Physical Space

The Pros and Cons of Pencil Sharpening

Sharpening pencils is one of those weird art-teachery issues that only we can understand. The whole process can be downright maddening! Don’t even get me started on colored pencils! Bah! Each teacher has their own routine and solution.

Before you go changing yours, take a look at the pro/con list below.



1. Let kids sharpen their own pencils.

PRO: You aren’t burdened by the relentless mountain of dull pencils that require constant sharpening. Kids take ownership in maintaining supplies.
CON: Kids over-sharpen their pencils into useless nubs or spend oodles of time unnecessarily sharpening pencils into needle-sharp spikes.

2. Use hand-held sharpeners.

PRO: Again, students can be control of pencil maintenance. They can use them at their seats.
CON: The hand-held sharpeners need frequent emptying. I have yet to find one that can keep up with the industrial-strength needs of my classroom.

3. You or an elected sharpener does all the work.

PRO: Your pencils and sharpener will last longer under your sole use.
CON: You are constantly sharpening and must keep a large amount ready to last throughout several classes.

Because of my own pathological need for control over some things, I generally go with number three, but try to be flexible and allow for student use as needed. Try to explain to someone in any other profession the importance of pencil-sharpening strategies! It’s just another quirk of our profession that makes it so sun and unique!

Which pencil sharpening method works best for you?

Share your own PROS and CONS with us! 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Sarah Dougherty

Sarah Dougherty, a visual arts curriculum coordinator, is a former AOEU Writer and elementary school art educator. She loves working with diverse populations to bring art into students’ homes, communities, and everyday lives.

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