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