Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Write On!

I love writing – not just selecting the words to say, but the physical act of doing it. Keyboards don’t have quite the same thrill as making marks on a surface. Apart from typewriter keyboards – I love bashing my digits down on the keys then slamming the carriage across at the end of the line, and making the little bell ring!


But in July I found something which really brought back memories. I was sorting out some old crayons, and there in the box was a white chinagraph pencil.  Did you ever have one of those [or are you too young for such old-school equipment?]


Before the days of whiteboards, and dry-wipe markers, these were the tools we used to write on hard surfaces - especially glass or china [hence the name] but it was not indelible – and detergent plus elbow grease erased our scribblings.

So I wrote on the mirror in the hall “I have found my chinagraph pencil” and then I decided to see how long lasting the waxy words would be. I went outside, and carefully wrote a message backwards on the window of Bob’s study. That way he would be able to read it when he sat down at his desk.


I have to report that twelve weeks later, the words are still there! [We don’t clean our windows very often] That’s despite heavy rain of Biblical proportions in recent days. I wonder if words from a marker pen would have lasted that long?

drywipe stuff

I confess that I am not enamoured of the current use of whiteboards and drywipe pens in school.

I can see that it is useful in a phonics lesson to ask the 25 children sitting cross-legged on the carpet to write a word on their board and hold it up so you can check they've spelt it right. But

  • they will erase it using their sleeve or finger [black marks everywhere]
  • their sitting position doesn’t make for neat writing
  • gripping those chunky pens in little fingers doesn’t help good handwriting either
  • there is no sense of permanence about their work
  • teaching assistants seem to spend ages at the photocopier, copying the best work from the whiteboards so there is a permanent paper record of the little darlings’ ‘good sentences’
  • the tops do not go back onto the pens properly, so the pens dry out, and every lesson starts with checking who has not got a working pen!

Is there anyone else out there who still has a chinagraph pencil – and if so, where do you use it? and what do you write?


  1. Oooh, I think there was one of those at my Grandad's. Didn't know what it was for. Whiteboard pens drive me mad. Everything you say plus they are expensive!

  2. No more writing on paper using a pencil?
    Times HAVE changed!
    Jane x

  3. Yes we have a couple left over from father-in-laws teaching days but don't use them. I also wear his gown when officiating at funerals!

  4. Never heard of one, so this was interesting. As a teacher I remember the days of chalkboards and oh did my contact lens hate the chalk dust. I know the white boards are messy, but so much easier.
    I write on a computer, but I learned to type on a typewriter so I hit my keys rather hard and when I first started using a computer I kept reaching up to send the carriage back LOL

  5. No, I think I don't know of chinagraph pencils at all. I do, however, think that the mini whiteboard thing works really well in Maths lessons- our Maths department is the only one in the school using them but they use them brilliantly. I also think they're quite good when teaching the time in French- so loved your comment re teaching time in general- it has taken both our boys a long, long time to get that sorted. I love the scratching of pen on paper- very Seamus Heaney!

  6. I'd heard of the pencil but never seen one. I have now.
    Love your message to Bob,

  7. I remember my Dad having one in his tool kit which is still in our garage, will have to look one day and see if it's still there. Totally agree about mini whiteboards they drive me mad!!


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