What “Old School” Materials Can’t You Live Without?

AOE Old School

The school I have taught in for the last six years underwent a total remodel this summer. As finishing touches were put up around the building this week, I noticed contractors going around and installing brand new manual pencil sharpeners. This act sparked a hot debate among teachers about whether or not they wanted these throwbacks in their classrooms. Some teachers were excited about having a simple, familiar, and accessible machine for the students to use. Others declared the old style pencil sharpener’s obsolesence, opting for slick, electronic models. It really got me thinking about ways we embrace technological advances in the art room and ways we cling to tradition. I want to hear from you!

What “old school” traditions or materials are still vital to your classroom?

On the flip side, which “new fangled” things are worth keeping around? 


Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Jorena

    I wish I had an old school manual wall sharpener. They are just the thing for colored pencils. Nothing kills an electric pencil sharpener faster than colored pencils. We use the small hand held sharpeners for these, but the little kids have trouble- a wall mounted sharpener would take care of that. I am also trying to transition to color sticks but, at the end and beginning of each school year, I get bags of colored pencils that other teachers have cleaned out and I just can’t stand to throw them away myself.

    • Wall sharpeners are a great solution to the colored pencil problem.

  • Susan

    I have both a manual pencil sharpener and an electronic one as well. I designate the manual wall sharpener for the kids to use, as the electric sharpeners are noisier and tend to burn out with overuse.

    I also must say, that I am “in love” with my doc camera and have happily replaced the overhead projector that I used once upon a time. And, I totally gear lessons around projected power points, etc. :)

    • Ditto on the document camera…so useful for demos in the art room!

  • laura

    manual pencil sharpeners are the way to go!!! Electronic break all the time.. forget about it..

    • rebecca viers

      I had to remove my manual pencil sharpener from the wall because it was so horrid that it wasn’t worth my energy. I just attach the single sharpeners to the trash can handles with wire and the students sharpen right over the trash can. The are cheap and tend to not get thieved. I use my electric for myself since I sharpen 30 pencils in the morning.

  • Another idea that comes to mind is the traditional ‘Compass” to draw a circle, or the new plastic ‘Safety Compass’ – I prefer the old way, but love the safety aspect of the other… Anyone else feel the same way?

  • Rogero O

    I like the energy used when sharpening a pencil with the wall mounted pencil sharpener. Plus, the satisfaction of a seeing an evenly sharpened pencil beats the electric ones no matter how expensive they are.

  • Tiffany

    I asked to have one installed in my room because I got tired of the electric ones burning out on me. I also use the old school kindergarten/first grade laddie pencils that don’t break as easy and stay sharper longer.