Monday, October 26, 2015

Best Pencil Sharpener. Ever. Now Even Better!

Dear Readers, I hope you are all having a wonderful school year. We just started our second quarter and my 5th graders, who were already amazing, are showing so much more responsibility and initiative. They are working really hard to have a "silent day" as inspired by Paul Solarz in the Learn Like a Pirate book. This is a day in which students take complete control of the day and run the class as I would, but I have to remain silent. I'm loving their teamwork and blossoming leadership skills and I'm excited to see them continue to grow.

Alas, that is not the focus of this post. Rather, I am super excited to brag about something that I have been using in my classroom for sometime, and to help reveal the newest edition! Last year I fell in love with Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener. I'm sure you have all seen the odd looking, hand-crank, device on other blogs, social media, etc. If you haven't, prepare to be amazed! The sharpener is quiet (not completely silent, but so much quieter than other sharpeners) and ALWAYS has a perfect point. My students love ours, and take great care of it. We also have an electric sharpener in our classroom, but it rarely gets used, it is only for colored pencils (the lead is too soft for the CFS sharpener).

The sharpeners come in a variety of colors (black, blue, red, green, and pink), so I'm super excited to help Classroom Friendly Supplies introduce the newest color...Popular Purple!

I love all the colors, and have the pink and green myself, but when CFS offered purple in exchange for a review, I couldn't pass it up. This color is GORGEOUS! I know my students take good care of our sharpeners, but I seriously want to keep this one on my desk and all to myself!

Using the CFS sharpener the first time is a bit odd (just different from other sharpeners) and I have to give my kiddos a brief tutorial at the beginning of the year, but they get it right away, and their pencils are perfectly sharp every time. Because more lead is exposed I think the pencils take longer to get dull and there are fewer trips to the sharpener during class.

A couple of tips for using the sharpener...
* Keep the sharpener on a mat, or like us, on a large plastic lid (like those from Costco sized coffee cans). Some of the lead filings tend to collect near the sharpener, making a mess on the counter, but placing something underneath helps keep the counter clean!
* Avoid using colored pencils in the sharpener, the lead is too soft and often breaks in the sharpener. It's easy to get the lead out, but doesn't help the colored pencil. 
* I don't mount the sharpener. I find the students use one had to place and lock in the pencil with their dominant hand and then turn the sharpener the opposite direction so that they can use the crank with their dominant hand. Because it isn't mounted I wouldn't place it near a trash can that it could fall into (we lost one sharpener that way, RIP). 
* If the blade fails, don't worry, and don't throw your sharpener away! CFS has replacements! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Graphic Novels that All Kids Love

It's hard to believe that we have already finished our first quarter (and we're on week two of our fall break)! I don't know about you, but I felt like we were always busy, but didn't accomplish everything we needed to. One thing we did do a lot of was reading. My students this year are devouring graphic novels. Not just some of my 5th graders. All. Of. Them.  I'd like to introduce you to the four that are currently being passed around our class - we even started a waiting list in the library for them. Not only did my kids enjoy these, but I did too! These are definitely marketed to girls, but the boys are loving them too (which I think is super!). Three are by Raina Telgmeier, and the fourth, by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, is definitely in a similar style.

Smile is Telgmeier's memoir in graphic novel magnificence. The story accounts her dilemmas - her unfortunate teeth woes plus adolescent drama with friends. A bit of humor mixed with a great lesson about being true to oneself makes this a quick, fun, and memorable read. I loved that I could relate to some of the orthodontic misery, but luckily didn't have the misfortune that Raina experienced.


Sisters is another graphic novel memoir by Telgmeier and this one was my absolute favorite. Raina and her younger sister, like many siblings, struggle to get along. Although my younger sister and I generally got along as we were growing up, this story brought back memories! The story revolves around a family road trip, quite similar to one I experienced the summer before starting high school. Once I finished I had to pass this book along to my little sister.

Telgmeier's Drama is about just what you expect...drama. Teenager in the high school drama club has teenage drama. This one was just OK. The story tackles some young adult issues about dating and that I think would be better suited to more mature students. It's definitely not one I would recommend to all of my 5th graders. The story itself was a bit cliche, but still a good read and a story that I think many teens would appreciate.

The sister-brother duo who wrote/illustrated the Babymouse series published graphic novel Sunny Side Up earlier this year. The story is semi-biographical, following Sunny's summer in the 70s. She was looking forward to have a family trip but is suddenly shipped off to spend the summer with grandpa in his Florida retirement home. There's hints of a family issue which comes to light by the end of the story. Cute, sweet, poignant. 

I am loving that my class has become connected as a community of readers by these books and I'm looking forward to hooking them on more graphic novels this year. I already have kids asking for Raina Telgmeier's Baby-Sitters Club and will need to hunt down some more graphic novels for our classroom library.

What graphic novels have you and your students enjoyed?

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties.

