The Great Pencil Challenge: Solve Your Staggering Pencil Problems


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!

The Great Pencil Challenge rules

1. Gather your pencils

Get enough pencils for your entire class to have AT LEAST 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.

Alternatively, you might want to give your students 2-5 pencils each. This will alleviate you having to sharpen them each day or midday. If you do this, I highly recommend storing them in either a toothbrush holder or a small pencil case.

The Great Pencil Challenge rules

2. Label the pencils

Next, you will want to 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 directly on students’ pencils with permanent marker.

Part of the challenge for my students is to keep their number on their pencil. This prevents students from stealing, swapping and switching.

If a pencil has no number, it is out of the challenge. However, if a number is fading, I will definitely rewrite it for them.

The Great Pencil Challenge: Bulletin Board Ideas

3. Set up a scoreboard

Next, it is time to decide how you will track The Great Pencil Challenge players.

I typically use a printed bulletin board with interactive pencils. Alternatively, a digital version is a quick and easy way to prep for this and implement it right away.

My scoreboard also includes our class rules, an end date, checkpoints, and a grand prize.

As far as rules go, I tend to keep it simple. Each pencil must be large enough to use, have an attached eraser and should not be broken. 

The Great Pencil Challenge: Bulletin Board Ideas Check in and Grand Prize

4. Monitoring the challenge

I typically check student pencils on Fridays. Students who still have their pencil each Friday keep their name on the scoreboard, the other students are “out”.

Then comes the most fun part.. the end of the challenge! Whoever has their pencil left on the chart by the end of the assigned period, wins!

I usually have a prize, which can be as simple as a piece of candy, a sticker or something small.

The Great Pencil Challenge: Bulletin Board Ideas

5. Start a new round

I let all students move on to round two and start over with a new pencil.

However, if students won the first round, they get a new color of pencil on the scoreboard for the next round. These students are on “level two” of the challenge and are working toward an even better prize (such as a mechanical pencil or fun eraser).

We call these the “pencil levels” and students take it very seriously.

The Great Pencil Challenge: Digital Bulletin Board Ideas

Does this actually help?

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. Plus, students love a good competition.

This is a fun and easy way to help students with responsibility.

The Great Pencil Challenge: Leaderboard ideas

What does the timeline look like?

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.

How to keep pencils sharp:

My students also know that during the pencil checking time 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.

Get What You Need

If you are looking for a scoreboard, editable rules, check in posters and more for The Great Pencil Challenge, please follow this link. It is completely editable to adjust to your class’ personal needs.

Looking for help with other school supplies? Check out the supply challenge bundle for help with crayons, markers, erasers, glue sticks, whiteboard markers and more!

Emily - The Mountain Teacher


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

    • Hopefully this will help you! Pencils can be such a headache but they don’t have to be!

    • Thank you – good luck! Hopefully this will help with the pencil headache.

    • 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.

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

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


Share your thoughts...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *