If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘I lost my pencil. I don’t have an eraser.” I would, well I wouldn’t be blogging about it. This is just one of many ways that off task time takes away from instructional focus. Over the last several years I have experimented with a communal focus in terms of supplies and materials. My intent was to reduce the energy spent and ultimately time lost looking for basic working tools. I started by having containers that held pencils and containers that held erasers and they were placed on work areas. The idea was the students just had to get their book out and the writing tools would be there right in front of them. The students would just return it to the container where they borrowed it from. This produced immediate results in that as a group we seemed to be organized and ready to go sooner. This routine had to be taught and consistently applied. Of course students were allowed to use their own tools, but quick access was just an arm’s reach away.
As this plan evolved I had to figure out how to keep the pencils sharpened, rotation of old pencils out and new pencils and erasers in. Well, that ended being a great job for a team of students (student helpers). The current edition of this strategy is where I create complete tool kits (pencils, erasers, glue, scissors, rulers and highlighters) and each team is responsible for caring for their work materials. This shift in thinking from individual to communal supplies also assisted with students who have difficulty supplying their own tools, it eliminates the competition in having the most creative or expensive pencils or pens and puts the students on task earlier and for longer periods of time.
I am very interested in other suggestions around this topic. Please add your experiences.