Teachingartonthecheap's Blog

Fourth/Fifth Grade: Faux Quill Pens

Posted on: January 4, 2010

Creative Reuse Lesson Plan         Fourth/Fifth Grade: Colonial America

Written by Keri Piehl for SCRAP /Whitman ES 2009-10

“Quill” pens and dipped ink lettering

Cost per student: $.08 (though some of this includes the cost of the fake ink, and you will use only about ¼ of it on this one project)

Materials: liquid watercolor or food color, water, baby food jars, newspapers for table protection and blotting, strips of construction paper (I have the workroom aide save this for me, as she is constantly cutting edges off of things), plastic drinking straws, stapler, scissors, pencils, paper, a single large feather to serve as an example.

Students will create a faux quill pen and use it to practice writing and doodling in the style of the colonists.

Elements of art: form, shape, line

Vocabulary: quill pen, inkwell, nib

1. Ask students what Colonial-era Americans used as writing utensils. Dispel any incorrect notions (chalk, pencils and quill pens would all be good answers) and talk about what a quill pen looks like.

Many books have great pictures of historical figures using one, especially in the context of signing the Declaration of Independence, which suits this lesson perfectly.

2. Pass around the large feather and explain the process by which the colonists would make a pen  (tutorials abound on the Web). Let the kids know that they will make their own faux quill pen and use it to write with. You could also discuss the pros and cons of this type of pen versus their writing implements in their desks.

3. Each student needs a drinking straw (if it’s the type with a bendy neck, cut it off below the bend and save the short end for something else, cutting it into tiny lengths makes great beads!) and a strip of construction paper. Demonstrate how to cut the end of the straw at a 45* angle, then cut the tip flat. Snip a ½ centimeter vertical cut in the center of the tip to create a channel that the ink can flow into. Draw a long oval shape onto the construction paper strip (about 4” long, 1.5” wide) and cut it out; students can cut lots of parallel strips to resemble the barbs (that pull apart on a real feather). Use two or three vertical staples to attach the paper part to the upper shaft of the pen.

4. After the tables are covered with newspaper, get out the jars of “ink”. I am using various dark colors of liquid watercolor diluted 1:3 with water but you could also use food color or diluted India ink.  I have it poured into baby food jars since they are reluctant to tip over and can be resealed.  Hand out copy paper. Show the kids how to dip the tip of the pen in, make one or two strokes, and redip! Ink blobs can be mopped up with newspaper (the student math curriculum comes with newsprint workbooks,  after the kids are done with them they get recycled, so many kids have given me their old ones for blotting purposes).

5. Write and draw with the pens! Then can practice making a bold signature like John Hancock. I will display their doodles with the student-made pens. They can try to use their pens at home with a dark juice, like grape juice, if they don’t have an arty ink source..

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