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Monday, April 29, 2013

Classroom Pencil Sharpener Success!

By this point in the year, my students’ pencil supplies are running low and my pencil sharpener is starting to become sort of dull. (Anyone else?)


I took a chance on the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener that you’ve seen all over blogland, and I’ve been suitably impressed as we’ve tried it out the last couple of weeks.

I have to say… I never watched the video on how to use it, but even so, it only took me a few minutes to figure out.


First, secure it to the table. (If you have a table without a rounded edge, this would probably be better. Mine slips from time to time, but it’s no big deal.)


Next, pinch.


Then, pull.


After that, keep pinching while you put a pencil in.


Stop pinching, let go of the pencil, and sharpen. I have my kids put their hand over the top of the sharpener to help keep it steady.

This is the step that I think makes this thing work so well. You know how some kids only hold the pencil kind of in the sharpener, and then it takes forever and never really sharpens all the way? Well, this sharpener holds the pencil in for them- and gradually pulls it in until it’s sharp enough!


Plus, it’s held in evenly, so you don’t end up with the wood in the way of your writing, or the wood shaved so high on one side that the lead instantly breaks when you try to write with it.

If you remember, my kids sharpen 2 pencils at the beginning of the day as part of their morning procedures.

(CHAMPS morning procedures chart here, if you haven’t picked up this freebie!) If they need a pencil after that, they have to just take it out of the Sharp bucket.

Since getting this pencil sharpener, my kids have actually unplugged the old one, and I haven’t had kids needing to trade pencils hardly ever during the day. My student Pencil Sharpener in charge of emptying the clear bin each day (or whenever he notices it needs it), and it’s a simple, easy drawer system.


I never thought 3rd graders would be so excited about a pencil sharpener, but they figured out how to use it quickly and love it.

Teacher appreciation week is coming up… perfect time to give yourself (or an awesome coworker) a little gift that will help with the pencil chaos of the last few weeks of school! Even better? These are sold by a teacher, and they cost considerably less than most electric pencil sharpeners.

You can check out this pencil sharpener at Classroom Friendly Supplies. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Sunday Five

Hello friends! It’s been kind of forever since I wrote a real blog post. I am blown away that we are almost at MAY (are you kidding me?!) and our schedule has been so jam-packed lately.


We’ve been doing lots of review to prepare for our last round of state tests next week, and I am trying out a sort of math centers approach that I may use more often next year.


I got to review a couple of new Scholastic products this week, and I’m excited to tell you more about them soon. Have you heard of Knowledge Quest yet?


My kids got to go to a special nanotechnology field trip at our local university. How many kids learn about the Higgs-Boson particle or get to try on a clean room suit in the 3rd grade? (Also- SO cute!)


One of my tutoring students and I created a “Happy Journal” for him. It was one of those spontaneous ideas that worked out much better than expected! I’ll be posting about it later this week.


Okay, this was technically last week, but I’m counting it. My husband had his last improv comedy show with his current group, since he’ll be graduating in 2 weeks! This is him playing “Helping Hands”… he smelled like peanut butter for the rest of the night. (TOTALLY not complaining.)

That does mean it’s getting to the awkward time where everyone’s asking about next year, and if I’m going to be at my school, and honestly… I don’t know! The husband is in the oh-so-fun world of the job hunt, so our future is a little up in the air right now.

It will all work out, though. :) Hopefully soon!

Hope you are enjoying your weekend! Link up at Doodle Bugs Teaching!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Way to Help Others!

Whew! I am down to 25 days left til summer- and instead of getting me excited, I feel a little panicky. We've got SO much to do, and I know it'll feel like such a whirlwind!

I know I haven't posted anything about my classroom in forever, but I wanted to share about something amazing happening. In light of recent events in the news, it makes me feel great to see good happening, and to be able to help it spread.

A girl I knew in high school has been in the adoption process for some time now, and she and her husband just found out they have been matched with two siblings from Ethiopia. Their referral came MUCH much sooner than they expected, which is a huge blessing- but they need to raise $17,000 to bring the two children home with them.

They are thrilled and excited, but the task at hand is daunting. If there is any way you can help them bring these two orphans home, please visit their blog here and read about their story:

Forever Ours
 They have been so blessed in this journey so far, and are even running a donation giveaway for a Keurig right now. (If you donate, you will be entered in the giveaway!) As teachers, we sometimes see kids who don't have a loving, supportive, safe home- and we know just how important it is.

