September 2008
Vol 5 No 9

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.9 September 2008

Cover Story by Hal Portner
High Quality Teaching:
The Intangible Element
The cornerstone of quality education in our schools is what happens between teacher and student.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
It Was Something Close to a Miracle

»More Tools for Classroom Fun and SuccessCheryl Sigmon
»Time Flies!Sue Gruber
»"Getting to Know Each Other"Activities, part 2Leah Davies
»Our Back PagesTodd R. Nelson
»Using a Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Hierarchy of Social DevelopmentMarvin Marshall
»The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
»Dear Barbara - Advice for SubsBarbara Pressman
»The First Day of Hell? and Still No Job! How Do I Stay Positive?Kioni Carter

»The Music, Movement, and Learning Connection
»Notes And Quotes From My Summer Reading
»Chinese Royalty and Cedar Wood, The History of the Pencil
»Teaching and Stress: Symptoms and Cures
»September 2008 Writing Prompts
»Learning About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
»Donna’s Lesson Plan Files For Music Teachers
»A Teaching Guide for The Secret Life of Hubie Hartzel
»Virtual lab

»Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
»Ineffective teachers? and Laura Bush's speech on July 28
»School Photographs for September 2008
»Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: September 2008
»Video Bytes: Brainiac science; Puppies lulled to sleep; Pilobilus dance; and More
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration for September 2008
»Live on Teachers.Net: September 2008
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
»Peanut Free School?
»HELP! First Time Teaching Kindergarten!
»"I don't have a pencil [again]!" Does anything work?
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


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Cover Story by Hal Portner

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Kioni Carter, Marvin Marshall, Cheryl Sigmon, Marjan Glavac, Todd R. Nelson, Hal Portner, Leah Davies, Barbara Pressman, Tim Newlin, James Wayne, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Lisa Bundrick, Panamalai R. Guruprasad, Donna Ransdell, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, Susan Rowan Masters, and YENDOR.

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Collective Wisdom

Teachers.Net Community

"I don't have a pencil [again]!" Does anything work?

Pupils perennially without a pencil! Is this is a power struggle between teacher and student? What is the solution? Here's what teachers said…
Teachers.Net Community
Regular Feature in the Gazette
September 1, 2008

Posted by snapped
We have taken the stand that we must supply pencils to kids. We've discussed and decided it isn't worth the energy and time lost fussing over not being prepared. We have tried everything I can think of to get them to bring or at least hold on to a pencil. By the end of the year last year I was handing out 8 pencils each class period for kids that didn't have one. They get one, drop it in the floor, and ask for another in the next class. I'll list what we've tried; has anyone had any success with this or another way?

  • Student providing collateral. (We ended up having a kid go 3 months without a book because the teacher wouldn't give his book back. And other teachers had a pile of personal items on their desk all the time.)

  • Turning in pencils (I always teach to the bell and often forget to collect them)

  • Writing name on board till they return it. Worked for a little bit but then they ask during the lesson and I don't want to take the time to go over and add their name)

  • Keeping a cup full of sharpened pencils from the office and hand them out openly. (I would constantly run out or be sharpening 30 pencils a day and/or the numbers increased the easier I made it on them so it went from one a period to 8 a period)

We would watch the kids walk out of the room and drop the pencil on the floor. If you told them they dropped it they would shrug and say, "That's ok. I'll ask so and so for another." Of course I would make them get it or I would get it and put it in my cup, but it is such a drain of time all the handing them out and waiting and sharpening. They figured it was easier to ask than to bend over.

I also have a HUGE concern about what we are teaching kids as far as responsibility. One year I charged kids a dime for each pencil and that worked the best - I thought. It was just enough to make them hold on to it for a little while. But our county doesn't want us charging for pencils anymore.

Posted by Kathy
Get those little pencils that you see in church pews. They aren't that comfy to hold and they don't have erasers. That ought to be enough to encourage them to buy their own. As for dropping things on the floor, well, one of our 4th grade teachers has the solution to that. She talks with the day and night porters (janitors) and asks that they not clean her room. Then she puts tons of masking tape across the opening into her classroom (no doors). Then she holds court when the kids come in. She has them sit in front of the door so they can see it at more of an eye level. It's pretty drastic but the kids have never repeated the offense.

Posted by joanj
"But our county doesn't want us charging for pencils anymore."

