Pencil to Pen: Don’t Banish The Pen Licence But Work With It


The first type of licence that a child will ever strive for is a pen licence. While it symbolises an exciting milestone for handwriting proficiency, opinions on its merits vary among parents and teachers. But this doesn’t mean the ‘pen licence’ needs to be banished but perhaps changed.

Aspinline, a supplier of customisable products such as reward systems for schools shares their tips for alternative reward systems to celebrate students’ handwriting achievements. 

A pen licence is a formal recognition by a class teacher which grants permission to their pupil to use a pen once their handwriting is regarded as being of a good standard. 

The rationale is that the 2014 National Curriculum placed an increased emphasis on handwriting, with neat, joined and legible handwriting becoming a requisite for being judged to be writing at the expected standard for their age range at the end of key stage 2. 

Opinions on the pen licence differ among parents and teachers. Some argue that it may unfairly discriminate against students who, without any fault or lack of effort, struggle with pencil control or visual perception. 

On the flip side, proponents view it as a motivational tool, the idea of achieving a pen licence can encourage children to enhance their handwriting skills. The excitement associated with writing using a pen may also boost children’s engagement with the subjects they are writing about.

Re-think rewarding

Classroom reward systems are important for promoting positive behaviour, motivating students, and creating an orderly learning environment. They provide behavioural reinforcement, motivate academic effort, and contribute to social and emotional development. 

Although recognising children’s progress in handwriting, such as transitioning from the conventional yellow graphite pencil to a ballpoint pen, can indeed boost their motivation. However, it’s essential to explore alternative ways of rewarding writing improvements beyond the pencil-to-pen shift. 

Other methods like these can still ensure a more comprehensive and sustained intrinsic motivation for long-term success:

Levelling up pencils

Introducing a pen licence can be a source of joy and motivation for students who have diligently progressed from using a pencil. However, this approach may inadvertently leave some children feeling disheartened, particularly those who face challenges in handwriting despite their efforts.

To address this, a more inclusive strategy involves implementing a “levelling up pencils” system. This approach mitigates the stark distinction between pencil and pen users, promoting a more gradual transition. Unlike the traditional method where the pen users are easily identifiable, the levelling up pencil method maintains a level of anonymity among students.

By assigning different colours or designs to these pencils, such as orange for students on the verge of transitioning to pens and blue for those still refining their skills, students of all writing levels can participate in the process of receiving a new writing instrument based on their handwriting success. This not only fosters inclusivity but also maintains a positive and supportive environment for all students.

Reward away from the classroom: Challenge coins

In certain schools, the pencil-to-pen reward system is often emphasised through rewards, such as paper commendations displayed on student lockers, a badge that the student can now wear on their school uniform, or wristbands denoting achievement.

An alternative method to acknowledge improved handwriting involves rewards that students can take beyond the classroom, such as challenge coins. Challenge coins can be given as a reward for children to take home for achieving their pen licence. 

Schools can create these coins for various handwriting milestones, like mastering the alphabet, phonics, spelling, grammar, etc. This approach allows students to receive recognition for their progress and take home a tangible reward. Moreover, it discreetly honours individual achievements, permitting students to develop their skills at their own pace without drawing attention to the progress of others.

About Aspinline

Aspinline is a supplier of high-quality promotional products such as Lanyards or Wristbands, Embroidered Patches or Enamel Badges, Keyrings, Challenge Coins and Pin Badges. Aspinline has been supplying custom products for a wide range of events, educational and corporate needs to functions and parties across the UK for 10 years.