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Making School Memories: No Pens Day Wednesday

Type: All  |  Category: Making School Memories  |  Date: 8th January 2018


There will be no need for students to whisper on this day - No Pens Day Wednesday is designed to encourage your class to actively talk to one another. It’s time to make a memory of a truly unique day; one that the students will not stop talking about!

Lesson plans, ideas and free resources for hosting a No Pens Day Wednesday event at your school to make school memories

Making School Memories is designed to do exactly what its title suggests – provide you with wonderful ideas that will make children remember their time at school fondly. Leavers’ Books will take a look at unique and fun ideas that can turn your classroom upside down, strip away the bland and mundane lesson plans and rally make education an experience.

It’s time to put down the pens and pick up your language. Here is your opportunity to try something different, known as No Pens Day Wednesday.

So, what is it? What is No Pens Day Wednesday?

No Pens Day Wednesday encourages schools and settings to put down their pens and to run a day of speaking and listening activities started by The Communication Trust with the aim to engage students to learn in a different way and challenge school staff to think of alternative ways to deliver the curriculum.

Classed as a national listening and speaking educational event with the UK, it occurs annually and is now in its seventh year of running. No Pens Day Wednesday is a coalition of over 50 not-for-profit organisations, aimed at supporting the children’s workforce. It focuses on communication in education, and also at home, suggesting for all to think about different methods of memorisation and thinking on your feet, rather than note taking, whilst highlighting the importance of writing (you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone).

What is No Pens Day Wednesday?

Best of all, it doesn’t even have to be on a Wednesday – if your school wants to have a day with no pens, it’s incredibly simple to download free resources and lesson plans and host it any day… Even as a surprise for when the students come into school that day.

The Idea Behind it… Why it Began

No Pens Day Wednesday is a unique and clever way to boost the use of speech and language in school. Language helps with behavioural and emotional development: not only is good spoken language skills strong predictors of later academic success, but poor language is linked to poor behaviour, even in very young children. It’s suggested that 2 in 3 language-delayed 3 year olds have behaviour problems, and with a day such as this, the aim is to help solve this problem.

”Many of the teachers used the day to expand on class topics, introducing modelling, debate, discussion of photographs and artefacts among other activities. It was a great opportunity to go into a subject in more depth, without the constraint of writing and gave us the chance to extend and explore vocabulary at a greater pace. Interestingly, some of the pupils who would not otherwise shine took the opportunity to really show us what they could do.”

It’s worth teachers noting if any students performing different as a result during the day – do they learn more effectively with this method of teaching? Did it improve their self-esteem and confidence within the classroom? Were they more vocal than usual? You can also engage with parents following the day to see if there is anything they had noticed.

Example of a school class enjoying no pens day wednesday

What about the benefits from No Pens Day Wednesday?

  • Over 95% of respondents said they’d do something differently around speech, language and communication as a result of taking part in No Pens Day Wednesday
  • Over 80% of respondents reported that taking part had raised awareness of speech, language and communication needs in their school/setting
  • One in five schools said that taking part in the day had helped them identify a pupil who was struggling with their spoken language that they’d not identified before

The stats above were collected, calculated and provided by the Communication Trust, but the best benefit we could find was a rather simple one: there’s no marking to be done at the end of the day.

Ideas to Make No Pens Day a Success

So what do you do? Just think about what you could do without pens. As the name suggests, you first of all ban all use of pens in the classroom – and with that, anything similar, so pencils, paint brushes, you name it. The idea is to cut out writing for the day, which actively engaged students (and teachers) into being creative with their communication. It’s a refreshing and charming charm from the norm and can be rather fun and exciting to mix things up as a result.

Now refrained from writing, the idea is to keep it fun and relevant, regardless of setting. You need to think about the resources you have in and around your classroom (and whether or not you’ll need the children to bring anything in), and as a teacher, you need to go in prepared. Lesson plans are instrumental to a successful day, and thankfully we have some ideas for you below, as well as a helpful list of resources and other websites that can make your day a success.

