5 Ways to Save Your Sharpies

Middle school students LOVE Sharpie markers. They use them on their art projects, on their binders, on their clothes, and even on their bodies. The brighter the Sharpie, the better. Last week, I looked down the hall and saw a girl writing on the back of another girl’s t-shirt with one. On a recent Monday, another student walked by my classroom with her arm covered in Sharpie. (Apparently, she fell asleep at a slumber party.)

Almost every day, I witness by students getting creative with Sharpies. But, unfortunately, Sharpie markers seem to disappear, walk away, or get kidnapped from the art studio. We hope that our students aren’t stealing or unintentionally taking art supplies from our classrooms, but, in reality, it does happen. I found myself asking my students, “Is that my Sharpie marker?” I had no way to tell if it was my marker or not. Until now!

Here are some strategies to use to keep your Sharpies in your room.

1. Keep your Sharpies in a container on your desk or another location that’s close to you.

I keep mine on my desk because I go to it at the beginning and end of each class to take attendance and get my whiteboard ready for the next class. I use an empty frosting container to hold my Sharpies. If you aren’t a frosting eater, ask your coworkers for donations.

2. Label the ends of the Sharpies with duct tape.

Yes, duct tape. It’s one of the stickiest tapes available. Also, when you pull it off, it leaves a residue. Therefore, if my students ever try to pull off the duct tape, the marker will be sticky, and I will know it WAS my marker! One negative part of putting the tape on the bottom of the Sharpie is that the cap won’t fit on the marker anymore, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping track of your Sharpies. I put all Sharpies cap down in the container, so the tape shows. This allows me to identify the color of markers. Also, the ink stays at the tip of the marker so they last longer.

3. Label the container with the kind of marker it holds and color code them.

I have multiple containers of sharpies. I keep them straight with the color of duct tape at the end and also with the label on the container.

4. Write the total number of markers on the container, so you know how many you need back at the end of class

In my room, I know that there should be 16 fine-point Sharpies in my container at the end of each class. If a marker dries up when a student is using it, then they bring to me, and I will give them a fresh marker and throw away the old one. Before you throw away the marker, take the caps off and save them incase students lose the caps to other markers.

5. Let students know how important the art materials are to art projects.

It’s important for students to realize why the supplies need to stay in the art studio. I tell my students what my budget is and how much supplies cost. They appreciate the supplies more if they know that they’re a necessity and limited in quantity.

Do you use Sharpies in your classroom?  Do you have a problem with Sharpies disappearing?

How do you keep track of your Sharpie markers? 

Cassidy Reinken


This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Cboggs73

    It isn’t just the Sharpies that seem to have legs in my art room. Love the suggestion for keeping them corralled, but do you have any ideas for the pencils and erasers that disappear every day? I finally had to tell my upper grade students to bring their own, but that doesn’t always work because they “forget” or say they don’t have one and then are all over the room trying to borrow one from someone else.

    • You’re right, many supplies have legs!  At the beginning of the school year I was losing eight to ten pencils a day!  I decided to tape objects to the end of my pencils using duct tape.  Last quarter I tried silk flowers and this quarter I tried plastic spoons (Only because they were less expensive than the flowers.)  I keep the pencils in a container on the front table by my desk.  Having something taped to the bottom of the pencils reminds students that the pencil they’re using isn’t theirs.
      The erasers are also kept in a container on the front table.  I have those numbered one through eight.  (There are enough for two erasers per table.)  At the end of class (if I remember) I count them.    I have to be honest, I don’t keep track of the erasers as much as permanent markers. 
      Students will ask to go to their lockers to get a pencil.  I always say no and offer one of my pencils to them.  By the way, using a pencil with a spoon taped to the end, feels completely awkward.  I explain that my goal is that eventually they will get sick of using my pencils, and bring their own! 

    • Dawn

      When my good vinyl erasers kept disappearing, I started ordering Dick Blick brand erasers.  They are brown, ugly, and smell funny, but they get the job done and are not appealing to sticky fingers.  Kids do crumble them sometimes, but that is a much smaller problem.

    • Lulubellle

       I keep my soap erasers in the box they came in- they fit perfectly- like a puzzle. Erasers very rarely disappear from my room. I think it bothers them to see “a missing piece.”

    • Angela Hobbs

      I put my erasers in a ice cube tray. I can do a quick count before they leave the room.

  • I haven’t done this in recent years, but when I taught middle school and things started to walk out of the room, whether on purpose or on accident – honestly, how many times have I walked out of a restaurant with a new pen.  In any case, I used a simple method that I adopted from my high school tech teacher.  I laid out all my pencils and sharpies on paper – covered bottom half of the objects (I also covered the erasers on the pencils) and spray painted them the most obnoxious pink I could find.  This was fast, easy, and hard to scrape off – this would also solve the cap issue.  When students had pencils and sharpies it was easy to tell which ones belonged in the art room.  It also helped students remember to leave the supplies in the room!

