this works best with duct tape over washi tape, or simply writing names or numbers on students’ pencils with permanent marker.


3. Set up your scoreboard with your end date in mind, as long as some check points along the way. I would also set up your rules. I keep it simple, the pencil must be large enough to use, have an attached eraser and must not be broken. 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Great-Pencil-Challenge-Editable-3456047


I usually check my pencils on Fridays, during math groups. Students who still have their pencil each Friday keep their name on the scoreboard, the other students are out. My students also know that during math groups is the only time I will sharpen their pencils, and if they want them sharp in the morning they need to put them in the “please sharpen me” tub. I will also swap pencils one time a day, where they give me their pencil and I will give them a sharp one to borrow. To get their pencil back, they need to bring my pencil back to me. If they need two swaps or don’t bring back a pencil, they are out of the challenge. These rules can be adjusted by you as you see fit. 

4. Check in with students after the challenge. I usually have a prize, which is usually just a piece of candy or something small. You can also reward with coupons or just gratitude, depending on your management style or philosophy.

5. Start another round! I usually let all students move on to round two, but for my students that passed round one, I let them have a di
fferent color pencil on our scoreboard and an even better prize at the end. We call these the “pencil levels” and students take it very seriously. On this scoreboard, red was level two and yellow were students still on level one.


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Great-Pencil-Challenge-Editable-3456047

Within one week of using this system, I had barely any students ever asking me for pencils, breaking their pencils or losing their pencils. I also always keep extra pencils sharpened in their table baskets in case their pencils break during the day. This system has truly been a lifesaver for me and could probably be applied to other school supplies as well. Plus, students love a good competition and this is a fun and easy way to teach them responsibility.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Great-Pencil-Challenge-Editable-3456047

I have been using this system in my second grade classroom for three years. I usually do three-four pencil challenges a year, having students keep their pencils for about two months at a time. You would be surprised how long those little pencils can last when students take care of them! They also get so excited to get a new colorful pencil, and it is super cheap.  Above you can see how many of my students were able to keep their pencils for FOUR months! Wowza!!

If you are looking for a scoreboard for your students’ pencil challenge, please follow this link here. It is completely editable to adjust to your class’ personal needs.

I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to leave questions or comments below 🙂 Follow me to get more classroom tips in my blog posts each Monday during 2018!

11 thoughts on “The Great Pencil Challenge

  1. Suzanne

    Amazing Idea!! This is my 8th year teaching and pencils are one of the worst struggles yet!

    • TheMountainTeacher

      I use the ones from the Target Dollar Spot/Dollar Store. I think they’re about a foot and a half by three feet. They’re pretty small. A small calendar pocket chart works well too if you are storing pencils in it.

  2. Jan

    So, they keep the same pencil for weeks ? Wow!! That would be great!

  3. Amy

    Are students given “back up” pencils?
    If a pencil breaks, then what?

      • Juliza

        I thought the same thing! Do people even read the article? She talked about broken pencils several times. Geez…

  4. Fiona

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