Can I borrow a pencil?

By The Arty Teacher - April 6, 2019

This blog post is about ‘Art Room Management of Pencils’!

It made me laugh that a recent post on facebook which opening line was ‘Can I borrow a pencil?’ has attracted over 150 comments from art teachers.  The art teacher who posted the post was looking for ideas on how to manage her ever-dwindling supply.

There were a variety of responses and I have gathered together some strategies here.  The different sorts of schools art teachers worked in had a huge influence on their response.  One art teacher said she gave out over 600 pencils a year but didn’t mind because the children she taught sometimes weren’t even going to get a decent meal when they went home that evening.  Many art teachers would give out pencils rather than make it an issue stating ‘It’s not a battle I’m willing to fight’.  Other art teachers refuse to give them out, full stop.  One mentioned that they had a pot of pencils that had been left behind which students could help themselves to, sort of a quid quo pro.  Some teachers would phone home if arriving at school without a pencil was a frequent occurrence, or write in the student’s planner or homework diary so that parents would know and hopefully help prevent it happening again.  Here are some great strategies that art teachers are using:

A Basket on Each Table

“I buy fat primary pencils with no erasers on the end. They are hard to break. Then, I keep a small basket with 4 pencils, 2 erasers, and a sharpener at each table. I check at the end of each class and they don’t leave unless everything is in that basket. It’s a pain to do, but they know I mean business. Since I’m strict with the little stuff, I’ve noticed less theft and damage to all other materials too.”  Lisa Elder-Willman

Other teachers mentioned this way of operating and also talked about putting a responsible student in charge of checking them at the end of every lesson all year!

Pencil Holder with Holes

We’ve all seen wooden pencil holders with holes and they are certainly a good idea.  You just need to check that they are full at the end of a lesson or task a student to do this.  Tyler Clarke has taken this one step further and it looks appealing too.  She sounds like one organised Art Teacher!

art room management of pencils


No, not the movie!  A strategy you could try is asking for something in return for the pencil.  I would suggest something of non-value.  Their pen for a pencil?  Their homework diary for a pencil? School ID?  I was astounded to read that several teachers said they took a shoe in return for a pencil!!!  They would certainly return the pencil, wouldn’t they?  One teacher said she took cell phones for a pencil which solved two problems in one but think carefully…what if it went missing in your care?

Clips on the Board

I loved this picture posted by Jackie Dehring.  She uses clips which have suckers that can attach to her whiteboard.  The student has to write their name on the board when they take a pencil.  A quick visual check at the end of the lesson is all you need.  You can get these clips on Amazon UK, and Amazon.com

I hope one of these strategies help with art room management of pencils.  Often art teachers have really small budgets to work with and every pencil counts!

Why not check out some of the quality, time-saving resources on The Arty Teacher? A majority have a price, some are free.  You can access 3 of the free resources each month by registering.  Many art teachers buy a subscription where they can access 10 resources a month for a really attractive price.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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