There goes the pencil sharpener again, right in the middle of a spelling test. No one can hear the spelling words, and I actually feel as if the pencil sharpener is grinding into my skull.
“Fine! Sharpen the pencil, but make it quick.”
And the entire class waits for the nghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sound to stop so we can finish our activity. Then another student gives me a little smile as she presses down hard on her pencil. Snap! and the fun begins again.
The pencil sharpener is an annoyance for almost every teacher I know. Fortunately, there are many solutions. It’s just a matter of finding a something that works for you and your students. Here are seven ideas to try:
Teach the students when they can and cannot sharpen their pencils. No sharpening is allowed when anyone is talking or during whole-group instruction. During those times, students have to borrow a pencil from another student or the teacher. Sometimes there is a penalty for anyone who violates the pencil rule, such as having to clean the room after class. Sometimes a valuable object such as a shoe or a phone is held ransom for the pencil.
Teach the students what it means to be ready for class, including how many sharp pencils they should have and where they should keep them. Some teachers require two sharp pencils in the pencil tray on each student’s desk. Others ask their students to use pencil pouches with two spare pencils. I used to require my middle school students to show me a sharp pencil on their way into class.
Take away the big pencil sharpener altogether and ask the students to use hand sharpeners.
Have the students use erasable pens or mechanical pencils.
Keep a supply of sharp pencils on hand in a pencil can. Provide another pencil can for dull pencils. Students trade out their broken or dull pencil for a sharp one.
Each table group has a caddy with supplies to share. One person in the group has the job of keeping the supplies in good order.
Instead of using paper and pencil, use paperless options such as Google Docs and iPads as much as possible.
Do you have a solution for the Pencil Sharpener Problem that works well for you? If so, please share in the comments below so that none of us ever has to suffer through the ngggggghhhhhh interruption again!
Now go make it a great day for yourself and your students!
Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com