Star graphics by Ashley Hughes

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bright Ideas: No prep interactive notebook activities

I don't know about you, but sometimes my best lesson activity ideas come to me right in the middle of the lesson. There is no time to run to the office to make copies, so I've got to raid the closet to make it happen. This has happened several times when I wanted my students to add an interactive component to their notebooks. Luckily, most interactive notebook activities don't require a fancy template, you can whip them up with just a plain sheet of paper, some scissors, and glue!

Even if you have time to prep, there is often no need to copy a template for students. I love teaching them how to fold and cut the paper because it allows them to practice listening skills, work on following directions, and gives them experience with manipulating paper in different ways. Plus it makes them even more INTERACTIVE!

There are so many that I could share, but I narrowed it down to three...the shutter fold, the petal book, and an easy pocket.

 To create the shutter fold...
1. Fold the paper in half and open it up.
2. Fold the sides in to match the center.
4. Cut the shutters. I choose to make six, but you can easily make two to eight.
5. Label the outside and write definitions, examples, draw pictures, etc. on the inside.

 To create the petal book...
1. Fold the paper to make a square and cut off the excess.
2. Open it up and fold the corners in about an inch.
3. Cut off the corners (you can save these and make little flaps for another interactive notebook page!).
4. Fold the "petals" in towards the center.
5. Add the details!

To create the pocket...
1. Fold the paper to make a square and cut off the excess.
2. Keep the paper folded so that it is a triangle. Keep the base of the triangle facing down and the right angle pointing up.
3. Take one of the other points and fold it across the triangle meeting about halfway along the opposite edge.
4. Do the same with the opposite point, lining up the edges.
5. Fold the top point of the top layer of the triangle down over the folded pieces.
6. Flip the pocket over and fold the other layer of the top point.
7. Glue the pocket in, label, and place things inside.

For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back To School Read Aloud

I have a confession to make...I had never read the book Frindle. That probably makes me the worst upper grades teacher ever, but what is really bad, is that one of the reasons I didn't read it was because I judged it by the cover *gasp*. Sorry, but a kid holding a pen wasn't all that interesting to me. I knew the premise - some kids rename pens with the word frindle - and it "seemed" like more of a 4th grade book; most kids coming to 5th had already read it in 4th anyway. It was never on my to-read list.

Well, as summer wound down I wanted to squeeze in one more teacher book (see my Summer Reading posts for more great teacher books I read over the summer) and I chose reading guru Donalyn Miller's "Reading the the Wild". What a lovely book! It really invigorated me and reminded me of how important it is to foster a love of reading.

I started to think about which book I wanted to start with this year, and I REALLY wanted to have a book that my students could each hold in their hands and follow along with. Last year our district adopted the Journey's reading series. I'm not a fan of basals/anthologies/programs like this, but Journey's has one great bonus, actual books - and enough for all the kids! Well, Frindle happened to be one of the trade books for 5th grade and so I knew that I'd finally have to read it.

And you know what...I LOVED it! I'm a tough critic and rarely give a book 5 stars, this was an easy 5 stars and I knew it was the book to start the year off! I had lofty goals to start it on day one, but that day flew by, so we started on day 2.

As I introduced Reading Workshop I explained that I wasn't going to use Frindle to teach them vocabulary and there weren't going to be "assignments" on it. We were just going to read it to ENJOY it! And enjoy it we did. Yesterday we wrapped up week two of school and finished Frindle. I think I enjoyed even more the second time around!

Frindle is such a satisfying read and perfect for 5th grade. The themes make it ideal to kick off the year:
* a teacher's influence on students
* thinking "outside the box"
* being a risk taker
* how words evolve/the importance of word study
* being yourself

Now to decide on a read aloud for week 3...

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Class Dojo - GROUPS!

I am so excited that ClassDojo has just launched one of the most anticipated updates...groups! So many Dojo teachers have begged for this feature and it's! And perfect timing for me because we just started school yesterday (it was a great first day, thanks for asking).

I haven't introduced ClassDojo to my new class yet, although some had it a bit with their fourth grade teachers. The group feature is definitely a game changer and it's so easy to use.  There are now two buttons at the top: students and groups. Just click the group button and add your groups in. You can use group names or numbers - whatever you use in class. Then you just add the student to the groups they are in and wah-lah - you're read to award group points.

I especially love the group view because it has all the little monsters that belong in each group!

When you award a group all group members will pop up as you award them. You don't need to click on the students in the group, they are automatically selected. 

Award away! Give some positive feedback to your amazing group!

Now each person in the group has a point and it will show up in their individual total. Easy peasy Dojo squeezy. Thank you ClassDojo! I already love the new feature!

And of course you can use groups in the slick app too!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bright Ideas: Use plastic dividers to display student work

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you have seen several of my back-to-school posts. You heard me This week was back to work for teachers and on Monday I get to meet my new class (well, the few that didn't make it to Meet the Teacher). I'm so excited for this school year!

