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You Oughta Know About Keeping Pencils Moving

I'm participating in my first blog hop with Mrs. Mcclain
When I taught writing one thing that DROVE ME CRAZY, seriously crazy, was when my students weren't writing (go figure). We've all been there... you know that place right after completing an awarding winning mini-lesson, giving explicit directions, and checking for understanding. You think everyone is ready, but when you say go, a few students just sit.You oughta know that some colorful pencil toppers could be the end to that. There are three different toppers:
  1. Green = I am good to go 
  2. Yellow = I am okay for now, but could use a check-in soon 
  3. Red = I need help 
The key to using these is the level of ownership (and competition) you put on the students. After checking for understanding and letting them know who I would be be conferring with, I would do a final sweep for questions and then say "Green Goes Up," which is the cue that everyone in the class should be using a pencil with a green topper. Before saying "Write!" I build a little excitement by noting "Last period had all green and yellow for the first 13 minutes, but I believe this class can go fifteen minutes, WRITE!" Students know that the moment I say "write" the clock is running. My middle schoolers loved competition! 

When I worked with a student or small group I could always look up and know where my writers were, which was really important to me. The toppers are big enough so that teachers can quickly scan around and see every pencil. The goal is to keep pencils moving throughout independent writing time! #greenismydream

The red pencil topper has a little checklist of things to do while waiting for help, which should reflect whatever you want students to do. In my writing class I emphasized planting a new seed in their Writer's Notebook, silently reading, reviewing their notes, and making sure they have a specific question/thought. If students were reading when I arrived, I would spend two minutes talking about what they read because my students sometimes liked to fake read (that's a post for another day). Lastly, I stopped enabling kids from having questions or comments like "What should I write" or "I'm stuck." Students had to be precise with what was holding them back. I know that some teachers like to do an "Ask 3 Before Me," but during writing class I want students writing and not disturbing others. 

 USAGE TIP: Laminate them!

Well those are my two cents... Hope you liked it! 


  1. What a cute idea! I know that the kids would absolutely love using these too (:

    Living the First Grade Dream

    1. Thanks Katie! I also forgot to mention to keep text on the toppers at a minimum because that can also distract the kids! Have fun!

  2. This is an awesome idea!!! This could be beneficial in several areas!! This would also help teachers who are under that Common Core Umbrella because the students are being more proactive in there learning!!

  3. Such a great idea! And I am in LOVE with your blog design it is A-DOR-A-BLE!

    Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten

    1. Thank you Jessica! I'd be interested to know how something like this could work with the little ones.

  4. Clever! I love the idea of a checklist to think about while waiting for help. Thanks for sharing this idea!

  5. I love this idea! Thank you so much!! :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this valuable strategy, Tanesha. Not only is Keep Pencils Moving useful for keeping students motivated, but will also keep them engaged!
    Best wishes!

  7. I was so excited to find your post for the You Oughta Know Blog Hop, I'm your newest follower. I've pinned you too!
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