Great Pencil Challenge (Thank you Ladybug Teacher Files!)

This is the sign we hang on the wall.  We laminated it so we can write the next date in dry erase marker.

This is the sign we hang on the wall. We laminated it so we can write the next date in dry erase marker.

pencil challenge sign

Last year, my students went through pencils like water.  It was crazy!  I started the year with boxes and boxes of extra pencils that my husband had brought home (his office was getting rid of them).  The kids took them, lost them, broke them, sharpened them into oblivion, at times, I thought maybe they were eating them!

Last summer, I was clicking around on pinterest and came across an idea for the Great Pencil Challenge from Ladybug Teacher Files.  This was the best idea I have found, bar none!  You can see the post at

The idea is, you number their pencil, then check after about 2 weeks to see if they still have it.

My teaching partner and I started it at the beginning of the year.  Of course, kids being kids, after we announced it, they had tons of questions:

Can we keep it in our locker for the two weeks, then just go get it when the time comes?  (No)

What if we replace it with a different pencil? (We’ll know because it won’t be our writing and it won’t be the same brand)

What if we sharpen the number off? (We’ll write the number at the eraser end)

What do we get if we have it? (Something you’ll like)

Of course, there were other questions, but those were the highlights.  We started in with it and I have only had two occasions now, when students haven’t had a pencil.  The best part: when that student doesn’t have a pencil, the others remind him or her that you’re supposed to bring your Great Pencil Challenge pencil to class every day.

Not everyone has held onto the pencil, but it seems to have made them more aware of bringing a pencil.  I did an impromptu check once halfway through and that really ignited the excitement.

What prize do we give?  A Jolly Rancher.  I know, you’re not supposed to use candy as a reward, but I figure, once every two weeks, a small piece of hard candy won’t be the end of civilization as we know it.  And if a Jolly Rancher will remove the stress of supplying hundreds of pencils in class, I’m all for it!


2 thoughts on “Great Pencil Challenge (Thank you Ladybug Teacher Files!)

  1. Anna J says:

    I’m all for this, too! (and I routinely use jolly ranchers as rewards (or bribes!)…. Carry on 🙂

  2. I have a pencil (mechanical) which I got on my first trip to Europe — in Germany, 1975, and I have used the pencil nearly everyday since (it is a Faber-Castell Tk-matic, 0.5 mm graphite — there is no such thing as a lead [Pb, the metal] pencil). Almost 40 years for the same pencil.
    Drawing is the essential skill in STEM, it is how one transforms an idea into reality.

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