Grade 3-5

The Write Stuff

Updated: December 29 2015,
Author: Abbejean Kehler

Right now you are probably using a pencil to do your school work. But do you know where the pencil came from, or how it is made? Did you know that the Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key was first written in pencil? And that a good sized tree can yield enough wood to make nearly 300,000 pencils. Now you have the chance to find out all about the pencil! Then you too, will have the "Write Stuff!"


yellow pencilBegin this lesson by having the students discuss the introduction provided on the students page. Hey, look at your pencil. Yes, that very one you may be holding in your hand. Ever wonder it came from? Who made it? How they made it? Or how it got to you? To find out more about that pencil you will use several resources: the Internet, maps, reference materials and your own creativity.

Learning Objectives

  • Use a pencil as their focus to discover the three basic questions that must be answered in a market economy: What is produced? How it is produced? For whom is it produced?
  • Research the history, production and resources needed to create a pencil.
  • On maps, identify places where natural resources used in the production and manufacture of pencils are located.
  • List transportation systems which can be used to deliver products to people.

Resource List

  • Pencil Pages:  Students will use this website to research what materials pencils are made from.
  • What a Pencil is Made of: This PDF provides information on what pencils are made of. It is a great offline alternative for the Pencil Pages website.
    Pencil Resources


paper and pencilDistribute this sheet to the students so they can search the following Web sites for research. Their task is to discover one thing about pencils that might stump the rest of the class.

  1. Write Stuff Handout

    Research Pages:

    No. 339 Thoreau's Pencils by John H. Lienhard
    How was the famous philosopher, Henry David Throeau related to the development of pencils? Access this link to find out.
    Access this site to read about the history of the manufacturing of pencils.

    Anatomy of A Pencil
    Access this link to see the different parts of a pencil.

    How A Cedar Pencil is Made
    Accesss this site to see how a cedar pencil is made.

    The World Almanac for Kids
    This site features an almanac that shows the population of cities.

    [NOTE: have available the necessary supplies that this lesson will call for: pencils, post it notes, and/or pins.]

  2. Divide your students into groups of three students and have them do the following activities:

    • Distribute "The Great Pencil Factory" activity sheet to each group along with this map.  Have the students read the story and asnwer the questions.
    • Have the students use  website to find out what a pencil is made of.  Be sure they visit all of the categories on the site.
    • Give each student a new pencil. Ask all the students to examine their pencils and brainstorm a list of natural resources that would be necessary to produce a pencil.
    • The objective of the research is to place the pencil factory close to the resources as well as to transportation that can deliver the pencils to consumers. Have the students decide where their factory would be and provide three reasons to justify the location. Use the following information in order to assist students in figuring out what a pencil is made of and where those resources come from: Pencil Resources.
    • You can use post it notes or pins to show all the students' selections on a bigger map in the classroom.
  3. Design Studio

    • Prepare a copy of the enlarged pencil for each student. Have the students design a pencil, or have them create a drawing of their own pencil design – perhaps one with a different shape or size, or one with additional features.


Ask the students if they ever thought it would take so many people to make a pencil? Tell the students that the pencil in their hand sure makes it easier to write and keep track of things and do their math! Just think a minute – someone had to invent it and figure out what resources to use. Then, they had to plan how to produce your pencil.