Slice of Life Story Day 7 -Finding a Particular Pen Friend

Today I entered a classroom carrying a paper shopping bag. A simple unadorned bag made from recycled paper. ‘What’s in the bag?’ students asked somewhat predictably. Such is the natural curiosity of children. ‘All shall be revealed in time.' I replied like a magician of sorts. They settled on the floor in front of me and our writer’s workshop began…

From the bag I retrieved artifacts to share with these Grade 5 students. I carefully told the story connected with each item. They listened actively, -keen to know more. In turn, I revealed the camera that my Father used all those years ago, a marble a small child left on my desk, my dominoes set from Mexico, my Ipod, a shell, a magnifying glass and finally a pen. Ah, but no ordinary pen! Oh no.  This pen is my pen of choice. It is a Uniball Gel Impact pen with black ink. It is the only pen I choose with which to write. It feels comfortable in my hand. When I am writing with this pen words seem to flow more easily. They effortlessly spill across the page. I actually feel like I am speed writing. Being left handed this is my wonderful delusion.

 I don’t feel comfortable with fine point pens. They have a resistance that my heavy hand finds disconcerting. I choose the 1 mm pen that glides and slides across the pages of my writer’s notebook. The page disappears under the words that emerge from my pen. I have a pen friend! I buy them in lots of four. I am fearful of running out of ink. They do not last that long, and they cost more than conventional ball point pens, but such is my pen obsession. It is not uncommon for me to have three or four lodged in my shirt pocket at any one time. ‘Got enough pens?’ Vicki will ask. ‘I hope so’ I reply.

I share these revelations with the students and encourage them to gather their own artifacts and consider the stories that lie hidden. Draw them. Photograph them, bring them to school if possible.

I was not surprised to discover that a number of these young writers also had definite views on pens. I felt easier for knowing this.


  1. Left handed, me too and writing on my computer keyboard is one reason that it's a godsend for me, a left hander but you are still holding out. Interesting.
    I love this exercise and I have variations on it for my drama class to get kids creating characters with props and share their worlds.
    Great story Alan and the picture that comes with it, wonderful

  2. Those uniball impact pens are the BEST!!!! I love those things for writing.

    I use flair pens for grading.

    I use Ticonderoga pencils for writing in my gradebook.

    I am very picky when it comes to my writing utensils. You are not alone!

  3. You, indeed, are not alone, Alan. Although I find that color affects my mood many times, so I do use other colors. Today is an orange Flair day...I need something to brighten up a Monday.

  4. I loved the way the words flowed... obviously using your favored pen...

  5. What a great way to engage students. As far as pens go, gel pens are the only way to go for me. I lost a lot at school and decided maybe I should just use ball point there, but it just wasn't the same--long live gel!!!

  6. I used to have an iPod with a click wheel--just like yours, but on one of my transatlantic trips it went missing! I still miss it and wish it were around. Silly.

    But I also am silly about my pens for grading--brightly colored gel pens to stand out against my students' black or blue pens. I like the pop!

    Elizabeth E.

  7. Pens are our friends. We establish a strong relationship. I liked your activity. We build special links with some of our stuff. These items are more than things, they became in sensitive beings. We dialog and get along with them. Asking students bring some of their important things, is a good way of knowing each other.

  8. Alan,

    I loved this post. I choose pens by how they feel in my hand, then how smooth they write. Ted, my friend and neighbor designed and made my husband and I a handmade pen for Christmas. Dan's pen is made from deer antler and for the barrel is made from a 30 ott shell. My pen is made from monocromatic blue acrylic - cut and shaped. It is my favorite pen!

  9. Yes, it's all about the pen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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