25 Ideas For No Pens Day Wednesday

Reading time: 4

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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How do you champion oracy in your school?

Some schools follow a ‘No Pens Day Wednesday’ where pens and pencils are put to one side and the day is devoted to speaking and listening instead.

Ditch the Pens

The idea comes from the charity, the Communication Trust, a coalition of 50 not-for-profit organisations working together to raise awareness and support speech, language and communication needs.

Their No Pens Day Wednesday project runs as an annual event although lots of schools decide to do this every term or every half-term as it boasts many benefits. The Communication Trust make oracy a number one priority and remind us that,

Of all the skills we develop at school, the ability to communicate effectively is the one that has the most profound and potentially positive impact on our lives.

Prioritising oracy is therefore key and this is something Will Millard and Loic Menzies highlight in the LKMco report, ‘The State of Speaking in Our Schools’.

What do you do?

The focus is speaking and listening skills so you can talk turkey and zoom in on activities like concept cartoons, debates and discussions.

The Communication Trust have ready-made lesson plans, activities, assembly ideas, pupil evaluation tools, teacher guidance, information for engaging parents and ideas for taking the focus on speaking and listening further. There are resources for primary and secondary.

All you need to do is register and you get everything for free and the resources are available all year. The site literally packed with insight and inspiration but it contains all of the structure and rationale you need for making a No Pens Day a practical and purposeful day and not a free for all! You can sign up here.

Last year’s activity pack is available here and the 2017 activity pack is now available.

Time To Talk

This year’s official No Pens Day Wednesday will take place on Wednesday 4th October 2017 but why wait until then?

The summer term allows you the flexibility to be a little more experimental so why not hold a No Pens Day Wednesday this week or next week and make use of the resources available. It’s the perfect time to do something fun, engaging and different.

25 Ideas To Try

  1. Talk about the content of a concept cartoon. For example, take a look at this science concept cartoon. For other examples of science, English and maths concept cartoons see the website of the creators of concept cartoons here.
  2. Learn sign and finger spelling language together by using resources at British Sign Language.
  3. Hold a debate. Any topic goes but you can download a debating pack from parliament.uk
  4. Make a Vlog. For more inspiration go to the BBC Newsround page here.
  5. Skype another school. Ideas can be found at Microsoft Education.
  6. Stage a drama about a world without pens. Invite a theatre company into school to hold a drama workshop. For example go to Orange Tree Theatre to find out more.
  7. Tell stories using puppets or use puppets to kick-start conversations in science and help them sort out misconceptions.
  8. Circle time is tailor made for no pens! Focus on current events and news or a PSCHE hot topic and discuss together.
  9. Get hands-on and minds-on creating a story using cardboard boxes – for inspiration look at Buildy-Uppy Dance Show.
  10. Go outside and have fun – go on a nature treasure trail, build dens, look for 2D and 3D shapes, make shadow shapes, measure shadows, go cloud spotting, go on a visit to the local park, museum, etc. Use spoken language to explore senses. The Somerset Natural Learning Academy have some great ideas.
  11. PE –speaking and listening problem solving games, cooperative learning games and parachute games.
  12. Music – sing your hearts out. Play instruments, compose a masterpiece!
  13. Go on a ‘sound hunt’ by exploring different areas of the school and the school grounds and and carefully listen to the sounds that can be heard.
  14. Take photographs around the school and create a photo album with a story.
  15. Art – anything you want but take huge inspiration from environmental artists Andy Goldsworthy and go outside and make your own Goldsworthy designs with your own spin.
  16. Make your own movies using ipads.
  17. Learn and recite poetry for public performances.
  18. Talk with a conversation partner about what you did at the weekend. Focus on complex sentences rather than short phrases or simple sentences.
  19. Play with construction kits such as LEGO, K’NEX and Arckit and let children engage in free-play or build a planned design or structure.
  20. Hold a sequence challenge where children listen to the sequence of words / sounds and answer the questions. See if they can remember the correct order.
  21. Hold a ‘True or False?’ audio activity where children look at various photos, pictures and images then listen to the statements on an audio recording and decide which are true and which are false.
  22. Stage some Instructions Challenges – ask children to follow your instructions carefully and see if they can follow what you say accurately, e.g. a BeeBot challenge in the hall using human robots!
  23. Play Chinese whispers by whispering a silly sentence – will children be able to pass the sentence around the group and listen carefully to each other?
  24. What am I? Children describe an object or emotion to their partner or small group for others to work out.
  25. Build working memory by playing thinking and questioning games such as MeeMo,

Listen to what Mick Waters has to say about No Pens Wednesday and discover why we should all make more time for speaking and listening to each other.

Put down your pens and pick up your language this year and beyond!

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