made4math_smallTired of taking up a left shoe in exchange for a pencil [1]? Or attaching various non-pencil accessories to your pencils [2] so they don’t walk out on you? If you have kids unprepared for class on a regular AND you don’t like methods you’ve already tried, I have a system that worked for me.

First, a description of the environment: a majority of my students regularly entered class empty-handed.

Ingredients: gallon size zipper bags, composition books, pencils, storage crates.

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Gallon size zipper seal bags. I bought the “storage” rather than “freezer” bags, they’re cheaper. Yeah, they’re less durable, but I found them ok for a semester. Composition books. Found notebooks for $0.50 at back-to-school sales then resold them to students at cost. Benefit: everyone has the notebook on the first day. Even if you wind up paying for these out of pocket, it’s worth it: $0.50 for a whole semester of paper you NEVER have to provide.

My students kept their interactive notebooks in a gallon-size resealable storage bag along with a few other supplies. Because these kids have no problem walking into class empty-handed, I decided to store all they needed for class in the room. No one took anything home, or even to their lockers [3]. Ok, so we took care of paper above. How about pencil? Keep reading, dear friends.

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At the beginning of each month, I gave each student two #2 pencils (purchased in massive quantities at back to school sales). At the end of each class, the bags got closed up and stored in one of these guys staged around the room.

Each crate could hold about half of a class’ bags. I rounded up (or is it down?) and bought three crates per class, spread out all over my room. Students kept their bags in whichever of the three crates for their class. I spread the crates out to avoid traffic jams at the beginning and end of class. This worked well.

How do you make sure students are prepared for class daily?


[1] There seems to be a lot of precedent for the shoe-for-pencil exchange. I never liked it because, hello, puberty –> stinky feet.

[2] Though I do love the idea and not just because the creator is my very own roommate at #TMC13.

[3] That’s a lie. In practice, some more responsible students often took their materials out of class to do homework or to study. The default remained “keep your materials in class”.