Friday, August 29, 2014

Best Pencil Sharpener. EVER.

A few years ago I needed a new pencil sharpener, and luckily our district had electric ones in the warehouse for teachers. It was heavy duty and would light up to indicate that the pencil was sharp. Over years of use combined with the poor quality pencils the district was supplying it wasn't doing its job anymore. Pencils were eaten up, the lead breaking, so it was time to retire the old guy. I had been hearing a lot about the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener so I knew I needed to try one out.

I never thought I'd be raving about a pencil sharpener, but this one is seriously worth getting excited about. It's kind of miraculous. It was so easy I taught my four-year-old nephew to use it. After a tutorial and modeling all my 5th graders wanted to sharpen their pencils. Like, all their pencils. Now my kids are excited to sharpen their pencils (not excessively, because the sharpener doesn't allow it) and I have had no problems with students losing pencils or needing a new one because there is a stub left from forcing it in the sharpener.

The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is a hand crank sharpener, but not like the old school ones that were loud and annoying from the old days (like when I was in elementary school in the 80s). It isn't silent, but it's pretty quiet. In about a dozen turns the pencil is sharp.

Like, REALLY sharp!

A perfect point. Every time.

The sharpener has a pencil grip that holds the pencil while it is being sharpened. Just squeeze to release. 

Once the pencil is sharpened the sharpener won't let the pencil continue to be eaten up!

Comes in a variety of lovely colors (I also have a green one which I lent to my neighbor teacher)
Easy to use
Fun to use
Perfectly sharp point - every time
Works on low quality pencils
Easy to take apart for maintenance
Good looking
Promises to amaze

Colored pencil led breaks easily inside
Grip leaves dents in the pencil

As you can see, this really is a special sharpener. My class loves it. I love it. Now go order one! Or Use code AY4G2 to get 5% off your order.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Made It - GUTS apron

Good evening friends! Just a quick post for my super fun Monday Made It link-up with Fourth Grade Frolics. I actually had several "made-its" but they failed to get properly photographed. I guess that just means I'm sure to have a post next Monday too!

The lovely (who we bought our Lunar Cycle t-shirts from) sent me of their GUTS aprons. I was so excited to start painting it, but it took me awhile to get it done because I was not sure what colors to do. I've seen some great ones, but I decided to go with more realistic/anatomical model colors. I LOVE it! I'll be wearing it for all our science labs, even if they aren't messy ones!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Second Chance Sale

I was so excited when TpT announced this week's boost sale because there was so much that I forgot to purchase during the back-to-school sale! Hopefully I won't miss anything this time. I'm linking up with some amazing bloggers to get some great ideas for those MUST HAVES!

First up, something I did purchase in the sale...Little Red's Genre Posters. These are freaking adorable and fit perfectly along my reading wall. I even made small grayscale copies for my kids to paste in their Read and Respond notebooks.

This is something I have been wanting for awhile. I'm not much of a Star Wars fan or anything, but I just get a huge kick out of these Marzano scale posters! They catch my attention and I know they'll catch the kiddos attention to!

I'm not very good at tooting my own horn, but I really liked using this Poet BINGO set with my 5th graders last year and plan on using it again this year. Hopefully I'll get to do it in April when it is actually poetry month! The students get to choose a variety of poems to read and complete some in depth activities with the poems they choose.

This second chance sale is this Wednesday, August 20. My entire store is discounted, 20% off. Get the extra 10% off with promo code "BOOST" at checkout. 

What did you buy in the last sale? What is in your cart for this one?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Made It - Independent Reading Notebooks

I'm asking forgiveness in advance for two things. 1. I know most of my posts lately have been Monday Made Its. What can I say? I love this link up! 2. Please ignore any errors or nonsensical bits of this post. We had to take one of the rats to the emergency vet last night. Got to bed at 1 am, then up a few hours later, so I'm a bit beat.

Ok, so I am really excited to share this made-it because it was a long time coming. Last year was my first foray into Reading Workshop. Although I didn't really have any other upper grade teachers on campus to go to for help, I did enjoy it, and I am trying it again this year with some tweaks and adjustments. I have to give a big shout out to my friend Dana at Learning Required who helped me along the way and was always there to answer my questions.

