Not ready / Ready to teach Grade 1 / by Alan Strathman

Not ready to teach Grade 1:

Ready to teach Grade 1:


I am in Grade 1 every morning at 9:00. I estimate the boys spend 50% of the time looking for a pencil sharpener, responding to students looking for a sharpener, sharpening their pencils, and worrying about how sharp their pencil is.  I used to think that a child who sharpened his pencil before class would be fine with the sharpness of their pencil for the entire 90 minute literacy class. Oh, how naive I was.

One reason a sharpened pencil becomes less sharp is, of course, that it is written with.  If, however, boys printed their letters while pressing only reasonably hard on the paper, they would not write enough to dull their pencils significantly.  Unfortunately, the boys press down on the paper with all their might. Why, I don't know.

Another reason why pencils become dulled is that pencil gremlins attack pencils and sand down the lead. How do I know this?  Because this happens often: I sharpen a boy's pencil for him, continue around the room stopping to look at the work of a dozen or so boys and return to the boy with the sharp pencil only to find that he has his hand raised because his pencil needs sharpening. Seeing this, I look to see how much he wrote--thinking he must have actually done some work--only to discover that he had not written a single letter. I ask him how his pencil could again need sharpening and he doesn't know. 

As I said, 50% of class time is centered around the pencil. Another 25% of class time is focused on the eraser. Finding one, using one. Many students erase more than they write, which is not easy to accomplish.

I discovered early on in the first termthat if I carry a pencil, a sharpener, and an eraser I can reduce the amount of time spent dilly-dallying from 75% to about 60%. Oh, were that it was lower!