    • I too am guilty of walking out of restaurants with a new pen!  What a great idea with spray paint, I will have to try that sometime.

  • This is a super idea!

    Thank you for the tips!


  • Ldeziel

    I have an absolutely easy and wonderful way to identify your sharpie markers:
     Every year when I receive my new sharpie order, I mix up a small cup of acrylic paint, grab a small paint brush, dipping the non brush end of the paint brush into the cup of acrylic paint, press the little dollop of paint into the depressed dimple found at the back end of  each sharpie. I keep them in the box as I am putting a dot on each one, so it goes very quickly. Let sharpies dry in the box, standing them with the paint dot up for a few hours before using.
    When you set all the sharpies into a cup with the paint dot facing up, you can not only tell that these are your markers, but you can also tell how old the sharpie is by the color you used for the different years! No one takes my markers anymore!

    • Categorizing by the year you purchased it! WOW- That is an organizational tip I really like. You and I would get along! Next year, I plan to do a lot more of this type of labeling. I also want to store my Sharpies in a cup instead of flat in a basket. 

    • jennyhamil

      This is genius!

    • Cerretda

      Great idea and simple – a dot of acrylic paint!  I’ve never had Sharpies that have lasted a year never mind longer but I suppose that is directly effected by enrollment numbers.  Thank!

      • Ldeziel

         I think the reason my sharpies last for so long is because I always store them point side down in the cups. I have a large amount of thick and thin sharpies available, so they are not all being used at the same time.

    • Marie Blocker

      NICE.  I also do a “caddy inspection” for each table, each class.  They know I am always counting.

  • Vivian

    I’ve put sharpies in plastic bags and each table gets one plastic bag with the amount of sharpies written on the outside of the bag. This has worked well, as I remind students to return the markers into the bags at the end of class and I see to be sure each table has returned them. If not I let the table know that they cannot leave the room until the marker is returned. For my pencils, I use a thick sharpie and with about 10-20 pencils laid out on the table, I mark my pencils with lots of lines, I turn the pencils and just mark them up all around the tops, right under the erasers. I do my best to make sure all pencils are returned before students leave the art room, as I have cups with a pencil per chair and erasers that I check for return. If all 4-5 pencils are not in the cup, I have them check under the tables and don’t allow the table to leave until it’s returned, especially when I’ve just replenished the cups with new pencils. They have gotten good about knowing what I expect and have become more responsible about returning things. I admit, I do slack on checking sometimes, and I’ve tried giving the job to students, but I still do a double check so I can hold on to my supplies.

    • The bag idea is great.  Sometimes I feel like I have so many cups and baskets sitting around with supplies in them.  The bags would be great to throw back into the marker drawer at the end of class.  Thanks for sharing!

    • mrsboggsart

      I do a similar thing but just kept the 28 markers in their origonal package and wrap the bottom with the matching duct tape to the table then count everytime they are returned.  You have to be willing to stand your ground and not them leave your room until the missing one is found.  If it happens often I either start clean up sooner next time or take them away all together until they earn my trust in a different way.  Middle schoolers hate using crayola markers again once they have had the chance of sharpies. NOTE:  I tape all my supplies packages and count them at the end too.  It took my 5 yrs of teaching to figure out this is the most work but best system.  I still struggle with getting pencils back though.

  • Sharpies are a middle schoolers best friend!  The sliver sharpies are something that my students really got into this year.  I really like how you labeled them with the frosting containers!

    Many of my students use the “Sharpie” name brand, so last time I was buying I decided to buy “Bic” brand.  It helps that my “Bic” brand markers look different than their “Shrapies” :)

    • They really are their best friend!   The silver ones are great!
      How do you like the “BIC” brand of markers?  I’ve only used them a couple of times, but never bought them myself.  
      My students bring in supplies at the beginning of the year and I ask them to each bring in two Sharpie markers (among other items.)  Most of them know what Sharpies are, so it’s easy to put on the supply list.

      • I have not noticed a big difference between Sharpies and “BIC.”  This is only my first round though.

        I love the supply list! It helps when they bring in a few of their own!

      • tobie711

        I would love to see another art teacher’s supply list.

        • That would be a great idea for us to share other art teacher’s supply lists! Thanks for the tip!

      • Marie Blocker

        I have them bring 4 fine and 4 ultra fine.  I did 2 of each last year and ran out. I need to do the paint dot idea and the seat # idea too!    P.s. have you seen the new Copper color?  Very cool.

  • Lulubellle

     My husband used to work college admissions, and he shared a trick that always helped them keep track of their markers (and has helped me with Sharpies, too.) Take the cap before you hand out a sharpie, train students to leave the cap in the marker container before they take one. If they ever ask why, I tell them “So I know how many to collect at the end.” For whatever reason, this works!