Did they put that in writing? If not I'd pretend I never heard this. If they put it in writing, what did they suggest for the child who does not bring a pencil to class? If they don't want you to charge then they should suggest an alternative that will work in your school.

I guess I am not the principal's favorite teacher because when they issue orders such as "don't charge for pencils" I ask, "What do you suggest we do about the child who continually does not bring a pencil to class?" If they told me that I should supply them than I ask that they put the directive in writing. Somehow some of the outrageous suggestions presented at faculty meetings never appear in writing.

Posted by snapped
Yes, we got it in writing from our superintendent and later from our state super. We are to supply them with materials.

Posted by tmp
Sounds like you teach middle school so I don't know how this would work since I teach third grade. Generally I tell them to find a pencil or get a crayon from my crayon box. Third graders don't like writing in crayon. Yes, it is sloppy and difficult to read at times but it doesn't happen too often. Also my crayon box is filled with mostly broken crayons. I found that kids who borrow crayons to color, return them more often when they are broken. The new or full size crayons just never got returned. You should see the looks I get when they see me cracking brand new crayons in half!

Posted by anon.
High school students don't like writing in crayon in either. I have used the idea you suggested and it does work for me. As a high school teacher, I think the students need to take responsibility so the pencil issue is not a problem for me. When they don't have pencils, it's not my problem. I don't lend them out. At the beginning of the year, I might refer them to my crayon jar, but nobody wants to use those. If we are having a test, and someone says Bbut I don't have anything to write with," I just shrug my shoulders. Amazingly enough,they always come up with something to write with. Same goes for class assignments. The only kids who will use the pencil excuse not to do anything are those who don't do anything anyway.

Posted by golf pencils solve the problems!
They hate the small pencils! Nothing to break, no erasers to throw. Plus, they are cheap!!

Posted by molly4th
Each kid gets one pencil per month because of state education code about "supplying materials."

For the desk: pencil sharpener with case for shavings; procedure taught on when and how to use; one mechanical pencil is given twice a year and procedure is taught on the use and care; consistent follow through on consequences if play time is observed with mechanical pencil. (I walk over there and take it without a word being said).

Floor/classroom cleanup routine taught and done before every dismissal in the afternoon.

Golf pencils, fat primary pencils/crayons given to those who don't have one to do their work they are allowed to ask a neighbor to borrow one but the repeat pencil eaters wear out their welcome very quickly.

These routines work for me.

AM wrote:
There was a wonderful response about pencils on another board a few weeks ago and I almost copied it. I thought no way would this come up AGAIN as it has been discussed to death on here.

It seems to me there are folks here who like having a pencil problem and like the power the pencil issue gives them. This is a control issue for way too many people.

Pick up pencils around the school, send out a note to parents asking for pencils. As many as kids lose, there has to be plenty around to be picked up. The teachers who do this seem to manage quite well. Have a contest with the kids for a week to see who can find the most.

In our state it's against the law NOT to supply a pencil in class if a pencil is needed to do the work and my son STILL had a teacher that had a pencil issue. So I sent a few dozen with a note to give them to ANY kid that needed one.

Kids forget pencils, Kids lose pencils, so do adults. Get over it, give the kid a pencil and find something more worthwhile to fixate on.

Posted by Crafty
To me this is a power-tripping issue along with many others that teachers come up with. Kids know this and will play it for all it is worth (note the comments about purposeful breaking, dropping, leaving them and then making comments about how they don't care). The school sets up the power struggle, the kids respond as normal kids will and then people can get on the kids about it. Not a hill to die on, not this one. Just keep giving them pencils and not say a word and you will be surprised at how it becomes a non-issue if everyone makes it unimportant.

Posted by flowerchild
I don't see how the school can require you to spend your own money on pencils. If you buy the pencil, you pass the cost on to the student. The responsible kids bring supplies and the irresponsible ones never will, apparently, because they've never had to. The high school kids complain about being poor and how their group is victimized in society while they wear $100 t-shirts. We're supposed to prepare them for college and a good-paying job, while demanding nothing of them. (We do have the few scattered/stressed kids who do have problems remembering and organizing, and we could probably help train them, if some teachers and schools weren't so enabling. But you can't waste too much class time, either.)

It's not a school-wide thing; it is nation-wide, if not common in other countries as well. I see posts from all over the nation about the lack of responsibility in today's young people.

What is the solution?

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