Seeing recent posts by Amy Lemons about her newly adopted daughter makes me all the more excited for them!

Even if donating isn't in the cards for you right now, I hope you'll keep them in your prayers and pass their information along to anyone you know who might feel called to help. Thank you SO much! :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

I spent this whole week catching up and took zeeero pictures… so, I’m going to show you a little more about my trip. Warning: There is basically no teaching content in this post.


My husband always tells me that I take pictures of things and scenery, but complains that I’m never in the pictures. Besides, I’m a blogger… don’t I have to take awkward mirror pictures?


A beautiful city!


I was pretty excited to be there. You could juuust barely see the Hudson River from my hotel room window.


As a birthday gift, my husband got me tickets to Phantom of the Opera.


They were incredible seats in a beautiful theater, and the show was downright amazing.


We heard a talk from author/ illustrator Henry Cole- so inspiring.


He also signed a book for each of us- the wordless picture book Unspoken.


Here’s me with Scholastic Book Clubs’ President and the Scholastic CEO/ Chairman. They were both wonderful and truly wanted our feedback.


The Scholastic building was definitely a book lover’s paradise.


Of course, I got a chance to shop at the Scholastic Store in SoHo, too. So many wonderful books to choose from!


So, basically… it couldn’t be much more of an incredible trip! I also got a chance to see Mamma Mia, eat at Guy Fieri’s restaurant, see the 9/11 memorial, visit Rockefeller Center, and pass all kinds of famous landmarks.

At this point, I’m down to about 6 weeks of school left, and only about 3 weeks until my husband graduates. Hard to believe this semester has gone so fast!

Next week, I’ll remember to get a few more pictures at school to share with you! :)

What was the last great trip you went on?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Booky Weekend in NYC!

So, I mysteriously told you all about an exciting trip to New York City.

I have been visiting the city and Scholastic headquarters as a 2013 Teacher Advisor for Scholastic Book Clubs!

Here are the 24 TA's for this year, from all over the country, with the Scholastic CEO/Chairman. His dad founded the company.

We spent two incredible days giving feedback about Book Clubs as they are now, possible changes to come, and so much more.

I have always thought that it seemed like Scholastic really cared about kids and literacy, not just making money, but it has never been more clear to me than at these meetings.

These people are book nerds whose faces flashed with recognition and emotion when we mentioned favorite books, and clear education advocates who teared up when we talked about important teaching moments. It was evident that they love reading, want kids to love reading, and immensely respect teachers' role in making that happen.

Dick Robinson is just one example. He (and so many others) thanked us continually and told us, "We know nothing happens in the classroom without teachers." They truly listened to what teachers had to say- the good and the bad- about the Book Clubs program.

It was a place so abuzz with energy, passion, and positive affirmations of teaching that I was tempted to fill out a job application. (Seriously.)

Between the amazing, generous Scholastic staff and the brilliant teachers around me, I had a truly terrific weekend. Plus, I got to see New York City- or at least a little of it!- for the first time.

While the trip is over, I will continue working with the company from afar for at least a few more months. I almost didn't want to tell you all about the Teacher Advisor program because I want to reapply next year (if that's even an option!), but if you're interested, keep an eye out in the fall and apply, because it has been so very worth it!

I still can't believe I was chosen for this. I am very tired (and ready to see my husband), but I feel invigorated and so, so blessed.

Thank you, Scholastic Book Clubs!!

P.S.- All photos lovingly snagged from Scholastic social media. (Preeti, you're awesome!)

P.P.S.- Some of my photos coming soon :)


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Old West Day

My class filled their cotton ball jar and got to choose a reward. They picked "Old West Day." (Yup- 100% their idea.)

So we turned off the technology, dressed old-fashioned, and took a Western spin on learning a little more like kids long ago might have learned.

Yeeeehaw! Here are some snapshots of our day.

First, I wrote a poem about a cowboy on the board and the students had to copy it in their best penmanship and then try to memorize it. SIX of them were able to do that!

Of course, we did a little reading comprehension, too, and talked about the meanings of some words, like "harkin'"and "brand."

Next, we played a game called Gold Rush, and talked a little about how that was some people's reason for moving out West.

In my hat, I put pieces of "gold" with different values and let each kid draw one. Then, the boys and the girls, who were sitting on opposite sides of the room in rows (a la one room schoolhouse), combined their totals to see who got more gold.

