8 Ways To Use Pens in the Elementary School Classroom

Updated 04/23/21

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Creative ways teachers can use pens to enhance their classroom activities and increase student engagement.

8 ways to use pens in the elementary school classroom

Kids love pens, and who can blame them? They come in all different colors, they never have to be sharpened, and of course, writing with them makes kids feel more grown-up! But elementary school teachers typically don’t encourage students to bring pens to class, let alone complete their schoolwork with them. Perhaps it’s the fear that kids will get ink on their clothes or that pen is too “permanent” when young students are learning new concepts. Whatever the reason, we’ve done our research and we think pens have a place in the hands of grade-schoolers right alongside the #2 pencil! (Not to mention we could use a break from all those pencil shavings). So we’ve rounded up eight ways teachers can use pens to enhance their classroom activities and increase student engagement—permanently!


1. When handwriting activities get stale, switch to pen.

Have a group of reluctant writers in your class? Let them take turns completing writing activities with a quick-drying pen like the Paper Mate® InkJoy® Gel Pen and allow them to pick their own color. New writing tools always pique kids’ interests, and when students get excited about a new tool, you’ll find their handwriting engagement levels get a major boost, too.

student practicing handwriting

Source: Two Writing Teachers


2. Try “sharing the pen.”

This interactive writing activity is great for younger students to practice writing conventions, handwriting, and spelling. As the teacher, you choose a word or phrase like “once upon a time” and write it on a sheet of paper or flip chart. You then “share the pen” by passing it to each student to continue the story in their own words. Paper Mate Flair® pens are best for this one since they work more like markers.

child writing on an easel

Source: This Reading Mama


3. Let them do their math assignments in (gasp!) pen.

Yes, you can do math homework in pen; in fact, some teachers prefer it. While pencils are the obvious choice, they tend to encourage the “erasing trap” where students spend valuable minutes erasing their work, only to be left with a smudged sheet of paper and little time left to finish the assignment. With pen, erasing is not an option—and better yet, teachers get to see students’ thought process as they tried to work out the problem. Still sound too risky for your students? Try Paper Mate’s EraserMate® to ease your way into it.

Austin Powers meme

Source: Edweek.org


4. Say happy birthday the “write” way.

Student gifts aren’t necessary, but they are a great way to make each child feel special. A simple, fun gift that kids go nuts for is the Paper Mate InkJoy Quatro multi-color pen. Buy a bunch of them at the beginning of the school year (or add them to your classroom wish list) so you’ll always have them in stock. Then attach a cute printable tag for the perfect kid-friendly gift. You can even let the birthday student use his or her special pen for classwork that day.

multi colored pen with a happy birthday note

Source: Saddle Up for 2nd Grade


5. Spin the pen.

Great for filling in those last 10 minutes of class when your lesson ends early, this simple, prep-free game is a great way to review test material or go over what was learned in class that day. Simply sit your students in a circle with a pen in the center, have each child take a turn spinning the pen, and whoever it points to must answer the teacher’s question.

colored pens in a circle

Source: Busy Teacher


6. Remember pen pals?

Yep, traditional pen pal programs still exist. Despite technologies like Skype, email, and FaceTime, students still reap important benefits from sending handwritten notes to their multicultural friends, including improved reading and writing skills, a sense of writing with purpose for a “real” audience, and patience (since, contrary to the world of text and email, students must actually wait for their responses to arrive). Using pen to write these letters, even if a sloppy copy is done first with pencil, ensures that their letters will be clear and easy to read without eraser smudges. And where pencil tends to fade, ink lasts forever, so students can keep the letters to look back on later in life. Source: Edutopia

pen pal letters

Source: Tried and True Teaching Tools


7. Host a pen “graduation” ceremony.

When you feel that students are ready to take the leap from using pencils to pen, make it a special occasion by having each child turn in their old pencils in exchange for a Paper Mate InkJoy 100ST. You’ll notice students will take extra pride in using their new writing tools.

purple and pink pens

Source: Two Writing Teachers


8. You’ve been penned!

And finally, an activity that teachers can enjoy (because, seriously, who likes pens more than teachers?)! This is a fun activity to boost morale by sharing your favorite types of ink with your colleagues. One teacher secretly leaves a package of his or her favorite pens on a colleague’s desk with a note that says “You’ve Been Penned!” That teacher then passes on the penning activity by leaving a package for another teacher, and so on. You get the point! (Get the printable here).

you've been penned activity

Source: Teachers Pay Teachers


Want to add pens to your back-to-school supply list? Simply click here to create or update your list to share with parents.

Originally posted 2017

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