Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brillance (or Laziness)

My students use pens. Not just sometimes, all the time. The only pencils in our classroom are colored pencils. Well, and the ones I use in my plan book because that can not be written in pen.

I made the switch to pens several years ago. I hated all the erasing my kids did, especially in their writing. I wanted to be able to see their thinking process as much as possible. Plus, elementary students tend to erase with vigor and often end up with holes in their paper. I also hated all the pencil sharpening. It's noisy and time consuming.

So I decided to get rid of pencils. The students don't even seem to notice a difference. They just draw a line through anything they want to change as they write and move on.

Pens do get lost and I have to replace them. But so did pencils. Occasionally students manage to take apart a pen but I try to see that as an experiment and exploration on their part. On the whole, I couldn't be happier with this decision.

The one thing I've learned, though, is to throw out the caps. They make awfully fun things to throw, chew on, bend, and who knows what else.

This idea has turned out to be brilliant, but I think it was really born out of laziness and irritation. I think that may be true of most of my good ideas.

9 comments:

Jill Fisch said...

I am so glad to hear this! I have been toying with this idea for a long time. My teammate and I even bought pens (at our school parents give the teachers $20 for each student and we go and buy the supplies) to try the second half of the year - we thought we should work our way up to it. Pencils are such a hassle to keep sharp and you are right about wanting to see the revisions students make. Now I am excited about trying out our pens - maybe we won't wait until the second half of the year. Thanks for sharing this.

tesstrue said...

I agree with you and Jill. When I started teaching 2nd grade writing last year, I did all I could to keep up with pencils that didn't sharpen... and then there was the erasure issue. I decided to use pens and I love them!

Jim Randolph said...

Sounds great! And as for laziness, I think that's great too. When people say, "You're so organized" I tell them it's because I'm too lazy to actually LOOK for things, so I have to put them in the same spots...

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if you use pencils for drawing or anything else in class that students would want the chance to erase mistakes? If not, do you find any students getting frustrated that they cannot have a "perfect" paper?

Launa Hall said...

Brilliant. Thank you for explaining this--I want to try it, too. There is something very unsatisfying about the mark a #2 pencil makes.

Sarah said...

Interesting! I loved your honest paragraph at the end, there :). I might try this -- pencils drive me nuts too!

Green Eggs & Ham said...

I absolutely love this idea! As a first year teacher I would have never thought of this idea. Pens last much longer than pencils! A pencil sharpener can be a distraction and very loud in the classroom.

I am wondering one thought. If you work on handwriting with the students do you have them rewrite until it is better? Do you have them cross it out? What is the best way to practice handwriting with pens?

Also when it comes to math do you have them write on papers or do you use dry erase boards? I love that the student can watch their thought process when it comes to writing, but I would love to know more about how you approach the rest of the subjects?

I would definitely use this approach but would love to see how the students use it in the rest of the subjects.

Jenny said...

A few more thoughts: We use pens for all of our writing - text, math, science journals, etc. We use crayons for drawing mostly.

There are kids who are perfectionists, more this year than normally. I think those kids would erase so vigorously and frequently that they would wear holes in the paper. Today we looked at Hooray for Diffendoofer Day (the Dr. Seuss book co-authored and illustrated by Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith published after Seuss' death) because it includes Seuss' drafts and planning. We showed the students how he crossed things out and made changes. I think it helps to see someone they respect doing the same thing we expect of them.

If writing is illegible I will ask students to rewrite it. But I'm not a major stickler about handwriting. As a first grade teacher I am trying to ensure that students are forming letters correctly and not setting up bad habits for years to come. But I don't think whether they are writing with pens or pencils makes a difference in that.

Although I prefer the feeling of writing with a pen.

noretreat said...

I've jumped on your "pens only" bandwagon and love it. Thanks for blazing the trail.