  • Holly

    I love your sharpie ideas. FYI there is a great recycling program our school uses to recycle old makers, including sharpies. They will pay an amount (not sure how much) to recycling them. Just a thought if you don’t want to throw them away.

    • Thanks Holly!  Do you know what program your school participates in to recycle markers?  I would love to hear more about it! 

  • I’m a kindergarten teacher and I use sharpies a lot!  for work and home.  I keep track of mine by putting a tiny dollop of nail polish in the dimple – which most people don’t notice, but I do (especially when I see it on someone else’s desk!) It’s easy and permanent.  The BIC markers dry up much more quickly than sharpies, and i’ve bought BIC markers that are sold individually and gotten home only to find they were already dried up and had to return them.  sharpies are just superior!  I wish they would come out with more colors…

    • mrsboggsart

      they have huge packs of different colored sharpies buyt you have  to buy them in the pack on line.

  • runesmom

    I count out my Sharpies at the beginning of class and have one helper per table count at the end of the class period. I have very few issues with materials walking. I also use primary pencils. I may be the only one on campus who does. If one leaves the room it’s pretty noticeable and they come back. The only time my system gets messed up is when I have a sub…

  • barbara’s thought of the day

    So many ways to mark them, who knew.  I just write the word “ART” on the end (with Sharpie, of course) to identify art room markers from others.  Works for me!

  • Karen H

    I use this technique for any drawing tool i want to keep track of…. A wooden block with 8 holes drilled halfway down. I have 8 students per table. At the end of class, all eight spots must have a tool. And if one is missing, the entire class has to look and find it befor leaving. It ALWAYS turns up by some “mysteriously” finding it. I use this for sharpies, clay tools, pencils, wooden skewers, white pencils… Anything!

    • Marie Blocker

      I’ve been wanting to make these for a while.  Need to hit up the hardware store and break out the drill!  Vroom Vroom love power tools!

      • Carmela Marciante

        What size bit.?

  • SusanC

    I have a zip lock bag for each table that holds 6 fine & 6 ultra fine black sharpies, one of each for each student at the table. I only pass the bags out when the sharpies are needed. Each bag is color coded (with colored tape) to match that table’s color. Each student at the table has a number 1-6, so I wrote a number on each sharpie in the color of ink that matches their table. If you are #3 at the blue table you use the sharpie with a blue 3 on it. When sharpies end up on the floor, in the crayons, lids off, etc. it’s easy to tell who is not with the game plan. May sound obsessive, but after seeing some student’s careless attitudes, I was ready to make them more accountable and end sharpie abuse. During clean up time, it’s someone’s job at each table to check that the bag of sharpies is in order before they return it.

    • Marie Blocker


  • SylviaL

    I teach high school art in a title I school and it seems my art supplies grow legs and disappear every semester. I would start with a nice collection of Sharpies and end the semester with maybe one!!! Well last year I found my new favorite site, Pinterest and found this great idea from http://artfulartsyamy.blogspot.ca/search/label/classroom%20management 
    She created a Sharpie Caddy and students have to sign out a marker. The markers all have duck tape on the end of them with a number and the student writes down which marker they are checking out. I love it! So far it has been working for me. 

  • SylviaL

    Here’s an image of my Sharpie Caddy, it’s made out of floral foam, duck tape and masking tape.

    • Yvonne

      I’m loving your caddy. It never occurred to me that the sharpies would last longer if they faced down. I teach Elementary in an urban setting, so lots of things go missing, especially any kind of marker. I do have heavy duty plastic caddies for the table supplies and a caddy monitor who checks that all the supplies are present at the end of class. I have been keeping markers on trays arranged in ROYGBIV order, browns and blacks are tucked in at the end. This way I can tell at a glance if something is missing. For some reason the pinks tend to grow legs.
      Anyway, know that I know not to lay my markers flat, I will have the kids arrange them in ROYGBIV in the Styrofoam caddy. Still not sure how I will manage to keep track of the sharpeners and erasers.

  • Imzadi

    I know an art teacher who dips the ends of all her tools in very bright florescent paint. This way she can recognize her tools right away. Sometimes she also paints a couple rings of different colors on the end, if her (adult) students also start dipping their tools in paint to distinguish their own tools from each other.

  • Mrs. S.

    I put duct tape on all my supplies! Mustash tape for Salvidor Dali! It is on my pencils, sharpies, glue, everything that gets passed out to the kiddos! I never get them “stolen” anymore!!! Now how about dried up sharpies? Anyone have a way to refresh a sharpie?

  • Abbie

    Every student is assigned a number. I engrave each marker with a number. I take a box and punch holes in the top where each sharpie will fit, also writing the # by the hole. At the end of each class, students put the marker in the hole. It’s a quick visual if any are missing and I can tell which student needs to return the marker. No counting necessary.

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