Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why Feather Pens?

So, I did this the other day:


I used two posts that I found via Pinterest for directions and inspiration; you can find them here and here. I found pens on sale for 29 cents, and picked up feathers and floral tape at Michael's. I mixed plain and printed feathers together for the pens you see above.

But why feather pens? I mean, sure, they're cool and pretty, but I'm super picky about pens; I order the expensive Uni-ball roller pens when I get my classroom supplies and use them exclusively when I need a pen. Most of the time I use pencils, specifically very sharp Ticonderogas. So why go to the trouble to make feather pens for my classroom?

One choice that we make as teachers is whether or not to provide our students with school supplies. I'm not talking about students and families that literally can't afford supplies; that's a different topic entirely. I'm talking about stocking your classroom with pens and pencils, crayons and markers, scissors and glue. Blank notebook paper. Do you provide them, or do you make students bring them? How do you handle it when they forget? Why?

For the last several years I have been collecting most of my students' supplies at the start of the year and then doling them out in my classroom as needed. I also provided their folders and composition books; at most, they needed a pen or a pencil. And the more that I did this, the more sense it made. When we needed highlighters or colored pencils or scissors, I simply passed them around.

Last year I switched to tables in my classroom, big tables, so I finally had room for supplies close to every student. It looked like this:

My old classroom. Sadly, I didn't take any closer photos of the bins.

I found everything on sale at Target. The bins are a heavy canvas, but not especially sturdy. They'll probably have to be replaced after this year. It was Easter when I went shopping, so there are three metal buckets from the dollar section in spring colors that matched my room. Each table had rulers, scissors, glue sticks, highlighters, and colored pencils. Sometimes I added pens and pencils, but they inevitably walked away at the end of class. And yes, even (especially?) 8th graders will need to be told repeatedly not to play with rulers in class. I left them in because we use rulers often to keep our written work neat; I'm more annoyed by a messy entry in a chart than I am by a kid hitting himself with a ruler.

So as I planned for the coming school year, I thought about what supplies I would need and how I would share them. I have enough black Sharpies for every student, but I won't put those out for reasons that should be obvious to every teacher. I'll hand those out and collect them when we need them. I'll keep an eye out for staplers and tape dispensers that can go in each bin. My big purchase will be replacing the small scissors in the photo with adult-sized ones.

And I'll spend a few dollars and a few hours creating feather pens. Need a pen for a quiz? Use a feather pen, not a colored pencil or a highlighter (it happens). Forget to return my pen? It's covered in pink feathers. It's pretty obvious where it came from. Don't want to use a feather pen? Bring your own.

More feather pens. Faster than making notebooks.

How do you handle supplies in your classroom? What happens when students forget? How do you keep your pens from walking away?


  1. I love what I saw on Pinterest one time where a teacher got "I love Justin Bieber" pencils for her classroom. Thought that was pretty funny. Though if that teacher had any Bieber fans, they'd probably all go missing. :)

    But yeah, I like the feather idea so you know who still has your pens.

    1. I'm thinking a might order some custom pencils that say "I stole this pencil from Miss Kelley."

  2. My friend has green pencils that say MATH STAR, so it they're out of her room, we know whose they are.
    I have students trade me a valuable item (phone, earbuds, key, etc) for a pen/pencil. They have to make a trade before class starts or they're out of luck. At the end of class, they return the pen/pencil & get their item back. It works great.
    I have buckets that partners share that have markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue, thin Expo, mini Expo eraser, and ruler. They're out every day so they have everything they might need. Probably taking out markers this year & just using colored pencils since the markers bleed through.

    1. I debated trying to get markers this year, but decided against because I didn't want it getting on the new tables.