I wanted to share a little Bright Idea. This is something I totally stole from another teacher my first year of teaching, I've used it ever since (and this will be year 12 for me!). I'm so not the type of teacher that is in to making super cute bulletin boards and changing them out during the year. I am low maintenance - I typically leave most of my same bulletin boards up for several years at a time before I feel the need to change them.

This is my current student work bulletin board...

These pocket dividers are colorful yet transparent and make a super easy way to display student work. As an added bonus, it is sooooo easy to change it up throughout the school year without doing a major overhaul (you should of seen me just trying to put up a piece of butcher paper on the wall...hilarious!). They are also super cheap and very durable. Most of the ones I have are from my first year of teaching (well, not these, because I wanted different colors this year).

Just cut off the divider tabs and attach them to the wall (I just staple the top). Throughout the year students can slip in their amazing work. I mostly use them for student writing, and I have them leave their work in them all year so at the end of the year - BAM - writing portfolio!

The nametags are simply laminated and hot glued on (they peel off super easy when you want to change them). I use a Vis-a-Vis marker so that I can easily change the names for the following year.

For those of you that use GoNoodle, you'll notice a theme here. All of the tags are free from GoNoodle! My previous theme was popcorn. You can get an idea of what it looked like before...

I hope you found my Bright Idea useful and that you have an WONDERFUL back-to-school, whenever it may be for you. For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Putting Together a Read and Respond Notebok

I have been using a form of Read and Respond since I started teaching. Every year it evolves and improves. It's still not perfect, but I'm happy with its evolution. Read and Respond is a great way to encourage and hold students accountable for daily reading. I want my 5th graders to spend the bulk
of their homework time engrossed in books, so the response part I try to make as quick and painless as possible, while still being meaningful. This summer I updated the entire thing just in time for a new school year! I thought I'd put together a little video showing how easy it is to set up.

If you've already purchased my Read and Respond product I've included the updated version for download. The older version is still available if you prefer that one. 

I'd love to giveaway my Read and Respond to three people! Enter the Rafflecopter through Monday, July 13. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 10, 2015

Teachers NOT in Vegas: A Sweet Staycation

Exactly one year ago I had the privilege to attend the first TeachersPayTeachers conference in Las Vegas with my buddies Angie from Fall into First and Laura from Daisy's Book Bag. We had a great time. Unfortunately, Vegas was not in the cards (harhar) this year. Instead, Laura and I took advantage of a local deal for teachers and have a lovely little staycation - and we booked it for the same time as the TpT conference so we wouldn't feel too left out. We spent a night at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, got free drinks, and even a free Lakeshore Learning gift card!

It was so nice to take a short drive out of town, spend tons of time by the pool (which was nearly empty!), and we even managed to squeeze in a little "work" (I'm finishing up a project I hope to share soon!). I could have easily stayed a few more days. I'm soooooooo relaxed! It was a fabulous way to end summer vacation 2015 - because guess who gets to go back to work on Tuesday...

I'm wishing all my teacher friends an enjoyable rest of the summer and I hope you do at least one thing to relax and pamper yourself - you deserve it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Reading: Ditch that Textbok

Several years ago I decided to go back to school and get my Master's in Educational Technology. The program was all online, and I have to tell you, that it had a profound impact on me as a teacher. What I learned was far beyond the teacher preparation I received as an undergrad.

There was a lot of technology use in my class during my time in the program, and shortly following it. I am ashamed to say that I've used less and less technology in the past couple of years. It's not because I don't want to use technology, I just feel that it has become more difficult. Our district (which I love) lacks in technology resources and a lot of sites have been blocked. I understand the reasoning, it just makes it even more difficult to use technology in ways that really make learning really effective.

This was the book I needed to get me out of that funk. The title is a bit misleading because what Matt encourages teachers to do is to replace textbooks with the incredible technology tools we have today. While I won't be able to go completely paperless I was reinvigorated with the possibilities technology offers and how I can be creative and resourceful with what I've got. Namely the majority of my 5th graders owning a smartphone or other device (I've already got our district's Bring Your Own Technology form ready for Meet the Teacher Night!). Over the years I've gotten several useful technology tools in my classroom from the amazing Donors Choose and so I figured it had been while since I set up a project and have one already started to get a couple of tablets. Just taking a few steps is setting me back on the path to revolutionize my class!

Matt also goes into depth about how teachers need to change their mindset on what our roles are. We are no longer the receptacles of knowledge. Most of the questions my students ask me I don't know the answer to, and I am so lucky that we don't have to sift through volumes of encyclopedias (although I do remember enjoying them as a kid, I know, I was a weird kid). Today we need to teach kids how to make their own discoveries using the incredible tools we have. The hope is that we can foster their curiosity and creativity and encourage students to be the innovators that we need!

Well, that's the end of my summer reading posts. I enjoyed relaxing and filling my teacher brain with new ideas. I've got only a few more days of my summer vacation left before I get to take what I've learned from Dave, Paul, Don, and Matt to make this year the best one yet!

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties.