smooth writers


Writing with fluency !

This morning I was startled as I was starting to prepare my table for my groups that weave  their way throughout my school day.  My horseshoe  table had 8 yellow #2 pencils on it.  It was weird, strange and ugly.  They were sharpened and perfect with nary a chew mark.

Here is the story:  two years ago, I read in some wonderful professional publication (??) that the little ones should be writing with pens or markers during the school day instead of the yellow #2 that is required when we take ISAT tests.  Yesterday, I had to cancel my PM students to administer ISAT to students who had missed a testing session.  Scrambling quickly, I looked for my #2’s to get all of them sharpened and ready.

I know some of you are not convinced just because I say so that the pen is far superior to the pencil. I have been writing with the #2’s most of my life.   This is what I remembered reading.  Students can not erase when using a pen.  “Why would that be good?” you might ask, probably because you love to erase.

Here are some of the reasons that it is good to use a pen:

  1. They can’t erase ferociously and rip holes in their paper.
  2. It is easier to write with a pen than a pencil.  Actually a hand using a pen will not tire easily.
  3. Students can be taught to cross out, which leaves tracks of their thinking and approximations, for those who get excited about approximation.
  4. Pens come in many beautiful colors.
  5. More writing is accomplished daily.

In the intervention that I am working with we start with markers and then we move into pen as their letters become smaller.  “How are mistakes corrected?” you might be asking.  I have small groups and we need the students to see the words in the correct spelling.  Helping students to recognize if it correct or not is a skill that continues to grow.  When we discover that a word is not correct, we use ‘boo boo’ tape (white Post-it).  We also spend hours talking about making the ‘boo boos’ in life are important, and it is how we make progress as readers and writers.

Personally, until about two years ago a pencil never left my side.  I was covered in shavings.  Pencils were my life, and that is how I wrote. Write, erase, write, erase.  Ease with technology expanded my life in countless ways.  I still feel somewhat  uncomfortable with a pen instead of a pencil  in my hands.  It can be different for this generation.  They can become proficient with a pen and move to processing into the computer as soon as it is feasible.

Pencils or pens….”What is prettier?”

PS Yellow #2’s also always remind me of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills….again, I am showing my age!



About Nanc

lifelong teacher who is semi-retired (does this sound better?) who loves God, family and laughing... who hates social injustice... who wants to write every day... who needs to exercise every day... who blog hops... who wants to live her everyday life led by her savior, Jesus Christ!

10 responses »

  1. I think you make a great case for the pen over the pencil. As a lefty the pencil did not serve me well. But at this stage, I can’t write with a pen anymore. I am so hooked on this keyboard for communication… How about your kids?

  2. Not too long ago, I had an administrator BERATE me – BIG TIME – for allowing my first graders to use pens….sigh…since then, it’s been back to #2pencils even though that admin is long gone …the marks are still evident on my writing soul. I would LOVE to find some research on this to share ….or else YOU need to write this up as an action reserach project!

  3. I remember when I had to change from using a pencil to a pen in school. I didn’t like it, it was too permanent, but that was also a sign of growing up. You could be responsible for using this tool, made me feel like a grown-up. Great points Nanc, I think I read that same thing, but I could never get the teachers to buy into it.

  4. Recently, I have felt an attachment to the pencil that I can not explain. I almost always write in pencil in my writer’s notebook…more for the aesthetic than the fear of mistake. I don’t care about crossing out, etc. There is something about the sharp tip (they have to be sharpened like a razor) that wears to a softer tip…

  5. I definitely go back and forth. Depends on my find at Staples! I love colors and pens and markers, but then if I go with a pencil it has to be sharp and and Ticonderoga! I’ve tried others . . . but there is only one. Thanks for your insights on this debate!

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