The Page Pen

Here's a fun way to communicate a page number to your students without having to use your voice.

Page Pen

Making your own Page Pen is easy and only requires three items.

You should be able to find the first two items in your classroom without too much trouble. The third item is going to require a trip to Michael's Arts & Crafts. (Note: If you can find the third one in your room, I'd love to pay a visit.)

Although Michael's has quite a variety of bells, you want the 25mm cow bells. They come in a pack of three and retail for around two bucks.

Note: Michael's also carries a 3-pack of Liberty Bells. Don't buy 'em. Because the bell opening is round, as opposed to rectangular, the little clapper just slides around the lip of the bell and doesn't produce much of a jingling sound. The cow bell is much better.


Now that you have what you need, the rest is a snap.

1. Thread one end of the rubber band through the opening at the top of the bell.

Step 1

2. Thread the same end through the loop at the opposite end and pull tight.

Step 2

3. Wrap the rubber band around the end of a whiteboard marker.

Step 3

How to Use

Choose a spot on your whiteboard for writing page numbers. Having a consistent space will make it easier for your students to locate the page number when they hear the sound of the Page Pen.

Whenever you want your students to turn to a specific page, merely write the number on the board with your Page Pen.

(Be prepared to spend a week or so breaking yourself of the habit of announcing the page number verbally. Just stick with it. Before too long, using your Page Pen will become automatic.)

Avoid the temptation of using your voice to redirect students who did not pay attention to the sound of the bell as you wrote the page number. They need to be able to find the page on their own without being verbally directed to do so. Patience, please.

And while you're exercising patience, think about this: You'll never hear another student ask, "What page?"


Extension One

At a semina I had a teacher ask, "What do you do if you are using more than one book?"

This time I turned the problem-solving task over to the teachers.

You could just write a letter code to indicate whether the book you wanted them to use was a Workbook or a Textbook.

Page Pen Codes

Primary Teacher
You could tape xerox copies of the book cover and write the number next to the picture of the book you want them to use.

The first suggestion is easier to use than the second, but the second has definite advantages for younger students. Your call.

Extension Two

After writing a page number on the board one day, I drew a line under it.

Read this page

I had intended this to mean, "Look at the bottom of page 2." However, when I quiered the group as to what they thought it meant, one of the teachers responded with, "Read page 2?"

Wow, what a great idea. Not only would the students know to turn to page 2 but they would also know to read it.

Very nice.

Extension Three

I wrote the wrong page number at one point during a seminar. Instead of writing a "9" I wrote an "8." I was about to rewrite it correctly when I realized that I could just use the 8 and create a math equation. Why not? After all, failing math is the #1 contributor to a middle school student's decision to drop out of school.

Math equation

Secondary Teachers

Middle School
I was using the Page Pen during a seminar a week after its creation. There were some middle school teachers in the group that day and one of them said, "The pen is a nice idea but it's not always a page number I want my students to look at. Sometimes I just want them to take out their planners."

Visualizing the problem for a moment:
I don't see why you couldn't make some small signs and tape them to the whiteboard near where you write the page number. Each sign would indicate an item you want your students to retrieve. Then, when you wanted them to get their hands on something, you could use the pen and place a check mark next to the appropriate sign.

Page Pen Signs

High School
I was demonstrating the Page Pen when a high school teacher asked:

Could I use the pen to write something on the board that I wanted my students to write in their planners?

And once again we see another great way to use this simple idea.

Planner entry

The little bell would be flat out better than the the teacher trying to use her voice at the end of the period to call attention to the planner entry. Even the hard-core social talkers would have a hard time missing the jingle-jingle-jingle-jingle as the teacher used the pen to write the words for the students to record on their own.

Just bear in mind that the Page Pen used for planner entries couldn't be used for writing page numbers. The dual-purpose sound would create uncertainty in the minds of the students which would reduce the effectiveness of the strategy.

On Your Own

Who knows what issue you'll encounter as you incorporate the Page Pen into your classroom routines. Whatever it is, just put on your thinkin' cap and see what you can come up with. I'm guessin' you'll be able to solve any problems that arise.

If you come up with any slick variations, send me a note so that I can add it to the others.

Discovery is seeing what everyone else has seen,
and thinking what no one else has thought.

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