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Clever Pencils… Clever Teachers … Clever Pupils

Whilst Christmas shopping, I came across some ‘Clever Pencils.’ Initially I bought them as a gift for my great friend (Dawn Robertson) but as I wrapped them, I realised that I NEEDED them too.


Sloane Stationery describes them as, Each pencil has a unique saying designed to inspire a smile.’ However, once I had read the sayings I think, ‘Each pencil has a unique saying designed to inspire a piece of writing.’

The sayings are:

  • Busy, Busy, Busy
  • The Boss
  • Evil Genius
  • Bright Ideas
  • To Do or Not To Do
  • Musings
  • Don’t Forget
  • Hopes and Dreams
  • White Lies
  • Moments of Brilliance



Clever Pencils and Teachers

On Friday 29th January 2106 I was lucky enough to train over 5o teachers at Madeleine Lindley, ‘Preparing for the KS2 GaPS test.’  One of the key messages shared was the importance of pupils having a broad and rich vocabulary. Whilst sharing a range of high quality books that generate discussion, many teachers referred to the interim framework for writing. Although there is no real reference to the composition of pupils’ writing, all the teachers in the room agreed that in order for pupils to achieve the expected standard in writing this year, they must be inspired to write at their very best.

This led beautifully into setting a real, writing task for teachers to complete in small groups. Each group was given a Clever Pencil and challenged to write a poem that captured the inscription on the pencil. After twenty short minutes, teachers read their work aloud for the rest of the room to guess what their ‘saying’ had been. Some ‘sayings’ were more difficult than others to guess; others were more obvious. Some poems used a refrain, repetition and rhyme; others did not.  Some groups planned through word showers; others went with the flow. However, all groups produced amazing end products.

Have fun guessing the title of each poem…


1) If I could write a novel

Let me inspire a generation.

If I could belong to an architect

Let me create a grand palace.

If I could belong to an artist

Let me create a masterpiece

If I could sign a treaty

Let me create world peace.

If I could write a prescription

Let me cure the sick.

If I could write the future

Let me make it a better place.

If I could write forever

Let my messages always be heard.


2) I was dropped when Aguero scored in the 93rd minute

I was sharpened by Van Gogh as he prepared to create

I was blunted on the ceiling of the 16th Chapel

I was chewed whilst they pondered the theory of education

I floated beside them on the Moon

I sat behind their ear as they watched their plans come to life

I was held in the hand of Shakespeare as he considered his tragic end

I was broken under the foot of a careless 10-year-old who didn’t bother to pick me up.


3) Get Get    Get     Get    Get    Get    Get

Give    Give    Give    Give    Give    Give

Do       Do         Do       Do      Do

Teach  Teach  Teach  Teach

Track  Track   Track

Assess Assess




4) I told my frantic wife her hair looked lovely

I told my clumsy friend it wasn’t his fault

I told my new teacher she was the best ever

I told my new boss I was deeply skilled

I told my new class the tests were nothing to worry about

I tell you what you want to hear

I don’t do anything wrong, do I?



5) I’m undecided

My mind is in a quandary

Should I or shouldn’t I?

What would be the consequences of my dastardly actions?

Is death the answer?

Does the reward out way the heinous crime?

Will I live with myself?

On the one hand it would bring my heart’s desire

On the other hand it could tear my hand in two

That’s the question, I’m still undecided.



6) I wonder…

Where did I come from?

How did I get here?

Who made me?

Who knows?


I wonder…

Where am I now?

Am I going to be used today?

Who will pick me

Who knows?


I wonder…

How many miles will I travel along the page today?

What tale will I tell?

Will I have to face the torture of another close shave?

I wonder…

I wonder…


7) I have not got time to write

I work all day and night

Work, eat, sleep, repeat

How intense!


I don’t have time to eat

I really shouldn’t sleep

Work, wine, sleep, repeat

When will half term commence?


8) As time ticks by I’m frantically hoping for that light bulb moment

I’ve helped many… I’ve been the heart of the spark

I’m responsible for light bulbs; electricity; phones and trains

Cars; roads and books


9) Did I do my homework?

Did I charge my phone?

Have you seen my work shoes?

Did I give the dog his bone?


Did I cancel the milk?

Did I pay my bill?

Did I post that birthday card?

Did I remember to take my pills?


10) How astounding!

As I lie on the palanquin of educational debate, listening to the pitiful squabbles and philosophies of the meat sacks above me,

Thinking that they decide my name, my fate,

Little do they know that it is I who controls their lives.

As you see me now I take the form of graphite surrounded by wood but throughout history I have taken on many forms.

Dating back to the dawn of conscious thought when I was but a stone being struck against a subterranean wall.

Many hands have held me, names of men that would send shivers down your spine at the atrocities for which they claim responsibility.

But it was I, at all these carrion moments, that was the puppet master; the brains behind the cruelest of plans and the architect of your demise and misery.

I create and destroy.

1/ Hopes and Dreams2/ Moments of Brilliance3/ The Boss4/ White Lies5/ To do or not to do
6/ Musings7/ Busy, Busy, Busy8/ Bright Ideas9/ Don't Forget10/ Evil Genius

CPD Activity

Why not use these poems in a staff meeting? Ask teachers to match the poems with their titles. How do we make decisions? Which words help us to define the mood of the pencil?  How important is the style of the poem? Which ones are more obvious than others? Do we use the process of elimination to identify more abstract pencils?


Clever Pencils and Pupils

I have also used Clever Pencils in a year 6 lesson. I displayed the ten inscriptions on a flip chart and asked the following questions:

  • Who would you choose to sit next to?
  • Who would you like to ask a question to?
  • Who would you want by your side?
  • How would each pencil talk? What would they say?
  • What might each pencil write?
  • If you could be one, who would you be and why?

We had great fun discussing the above and the pupils rose to the challenge of acting in role. After much exploration of the different characters, I asked them to choose one inscription to write in role as. I am a great believer in giving pupils choice. I find that they write with more creativity; there is less ‘copying’ and it is far more interesting to mark!

So the year 6 pupils could choose:

  • Which pencil to write as
  • Whether to write an email; diary entry or speech

I had prepared a short planning activity to help structure the pupils’ ideas and then they wrote for 40 minutes.

Example of the plan:


Here are some excerpts from their writing:

  • To do or not to do (diary entry)

letter 1

  • White Lies (diary entry)

letter 2

  • Busy, Busy, Busy (diary entry)

letter 3

4) The Boss (diary entry)

letter 4

5) The Boss (speech)

letter 6

I hope this inspires some creative writing opportunities in both your classrooms and staff meetings. During this time of change, where interim frameworks suggest technical writing should be our priority, let us not forget the importance of actually wanting to write… You too can be a Clever Pencil!

Maddy Barnes

You can purchase your very own box of Clever Pencils for £16.99 from the Book Centre or on our website. 


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