Tuesday, August 6, 2013

29th Day: Got... Your Red Pen?

Is there a particular item that you expect students to have all the time? The obvious answer for most teacher would be: "A pencil!" But in my classroom, the next answer would be: "A red pen."

In June, my students wrote letters to next year's sixth graders. The letters were filled with lots of comments and suggestions such as "Always do your homework" and "She will need help finding her keys. And her glasses. And her coffee." I actually expected those comments.  What I didn't expect was this one (and several variations like it): "Whatever you do, make sure you always have your red pen!"

I guess that solidifies it: Having a red pen is critical in my room!

Although I rarely "grade" things in red pen (I bet you could have guessed that I prefer purple!), I do occasionally have students grade their own work in red pen. It makes it easier for me to see the way they reviewed their work... and it stands out when compared to black or blue ink. They also use red pen when editing and revising their work to showcases the changes they have made.

More importantly, we use red pens in math. Whenever my students do math work, their red pen sits on their desk right next to their pencil. Here's an example of the red pen in use...

By the way, the fact that I was able to find an old math assignment in August is not necessarily a good thing!

However, it IS a good example of using a red pen to determine "next steps" in an order of operations problem. It always amazes me when, some time in February, I hear the swap of pencil-for-pen-for-pencil as students complete math work. It simply becomes second nature to them and it really does help students stay on track.

And {admittedly, chuckling}, I've been trying to come up with the real life situation for this particular problem to give it that sense of "application" in Common Core. Truthfully, I've spent quite a bit of time this summer designing problems with integers that DO relate to Common Core investigations. It was just funny to see a math book problem--and with my new learning about Common Core and problem solving... this problem suddenly reminded me more of a trial from Minute to Win It!"

On my most recent trip to WalMart, I found red pens in a package of ten--for a dollar! That's just ten cents a pen, and you can be sure, I stocked up!

Next week, I will talk a bit about our sixth grade binders... filled with lots of learning, and always. ALWAYS a red pen!

What item is a "must have" in your classroom? Do your students use red pen to guide their thinking in math?


  1. I have my students use red pens to grade their own work daily (I, of course, also grade it "for real" after we go over it together).
    I do find that red pens are constantly disappearing though. What do you do to ensure that your pens don't wander off?

  2. I use all different colored markers to grade work and occasionally I will have the kids use highlighters... can you elaborate more on how you use the red pens in math?

    Floating Through Fifth

  3. Love this idea! I must stock up on red pens now! I've also let students use colored pencils in Math!

  4. What a fantastic idea, Kim! I am adding this idea to my list of back to school musts!!

    Fun in Room 4B

  5. Kim~ Great post. I do something very similar. Usually my smarties use orange colored pencil. They always have colored pencils out in math for our notebooks, and I tell them to underline the specific parts in multi-step problems etc... because my eyes are drawn to orange, it is my favorite color. LOL
    Enjoy your week!
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  6. I love the red pen, but more impotantly the students LOVE to use the red pen. It is like a little magic wand, when you ask students to do it in red, it always gets done :)
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  7. I love using the red pen to underline which operation is being done!

    Beach Teach

  8. What a great alternative to highlighters! I think all kids love using red pens. And I love how you used them to identify the next step! Totally stealing this one:). Thank you!


Thanks for reading this post. Comments bring me JOY! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation...