Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Can I do it two days in a row?  Two posts, two days, both under 45 minutes?

I recently had a conversation with a teacher friend about her classroom pencil system. She had some good routines in place for handling pencil issues. She was surprised to hear how I do pencils because I. don't. do. pencils. At all. Pencils just don't work for me for a bunch of reasons. Many years ago I switched to retractable clicker pens like these from Staples.

Clicker pens are the way to go!
They cost $11.99 for a bin of 50. I get them for less than that by shopping the back-to-school sales. I bought two bins the first year I left pencils behind and only one bin each year since then, and I always have plenty around. They last a looonnnng time. They come in black, blue, and red. I put out the black and blue, and keep red for "special" uses, such as revision in writers' workshop. They are retractable, which means no lids to lose, and pen cups stay clean because the retracted tips don't leave ink spots. And  they come with a nice rubbery grip built right on to the pen... good for little fingers and mine, too. I have been more than pleased with how they work, surprisingly.

We use skinny markers a lot as well.
I use the classics– no washables for me!
The kids write with markers for the first month of school, then skinny markers are used for some drawing and certain kinds of writing as we switch over to our clickers starting in October.  I get Crayola skinny markers (and fat ones, too) when they go on sale at Target for $1 a box at back-to-school time. (And no washables for me! The washable marker ink comes back off the paper too easily and makes a mess of kids' hands and their papers. The regular Crayola markers wash out just fine and stay on the paper.)

The rest of our writing comes from dry erase markers (see previous post here.) And we also use a variety of crayons, special markers, novelty pens, etc, etc. There is an abundance of writing and drawing that goes on in the classroom.

Perhaps most important of all, there is an added bonus to kids' learning when it comes to clicker pens and markers– you can't erase. Kids don't lose all that time in erasing. They learn to be more purposeful in their writing. They learn to correct mistakes with a quick strike out (yes, I teach them that term) and they learn to keep on moving along! No obsessing over mistakes– life moves on and so do we with our work.

Yes, yes, there are a few pencils in my room, but they are not used by kids unless the project really calls for it. I use them for running records mostly.

Give it a try. You might be surprised to join the ranks of penciless classrooms!

The post Pencil-less! first appeared on


  1. Wow- this is such an interesting thought. I LOVE the point you made about not being able to erase. Erasing does take such a long time sometimes, and I'm sure you get to really see what/how your kiddos are thinking when you can see what they've crossed out and fixed. I may try this in my Writer's Workshop in the fall!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you think it's worth a try. If you remember where you read this come fall, and you end up trying the system, do stop back in and let me know how it goes. It takes some getting used to, but now I wouldn't do it any other way :) So glad you left word!


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