Plumed Pencils

“Do you have a pencil I can borrow?”

Any math teacher can tell you this is a familiar request as middle school students (boys especially) often turn up in class without a pencil.  What to do, what to do.  I’ve tried setting out a can of sharpened pencils only to find it’s empty by the end of the day.  Golf pencils are less likely to walk out of the room, but they are painfully short for those with man-sized hands.  One colleague has her students remove a tennis shoe and leave it up front when they borrow a pencil , but I teach 8th graders, and honestly, I really do not care to have the lovely aroma of middle school feet floating around the room.  SO, when one of my twitter buds (@Fouss? @druinok?) linked to this post, a #made4math solution  was born.

I love the artsy ideas on this blog, so I thought I’d attempt these pencils covered with scrapbooking paper with feathery type plumes at the top.  Although the project left me feeling like I was molting at times, I think it was a success!  Hopefully this little collection of pencils will look cute on my desk while serving as borrowable items that will be identifiable enough to discourage students from walking out with them!

Although I had some cheap pencils and a ridiculous amount of scrapbooking paper (wow – I feel pretty guilty for having so much scrapbook paper gathering dust!), I did not have any modge podge, so I made a quick trip to JoAnne’s to gather supplies.

To make these pencils you need:

  • pencils (Ticonderogas are my very, VERY favorite, but since I was covering up the erasers with feathers, it made sense to use inexpensive ones)
  • glue stick(s)
  • scrapbooking paper (you can also use magazines or wrapping paper)
  • modge-podge (I used Collage-Pauge brand)
  • optional – sponge for applying modge podge (I ended up using my fingers)
  • floral tape


Sharpen pencils, and then cut paper the length of the pencil.  I cut mine so you could still see the eraser, and then down to where the pencil starts to narrow to the point.  The paper should be about an inch and a half wide.

Use a glue stick and apply glue to the paper, then wrap the paper tightly around the pencil.  Apply modge-podge liberally around the pencil, especially on edge of paper.  Boy.  That sounds deceptively easy, but it took me about an hour!

After pencils have fully dried, attach feathers to the top of the pencils using floral tape.  This also sounds pretty easy, but the floral tape is sticky, and that stickiness gets on your fingers quickly. I looked like a multi-colored version of Big Bird by the time I was done!  It was well worth it though – the pencils look great, and hopefully kids will return them at the end of the class period.


About merryfwilliams

High school math teacher and mom of 3 amazing kids. I have a high maintenance husky and am adding a knitting obsession to the juggling routine. @merryfwilliams on Twitter
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16 Responses to Plumed Pencils

  1. Kristen says:

    Those turned out great! Did the scrapbook paper wrap well? Seems like it would be hard to get a tight fit (but that may be because I know I wouldn’t have the patience for it 🙂 ). I’m thinking I may go for this one!

    • Most of the scrapbook paper worked pretty well – the thinner the paper the better it worked. I’ll be able to tell more tomorrow when it’s 100% dry. I’m also anxious to see how well it sharpens! I should have taken a picture of all the feathers that were stuck all over me, the couch, the floor . . . I will be finding feathers for weeks!

  2. Jackie Harris says:

    Please let me know if it works. I have the same problem except with 6th graders!

    • I will! Most of the time I think they walk out with borrowed pencils without even realizing it – hopefully this will have the same effect as the ones at doctor’s offices that have the spoons taped to them and they’ll put them back when they are done!

  3. Cindy says:

    They look great! Thanks for sharing this idea:)

  4. I Speak Math says:

    Oh I just LOVE the feathers but am DEVASTATED that I don’t have a picture of you glued and feathered! Next time! 🙂

    • They were EVERYWHERE!!! My fingers were so sticky from the floral tape it was like I was Chevy Chase in the Christmas Vacation movie where he’s trying to turn the magazine pages and his fingers just stick to everything!!!

  5. druinok says:

    Of course I’m rather partial to the ladybug one… 🙂 Your project turned out great!!! I am also curious on how well they sharpen, but either way, they are beautiful!

  6. druinok says:

    Of course I’m rather partial to the ladybug one… 🙂 Your project turned out great!!! I am also curious on how well they sharpen, but either way, they are beautiful!

  7. Great job! I’m thinking of doing something similar, but maybe just add something to the top.

  8. Christy says:

    Love this! I am going out again and getting supplies!! How do the erasures work with the feathers?

    • The erasers don’t work with the feathers unfortunately – I do have big erasers the kids borrow from time to time. Maybe because they only use them in math I don’t have issues getting those back. Weird!

  9. Melissa says:

    Ticonderogas are my favorites, too.
    Hope this works.

  10. Chelsea Morgan says:

    Those are super cute! I teach juniors in high school and they STILL forget pencils. I have a great system that I use in my classroom. I allow the students to bring in pencils for extra credit each marking period (up to five for 5 points on a test) and those are the pencils that the students can borrow. Forgetful people get their pencil, other students get extra credit, and I don’t have to give up any of my own precious Ticonderogas. Everybody wins!

    • That is a great idea – I allow kids to bring in up to three items (like a pack of notebook paper or box of pencils) a nine weeks and they get a homework pass that gives them 3 extra days to turn in a homework assignment. I don’t personally like passes that exempt them from the assignment completely, but this is helpful if they had a late basketball game or a family committment that made getting homework done a real challenge time-wise. I like the idea of the pencils for extra points 🙂

  11. Shellie kamminga says:

    I found a great idea on Pinterest. I taped a pastic spoon to my pencils and I have had the same four pencils all year so far!!!

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