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I will not let a class leave when I count the supplies and see some are
gone. I make them late for their next class and let the next class wait
after they enter the room, while they hunt for the lost items. I give
them an out however, I say OOPS I think someone may have lost the paper
punches. I used to have 20 when your class arrived, now I only have 18
!! Lets all get out of our seats and look all over the room. I bet
they got lost under a table or in the used newspaper.
The movement all over the room gives the guilty child a way to slip
items out of a pocket without being noticed.
Almost 100% of the time the child who took them returns them to me,
acting proud that he or she found the lost (actually stolen) items!
Of course there is the possibility that they were lost. But I have
actually seen some of the culprits that I suspected of theft slip the
items out of their pockets or folders and return them to me. This has
worked many times for me. The students are surprised that I know how
many items I have and that I am aware when some are missing. After they
see that I will take the time to get each and every item back they are
less apt to steal from the art room.
I also allow students to check out supplies to take home so they can get
the use of the items out of their system. I leave their name on the
board until the item is returned.