Pencil or Pen?

A friend rang me tonight and asked what we do at our school as regards the use of pen or pencil for general writing. At my school everyone from five year olds up use a pen for writing and a pencil for maths.

I remember when I first started teaching we used pencil pretty much all the time and if you were ‘good’ at writing you got to use a pen and we always used pencil in your maths book. Juniors always had to use a pencil and I spent many happy hours sharpening pencils with my handy Stanley knife. At one stage we accessed a powered pencil sharpener- it only lasted a few days as it was so much fun that everything that could be stuffed in it was and was immediately sharpened to a form a lethal weapon.

In my class now we use pens all the time apart from maths- why do we do maths in pencil? I have no idea really- just because we do! I have a tray of pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers etc for focus learning groups so that children don’t have to waste time trying to find something to write with. We have class sets of art pencils, felt tip, highlighter and whiteboard pens for children to use.

I have a personal hatred of liquid twink and will happily use the dry whiteout roller to correct mistakes if needed. Children can buy their own if they want but most let the school buy it for them.

I take handwriting lessons with my Year Four/Five class on a usually regular basis and recently have started to reward effort and attainment in handwriting by giving them release to practise their typing ability. I have made individual sheets for children to copy the lessons from so they don’t have to peer at a badly written example on the whiteboard and I can model better on a piece of paper than a whiteboard.

John Greatorex and I collaborated a few years back to create a set of NZ fonts for Apple and PC and I have a copy of this on my computer. It is great to put good examples of WALTs etc on the wall in NZ fonts. I had asked Learning Media to come up with a NZ font ages ago but drew a blank response so outsourced the idea!


So that’s what I do! The teacher asked if I could help her find out what other people do at other schools. A tweet was needed! I was surprised to find out that most people tend to use pencil in the younger grades and move onto to pen as the children get older.

So what do you promote in your school and why?

6 thoughts on “Pencil or Pen?

  1. Hey, you just reminded me of a ‘thing’ at a school I once worked at.

    All students had to write with pencil but were FORBIDDEN to use an erasor??? I thought the only plus side to writing in pencil was that you could rub it out if you so choose. Hmmmm? Just another thing I just don’t get I suppose.

    Ps. Looking forward to Breakfast.

  2. What a great idea, asking for comments via twitter. I’m still getting used to this idea and have wondered about the validity of it. But now I can see the power of sharing our practice and am pleased to be part of this.

  3. Pingback: Pens or Pencils | Educational Origami

  4. Wow what an interesting discussion – I am fascinated by this licence thing. Being a bloke I would be the only geriatric on the planet still not allowed to use a pen – use what you like – me I’ll take the keyboard!!! Mind you I can remember not long ago (when we talked about computer literacy) that ‘THEY’ were handing out driving licences for that.

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