So, last year my students had reading binders. I bought each student a black binder for about a buck and had them all prepared with dividers and a pencil bag. These were solely used for reading time. Man those binders were cheap! By the end of the year they all had one place to go...the trash. Besides the fact that they didn't last long, they were a pain to maintain. I would ask students to put handouts in, and half of them wouldn't make it. We'd have to take a special day just to organize the binders. Did I mention the word pain?

Yeah, so this year I decided to use the amazing binding machine to make my own Independent Reading Notebooks. These took me weeks, literally, to prepare. But once they were done it was so satisfying. And so far, the kiddos are taking great care of them and using them just as I taught them.

Let me give you a tour of some of the pages.

Our district has really emphasized Marzano's Learning Goals and Scales over the past few years. Each of the notebooks has several of these tracking forms for students to write the learning goals and indicate where they are at the beginning, middle, and end of each concept. Although I have the scale posted on both sides of my room, they have right there in the notebook too. And speaking of Marzano's scales, have you seen these adorable Star Wars ones from Daisy's Bookbag? Too stinking cute! I think I need them!

Back to the tour...
 Each student has a genre tracking form, as well as page describing the common genres (not pictured). The pages following this are their reading log where they track what they read each day (not pictured).

Students periodically write me a letter about their reading, how it is going, what is going well, and what they are struggling with. I've included some useful letter writing pages, as well as lined paper right in the notebook. No need for loose paper running away, I'll just collect the notebooks when I need to check their letters and write back to them.

I'm really big on students using sticky notes to "show" their thinking as they read. To hold them accountable they keep all their sticky notes in their notebook. I also have something else I'm working on to help keep them focused with their sticky note writing.

There you have it! My awesome Independent Reading Notebooks. If you are a Reading Workshop teacher I'm sure you've recognized that I've recycled a lot from Fountas and Pinnell as well as the amazing Beth Newingham. I love that teachers share their knowledge so that we can help all students be super readers!

And, as always, thanks to the lovely Tara of Fourth Grade Frolics for hosting my favorite link-up!

I hope my post was acceptable...time to crawl into bed about three hours earlier than normal!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Choose an Operation Math Key Word Sort

You know when you are in a staff meeting and someone starts talking about something as if everyone is supposed to know about it and be implementing it? No? It's only me?! I can't be the only one!

Well, last year there was talk about using Data Wise to pick a target area as a school and to implement strategies school-wide to bring up student achievement. We did a great job of narrowing down the problem of practice and writing a great goal, but nothing really went from there. This year we had some awesomesauce staff who beefed up our plan and set it into motion. Our goal was to target problem solving and implement strategies that would be the same across grade levels. Our fabulous Angie from Fall Into First created a super poster for each teacher to hang.

The first strategy we are using is "choose and operation". As I was hanging the poster and thinking about a math bulletin board I was digging out my math operation posters that I had made when I first started teaching. They were cut-outs of each symbol (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and had the key words for each written on them (they were so sadly faded that they have been retired). Well, it dawned on me that hanging the posters would be meaningless if the kids had no particiation in their creation and I realized a word sort would be PERFECT for an opening activity.

Well, today was our first day of math groups and I had this baby ready to go. It took the students a few minutes to work as a team to cut out all 48 key words, and then it took about 20 minutes for them to collaborate and sort. I was amazed at the language that students used to explain their reasoning for why a key word went with a certain operation. I think we're going to rock the "choose an operation" strategy!

Here are some action shots (which I took late in the game because I was listening in to their super discussions).

We put the key words in envelopes so that we can play again later as we review the operations. Students could easily glue these on to keep as review sheets, or it could even be their assessment. Interested in playing this with your kiddos? It's in the shop!

I've included an answer key (this was super helpful to display and have students check their work) and colorful posters.

Oh, and hey, did you hear...the TpT Back to School Sale is next week on August 4th and 5th! As always my store will be 20% off. Use TpT code BTS14 for an additional 10% off.

The amazing Matt Sutton from Digital Divide and Conquer has been making some hilarious meme inspired sale buttons! The GoT one was the obvious choice for me.