  • Tell stories. Otherwise known as maintaining the oral tradition. Sit in a circle and get each child to say one sentence each and see where the story goes, like suggested in our Team Building Activites blog post. Encourage them to do silly voices and really explore characters, creating personas and unique traits or movements.
  • Go outside. Using your outdoor spaces and playground or fields is always fun – it’s a chance to play games, hold an extra PE session or simply explore your outside area. Can the children collect leaves and conkers as part of a geography project? What flowers and plants can they identify?
  • Make music. Getting the children to make music with instruments and create lyrics to songs regarding a particular topic or subject is a fun way to mix things up. Maybe they can make their own instruments to be extra creative and performing their songs will no doubt be a fun experience. Similarly, if music isn’t entirely their thing, consider a back-and-forth slam poetry/rap battle scenario – but be aware that silliness will ensue!
  • Watch a video of some controversial incident or moment form history and create a debate from it. The students will have to visually explore and explain their theories and thoughts – not only improving their communication skills, but persuasive and presentation skills also.
  • Take a trip. Get out of school for the day and go to your local park, museum or just take a walk around your local area. A visit of some kind could be beneficial, interesting and exciting.
  • Get on the computer. We’re now living in a digital age, where web design, graphic design and coding is ever prevalent and drives careers. Putting in some hours to learn digital skills at a young age will set your students apart from the rest – seeing what wonders they can create on the computer, even if it is simply making videos and researching.
  • Take photos. As simple as it sounds, it can be a very creative and educational outlet. Can the students capture the essence of the school and surrounding community through a lens? Can you get them to tell a story with just pictures? Or even create a flip-book? Plus, the more photos there are, the more options you have as content for your yearbook. Win, win.
  • Connect with each other! Do lots of circle time games; for example, say one nice thing about the person you're sitting next to, and ask your children to find out new things about each other. Relationship building is key to a happy class.

After the day itself, you could have a lesson plan based on the events of No Pens Day Wednesday, and ask students to produce an extended piece of creative writing about the day, the activities they undertook and what they learned.

Great Resources for No Pens Day Wednesday

We’ve collated a list of brilliant websites that vary from interesting in-depth articles, insights and unique case studies to even more free lesson plans and classroom ideas.

Example of a school class enjoying no pens day wednesday

Firstly, for more information regarding No Pens Wednesday, you can also visit the official trust that established this day over at The Communication Trust. Their website plays host to a wealth of information and resources; you'll find lesson plans, activity ideas, homework, information for parents, information for staff, assembly ideas and promotional material (think posters and letters for parents) across early years settings, primary, secondary and special schools. 

We recommend visit the Communication Trust’s webpage and registering for the next No Pens Wednesday – that way you will be notified of all changes and new resources, as well as having access to the existing resources from previous years.

The Communication Trust also provide an activity pack which acts as a guide for you to successfully and smoothly run your No Pens Day:
https://thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/media/556741/no_pens_day_wednesday_2017_activity_pack_final.pdf

Teacher Toolkit offer a list of 25 creative ideas for you to try in your classroom:
https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2017/06/21/nopensday

The Guardian newspaper provide an interesting insight to the day itself, as well as a plethora of wonderful and in-depth lesson plans; not to be overlooked:
https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/oct/03/no-pens-day-get-class-talking

Teacher’s Pet Advent Calendar link 10 interesting resources and websites for further reading, help and advice:
http://blog.tpet.co.uk/posts/mark/10-resources-for-no-pens-wednesday

Remember: Even if you don’t opt for our photography suggestion, so use a camera to capture the day, and use a voice recorder to record snippets of quotes – both could make excellent and unique content for your yearbook at the end of the school year! When student’s look back, they’ll remember the fun they had that day and also the importance they learned: the value of writing and the resourcefulness to communicate.

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