While the kids were out at a special, one of my kids' moms came in with a couple of decorations.

And she was sweet enough to make them some trail mix, too! She had also stopped by Texas Roadhouse and they donated enough hats for every kid to have one- so awesome!

She even gave them a little cow eraser so they could be true cowboys and cowgirls.

Next up, we got out slates and chalk.

Now, we use white boards and markers, but this was still apparently a fun treat! We did some handwriting and some "arithmetic" that they copied off the board.

In the afternoon, we wrote campfire stories. Each student wrote a sentence and then passed it on to the next person in their row.

To signal when to pass, I used this awesome, authentic farm bell, borrowed from the same awesome parent.

Then, we gathered around the construction-paper-and-tissue-paper campfire and shared our stories.

It was definitely a fun day, and it was perfect for a couple of days until Spring Break just after 3 days of state testing! And, of course, we ALL had a blast dressing the part.

Am I a mean teacher because I keep taking my kids' rewards and turning them into learning experiences? :)


Monday, April 1, 2013

Currently & Tips for Pin-Worthy Photos!

April already? Whew. When did that happen?


This past weekend, with my birthday and Easter, was amazing- but considering I doubled my daily calorie limit on my birthday, I’m trying to scale back again this week! I’m loving the free app MyFitnessPal (still) and before this weekend I’d lost 9 pounds in about a month. (If you’re on there, add me- I’m Luckeyfrog! :)

On Thursday, I’m leaving for New York City! I am SO excited. I picked up a couple of springy items this weekend, but I have been wanting to shop like crazy lately (and it’s so not like me!). I just started Polyvore (as luckeyfrog), but I have no idea what I’m doing!

As for blogging advice… I wanted to post the advice to be patient because you never know when something will take off- my lesson plan format had this mediocre response and then months later took off on Pinterest- but everyone’s saying that. So- my blogging advice is to keep Pinterest in mind when you post!


  1. Use a camera when you can.

                                     iPad vs. Camera- Clearly, there’s a difference!

    It doesn’t have to be a DSLR (and I say this as a person who loves mine to pieces). But a real camera is probably going to make photos come out better than a phone most of the time, so when you can… snag a camera!
  2. Crop and lighten your photos.


    Even iPhone/ iPad photos can look brighter and more appealing with a little bit of a touchup! If you’re not on a tablet, I totally recommend Picasa. It’s a free program from Google that is simple to use. I make almost every photo lighter and brighter (especially using Fill Light/ Highlights/ Saturation) before I post. I also try to get close to the action both when I shoot and crop!
  3. Think about vertical/ horizontal.

                                See how horizontal means it shows up smaller?

    Remember that Pinterest only has a certain width for each column. If you have a super-pinworthy photo but it’s horizontal, it’s going to show up smaller on Pinterest. Your best bet is to make logos, title photos, etc. vertical so they’re more pinnable!
  4. Add text to make a great pin image!

    image image
                     See how easy readability matters? Thanks KevinandAmanda :)

    Give a great title and make it clear and easy to read. (Cute fonts are great- but it’s more important that the words are big enough and clear enough to read when someone scrolls down the page.) Picasa offers a super-easy way to add text on top of your photos, or find some cute frames (like the free one above from The Hazel Owl). Some powerful words to include? Easy, simple, how to, tips, top ten, etc. If you don’t do this, make sure your image already clearly shows what your post is all about!
  5. Pin your own image to Pinterest- with a great caption.

    pinnable searchpinnable 2

    Pick a time when Pinterest is pretty busy, and pin your own post. (As long as you don’t do this constantly, it’s okay!) Think about keywords, and being persuasive. If I’m posting a picture of my teacher binder, I want the keyword “teacher binder” there for searches (both on Pinterest AND Google)! Words like “Common Core,” or specific words to the content you’re teaching, are really important for searches, too. You also want to make it sound useful. Think about what makes you believe something is worth clicking on!

I’m still learning, of course, but I’m finding things that help drive more traffic to my site. I check my Blogger traffic sources through the stats page to figure out how people are finding my blog, and I also check to see all the things pinned from my blog.


(You can put your blog address in place of mine to see what’s been pinned from your blog, too!)

Any other tips for creating Pinterest-ready blog images?

P.S.- Clearly, I’m addicted to Pinterest, so if you want to follow me… here I am :) And of course, link up to Farley’s Currently!