Wednesday, August 28

Perplexing Pencil-Sharpening Pandemonium

How is that for alliteration?  We are all teachers here…right?  We all know the issues surrounding the seemingly simple act of sharpening pencils.  We all have been there…and tried this...and tried that...and still find ourselves frustrated and baffled.

I have tried multiple different electric pencil sharpeners, manual pencil sharpeners, hand-held pencil sharpeners, and management routines to try to get a grip on pencil sharpening in the classroom.  My first year of teaching we went through three electric sharpeners…THREE.  I have disassembled them again and again to poke out broken tips, scrape out crayon wax, and clean out eraser rubber (what is the fascination with sharpening erasers??).  I tried going back to the “old faithful” manual know as well as I do that they just don’t make them sturdy anymore.

I have done the “Sharp Pencils/Need Sharpened” cups.  For some classes this may be the best option.  I unfortunately had the group of kids that year that would trade for no reason, hoard all of the blue pencils, and mix all the pencils up.  And I just couldn’t keep up with the re-sharpening…especially when it came to colored pencils.  I have had the rule “only the teacher can touch the sharpener”, but that of course means a constant stream of sharpening requests…ugh.  Then when a sub is in the room the kids can’t wait to get their hands (and crayons…and erasers…) on the sharpener themselves.  It’s been a perplexing problem.

Now I’ve read the reviews others have done on the “Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener”…touted as the “last pencil sharpener you’ll ever buy” and the “quietest sharpener for the classroom”.  I figured it was all hype.  It took me two years to finally throw in the towel and give this little baby a try.  What did I have to lose?  I’ve tried everything else.

First impression:  I love the fire engine red color  It is about the size of the average manual sharpener.  It comes with a clamp to attach it to a shelf or desktop. Thank goodness for the  how-to videos on the Classroom Friendly website because its operation is not what I expected.  You must first pinch the tabs and pull the chrome front away from the sharpener.  Once you insert the pencil you need not hold it at all…what?  I know, right?!  Simply turn the handle and the chrome front holds the pencil snug and guides it correctly.  Once the pencil is perfectly sharp, the sharpener stops.  Release the pencil by squeezing the tabs and admire your beautiful point!

The sharpener seems to be put together well.  It has a sturdy, heavy-duty feel that I love!  It is constructed of metal and has some weight to it.    This little powerhouse might be just what I’ve dreamed of for years…the last pencil sharpener I’ll ever buy!  Can it be true?  We will see how it holds up to classroom abuse.   But, I am impressed and dare I say very optimistic that it will live up to its reputation!

Monday, August 5

Need a new rug?

Have you ordered that new rug yet?  Don’t forget …  Kid Carpet is offering all of my readers $20 off any classroom rug purchase made through August 31, 2013!  Just enter coupon code “JLT” to receive your discount.  Time is running out on this deal…

I posted about my new rug from Kid Carpet here.  It is still going strong and looks great!  If you are looking for a new rug at a great price…here is your chance, but hurry!

Saturday, July 27

Summer Vacation is for the Birds!

I am 5 1/2 weeks into summer “vacation”…with a mere 4 weeks to go until PD days start. Where does the time go??? I knew this was going to be a working vacation this year…so many projects to complete and planning for CCSS implementation this fall.  However, who knew that the first (albeit biggest) project would take half of the summer?!  I considered posting this on a Monday Made-It, but it is absolutely not school-related (nor a quick and easy DIY). Anyhow…Check out what I’ve been up to! This year summer vacation has definitely been for the birds!

Yes…that is a chicken coop. My DH decided to channel his inner farmer and give urban chicken farming a go. He brought home four chicks on May 1st who got to live in a brooder set up in a corner of our large kitchen until the dust and "eau de farm” got them moved to the garage. In the meantime, we started building an outdoor coop. With only weekends at our disposal it was a slow start. Once school let out I got busy trying to get the crazy thing finished. As it turns out, chickens grow REALLY FAST! They quickly outgrew their brooder and needed bigger digs!

Baby Chicks under Heat Lamp
Chickens at 3 months old…so much bigger!

Now...I did have many other summer projects in mind for myself (all school-related) like shelving, seat covers, book bags, more crate seats, etc…etc…in addition to working on aligning curriculum to CCSS which our district is implementing this fall...but priorities got shifted.  

I must tell you that construction work (even on this small of a scale) is hard work! I have some new muscle tone in my arms from lifting, sawing, hammering, and drilling! I’m feeling pretty buff actually! And I can’t remember the last time my arms have been so tan!  I guess it has been worth it…just a few finishing touches to go (don’t you think DH should finish these up for me?).   I am officially shifting my focus to all things kindergarten.  I will justify my time loss with the idea that maybe these chickens will reward me with eggs that I can hatch in class next year.  This is a real possibility since one of those cute little chicks has grown into a rooster!

