July 11, 2011

Lead-Free Zone

I found, on the Excellence in Writing website, several audio downloads by Andrew Pudewa addressing various topics related to writing instruction.  In one of his seminars, he suggests that pencils should be banned in the classroom!

Let me say, in no uncertain terms, that I hate pencils in my classroom.  They constantly break or dull and need resharpening, the sharpener is endlessly jammed, the shavings make a huge mess, the lead is difficult to read, the erasers never work/run out too quickly, the mechanical ones are always out of lead... the list goes on and on. 

But up until this point, I haven't banned them from my classroom because I didn't want to be the teacher that makes up rules simply because the are my preference.  (This probably goes back to hatred of my parents using the "because I said so" reasoning.  I try hard not to be that teacher.)   

But here I have an "expert" giving me logical reasoning as to why I shouldn't allow them?  You have my attention, Mr. Pudewa!

The reasoning for this recommendation are as follows:

  1. You cannot erase it.  This is helpful for teaching students that writing is a process rather than something that should be done perfectly the first time through.  Students should learn from their mistakes rather than hiding them with erasers. 
  2. Pencils are neurologically, tactilely, and emotionally disturbing to children.  He says this is because of how pencils are constantly changing (dulling), causing a different feeling in the students' hands.  And what students want, more than anything else in the world, is consistency.  This, he says, is why they have a compelling need to sharpen their pencils every two minutes.
  3. Pencils contribute to Tired Hand Syndrome.  He says this is especially true for those who are visually challenged because they push harder to make a darker line that's easier to see. 

With such evidence to back up this recommendation, I think it's safe to say that my future classrooms will be lead-free zones except for special circumstances (testing, drawing, and coloring come to mind).  Now, if only I can find an expert to tell my students why they shouldn't submit fringed notebook paper.  :)


  1. I seriously cannot use pencils. This is so interesting to me because I had no idea "tired hand syndrome" was real. My hand used to be sooo tired from pressing down on the paper!!

  2. Haha! I don't think it's a real syndrome, but it should be! And students today have no idea what it was like to hand write multiple drafts of essays because they do it all on the computer. Spoiled, I say!