Words and Pictures: Magic Pencil

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started10th Dec 2001
ended14th Dec 2001
last rpt13th Dec 2007
7 school years
duration15 mins
subject 📚English
age rangeAge 5-6Age 5-7
languageenIn English

Words and PicturesHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: Phonics Year 2Next unit: Fun with PhonicsHierarchyNext.gif

Magic Pencil is a unit of the BBC Schools TV series Words and Pictures from the 2000s, covering English for Primary pupils.

Four programmes covering the entire alphabet, in which Sophie Aldred sings the alphabet and introduces an animation of words beginning with each letter, and a demonstration of how to write each letter by a magic pencil.

These programmes were edited from a video called Alphabet Fun Time, released on general sale in 1994 and combining footage used in the 1992-93 and earlier series of Words and Pictures with new recordings.


Magic Pencil

'Magic Pencil' is a device to show young children how to form letter shapes for their handwriting, in which a large pencil moves around the screen carefully writing a particular lower-case letter while a "movement jingle", such as "top to bottom, up and around" to describe an "r", reinforces the actions, and a light on the end of the pencil lights up to show when it is writing.

The concept of magic pencil had been used on Words and Pictures since 1975, originally as a traditional drawn animation of a "happy pencil", and then from 1982 as a kind of puppetry, a hand-held orange 'pencil' moving around the black screen and writing in clear white ink.

From 1989 magic pencil drew its letters with a serif or "flick" on the end of appropriate letters to encourage joined-up handwriting.

Magic pencil writing 'h'

Titles & Theme Music

The titles from the 1992-93 series of Words and Pictures were used.

Episode List

# Title Broadcast
1. Programme 1: A-F #2001-12-10-00-00-0010 Dec 2001
2. Programme 2: G-M #2001-12-12-00-00-0012 Dec 2001
3. Programme 3: N-S #2001-12-13-00-00-0013 Dec 2001
4. Programme 4: T-Z #2001-12-14-00-00-0014 Dec 2001


Year Term Day Time Channel Details
2001-02 Autumn 2001 Mon-Fri ~11:20 BBC2
2002-03 Autumn 2002 Wed & Fri ~11:20 BBC2
Spring 2003 Mon-Thu 09:45 CBBC
Summer 2003 Fri 09:15+ CBBC
2003-04 Autumn 2003 Mon-Thu 13:15 BBC2
Fri 09:15+ CBBC
2004-05 Autumn 2004 Thu 11:00 & 11:15 BBC2
2005-06 Autumn 2005 Mon-Thu ~10:30 BBC2
Summer 2006 Mon & Tue 10:00+ CBBC
2006-07 Autumn 2006 Thu 09:00+ CBBC
Spring 2007 Mon 09:30+ CBBC
Mon 10:45 BBC2
2007-08 Autumn 2007 Thu 11:30 & 11:45 BBC2


Presenter Sophie Aldred
Music Paddy Kingsland
Animation Alan Rogers & Peter Lang
Producer Kristin Mason
Series producer Clare Elstow


Video and DVD

The original Alphabet Fun Time video had been on general release since 1994, originally costing £8.99.

Alphabet Fun Time

A video of the four TV programmes was released for schools in 2002, originally costing £19.99. This was later re-released as a Video Plus Pack and a DVD Plus Pack, costing £37.99 and £44.99 plus VAT respectively including a teachers' book.


A Magic Pencil CD-ROM was released in 2002, designed to help with handwriting practice it included a demonstration mode showing the formation of letters, numerals and simple letter combinations, and a set of practical activities for pupils.



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