Check back soon to see what else I can manage to accomplish before school starts…the countdown is on!  No pressure…haha (tick…tick…tick…tick…)!!  First up on the agenda is finishing reading the new edition of Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller (rewritten with a focus on CCSS)…and outlining my literacy curriculum.  When I get antsy or brain-fried…I’ll fit in classroom DIY projects (hopefully at least one per week).  BTW...Has anyone read the new edition of Miller’s book?  So far I’m loving it…especially the way she has organized it by month.  It is going to be a huge help as I structure my plans.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it!

Updates soon!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 27

Follow Me with Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
If you are a Google Reader user following my blog, you know that Google Reader is going away July 1st.  You can still follow your favorite blogs if you create a free account on Bloglovin! Simply go to and you can sign up through either Facebook or your email address. From there it is very easy to transfer your Google Reader bloglist to Bloglovin…just follow the prompts. See you there!

Saturday, January 26

Classroom Rug

When I think back to my first year of teaching…and my sad lack of supplies and furniture…it is a wonder I made it through the year.  It was hard enough starting out three weeks into the school year with 20 students who were pulled from 8 overloaded first and second grade classes.  Getting by with hand-me-down books, left-over curriculum, and mismatched desks just made the year all the more interesting.  It was a crash course in making due with what I had and teaching on a shoestring budget.

I would have to say though that one of the biggest headaches that year was “carpet time” without a carpet.  The students did not have a sense of personal space.  I could not easily assign a spot for them to sit (which we all know is necessary at times).  And the hard floor made every one of them complain.  Not fun.  So I made my biggest ever classroom investment before the end of the year…a classroom rug like this one.  It made all the difference.

Fast forward a few years…
My class size has grown.  We have not “fit” on our rug since 2009.  I have tried having kids share squares (bad idea), used smaller bathroom rugs for individual students, used runners to make an additional row for students, and used a bench for special seating.  You make due with what you have and make it work, right?  In the picture above, you can see the black runner I purchased this year and taped off with duct tape to make bordered seating for four more students.

Lacking enough space is bad enough.  But, years of kids picking at the rug binding while they sat caused some unraveling.  As you well know…an unraveling string is just plain irresistible to five year olds…and it has become worse.  I was wishing for a new rug and sighing sadly at the cost.  Rugs of the size I need run for nearly $500…too much.  So I was writing up a new Donor’s Choose project to see if we could get one that way when I was contacted by the folks at Kid Carpet.  Sorry…did I squeal when I said that? I will try to subdue my excitement. sells an enormous variety of classroom rugs at the best prices I have ever seen.  They own their own carpet mill and provide factory-direct rugs that are very reasonably priced compared to similar rugs sold elsewhere.  They sent a classroom rug that seats 24 students and is adorably bordered with the alphabet.

No more runner required…we fit perfectly!  No more unraveled binding driving me crazy!  The quality of the workmanship on this carpet is beautiful.  The binding is very secure and even.  It appears to be very durable and stain-resistant (super important in kindergarten). I love the border with the letters and beginning sound pictures.  Delivery was fast…the rug was well-wrapped in plastic and not overly heavy for two people to carry.  According to information on the website, if the binding ever fails they will fix it.  I need only pay to ship the rug to them (approximately $20-$70 cost) and they will repair and return the rug for free.  Love it!  

Click the picture to read more about Kid Carpet and how they are able to provide quality classroom rugs at such amazing prices.  I am very impressed with this company.  I think you will be too.

Now, onto the best news!  Kid Carpet is offering all of my readers $20 off any classroom rug purchase made through August 31, 2013!  Just enter coupon code “JLT” to receive your discount.  Then enjoy your new rug!

Saturday, January 5


January…wow.  I am amazed year after year how much faster time seems to slip away.  Each school year evaporates faster than the year before.  It really makes me frantic that my time is not being used as intentionally as it needs to be…

It is my goal to teach with intention…and intensity.

I head back to school on Monday.  Two more days of relative leisure.  Everything is relative after all.  My house has been gotten pretty well back in order.  It has been a busy break with my two oldest children moving out.  Sigh.  My only consolation there is that they are together…and not far away.  The nest is not empty either.  But walking into their rooms still elicits that same feeling you get standing in your empty classroom after the last day of school.  =(

And time goes on…

January in kindergarten is usually very exciting.  I am looking forward to witnessing the leap that many of my babies will make in their reading and writing.  You know the one…that amazing and inexplicable leap they make so suddenly this time of year.  It does my heart good.

We will be learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  And we will keep writing away…starting with writing about snowmen (a favorite).  I am also anxious to start putting their number sense and all of our counting practice to the test as I introduce addition.  I usually wait until spring for this math unit, but then feel short of time to get that sense that they’ve “mastered” as much as I wanted.  So, I have pushed number recognition and counting to higher numbers earlier and will begin addition earlier. We will see if it pays off.

We will also revisit all of our classroom rules and routines.  After a big break (and after a month of sloppy behaviors that we blame on holiday excitement…and a month of sloppy routines brought on by holiday extras) it is always necessary to tighten the reins and reinforce expectations.  Daily 5 stamina needs to be re-addressed and practiced…and goals for the rest of the year set and made exciting.

It’s a big month!  Here is what I created to record our goals on.  Kinders can color a star as they reach a goal.  Click the picture to download a copy for yourself.