Pens and more pens

Reviewing items that can be used in my classroom is so much fun!  Recently Office Supplies asked me to review various pens from Pilot.  I was thrilled to do so because I knew I could use them in my classroom throughout the day.  My students love to write with pens!  It's almost like they feel like they're getting away with something when they do.  Students write with pen when grading their work or when writing a rough draft and I don't want them to erase.

 The pens I reviewed were Acroball Pro Hybrid Pens, Acroball Ballpoint Pens, Acroball Colors Pens, and the Dr. Grip Frosted Pen (they're so new, they're not even on the site yet!).
 The Dr. Grip Frosted pen is wonderful!  I really liked it because it was comfortable in my hand and the grip allowed me to control my pen strokes easily.  The girls in my class will love this pen!

 The Acroball Pro Hybrid pen is a medium point pen.  I prefer fine point pens, but this one worked well.  It contains a hybrid ink that is smear proof.  The pens come in three different ink colors.

 The Acroball Colors pen is also a medium point pen.  It writes like the Pro Hybrid pen, smooth and comfortable grip.  The pens also came in three different colors.
 The Acroball Ballpoint pen was my favorite!  It has a fine point which writes very smoothly.  I loved they way it felt in my hand.  I was really hoping the ink matched the pen color, but unfortunately all the pens had black ink.

Here is a sample of all four types of pens. You can find other Pilot products, medical supplies, and cleaning supplies on!

Best Avery Labels E.V.E.R.

I was recently asked by Office Supplies to review the Easy Align Avery Self-Laminating ID Labels.   Yes, please!  Avery has managed to combine two of my favorite classroom must haves... labels and laminating!  These are AMAZING!  When the labels first arrived, I was a little confused about the process of designing, printing, and sticking.

No worries!  Avery solved all my problems.  I simply went to and downloaded their design software for my MAC.  I decided to test the labels by making name tags for my daughters' cubbies in our mudroom.  Designing was so simple!  In six easy steps (and less than ten minutes) I had my labels designed, printed and ready to go.

Now to make a list of all the ways that I can use these labels in my classroom!  New labels for my mailboxes are first on my list.
You can find Avery labels, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and office furniture all at!

Gigantic Fraction Strips... you need these!!!

I started teaching fractions a few weeks ago in math.  Our math series comes with individual fraction strips for students to manipulate.  Unfortunately, these strips break apart and many of the pieces have been lost.  I really wanted a set of gigantic fraction strips without paying a fortune, so I decided to make my own!
I made the fraction strips in four different sizes.  The extra large strips (11 x 17) are used for teaching whole class lessons.  They're perfect for the large white board in front of my whole group area.  The large fractions strips (8.5 x 14) are used on my portable white board easel.  The medium fraction strips (11 x 8.5) are used at the table during my guided math groups.  Finally, the small fractions strips (8.5 x 11) are for students to keep in their math folder.

Once the strips are printed, laminated, and cut, magnetic strips can be placed on the back for use on the white board.

Or strips can be printed, laminated, and cut into fraction pieces.  The great thing is when a piece is lost, simply print it again.  No more missing fraction pieces!!

The fraction strips are available in color and black & white!

I printed the black & white strips from my computer straight to the copier at school.  The small, medium, and large colored strips were printed on my personal printer.  Since the school copier does not print in color, I had the extra large fraction strips made at my local print shop.  The total cost for printing and laminating was under $4.00!
If you would like to take a closer look at my Gigantic Fraction Strips, you can check them out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

How to teach students to annotate their reading

One of the reasons I like close reading so much is that it forces encourages students to record their thinking.  When students annotate their reading it gives them a purpose for reading, and it also allows teachers to get an inside look at student thinking.
I started off teaching students to annotate with lots of modeling.  I would model highlighting and annotating by copying pages in our current read aloud (this way students were familiar with the text).  As I read the passages, I would stop, highlight, and annotate my thinking to show students how simple but effective it was.

Each time I modeled I tried to stress the importance on not becoming a "happy highlighter".  Happy highlighters are people who highlight everything they read as important.  I reminded them that highlighting the key parts of a text allows it to stand out.  It also teaching them to be more specific with their thinking.  My happy highlighters were quickly discouraged when they realized that each highlight required an annotation.  
Another way that I eliminated over highlighting was to make close reading cards.  These cards are like task cards for close reading.  Each card has a different purpose.  I would chose a card, and we would decide if it pertained to our text.  If it did, we would think about this task as we reread the text.

 Once I felt students understood the process, I turned them loose during guided reading.  To remind students of best practices, I made close reading toolkits.  Each tool contains five highlighters (yellow, orange, pink, blue, and green), a highlighter color code key, and close reading cards.  Here is an example of a toolkit.

Students know to use different colors of highlighters to show different types of thinking.

Thinking about reading and annotating our thinking has become second nature in my classroom.  I can see a huge difference in group discussions about a text and on their standardized reading test scores!  
If you would like your students to make annotating thinking a part of their daily routine, you can take a closer look at my Close Reading in a Jar or my Close Reading on a Ring in  Teachers Pay Teachers store.

How do you review the eight parts of speech?

This school year I've really been enforcing parts of speech in my 3rd/4th grade high ability classroom.   At this point in the school year students have learned all eight parts of speech, and we are now in the review mode.  We review parts of speech two different ways.  Every Friday I give my students a sentence quiz where they must label the part of speech under each word.  On most other days, students have fun ways that they can review parts of speech during stations or as an early finishers activity.  I made an Eight Parts of Speech Jar for daily review.
There are several different ways that students can do this activity. 
Individually or with a partner:
Students choose a card from the jar and place it in the correct part of speech column.  They must agree with each other before the card can be placed.

Small group or partners:
Students sit in a circle.  One student chooses a card from the jar, reads the word, and names the part of speech.  The other students agree or disagree.  If the student is correct, he/she keeps the card.  If he/she is incorrect, the card goes back in the jar and the jar is passed to the next student in the circle.  To make this activity more challenging, I have students give proof that their answer is correct or use their word in a sentence.

This activity can be differentiated by allowing students to use an iPad to check their answers.

I knew that all of our hard work was paying off the other day when we were trying to figure out the definition of an unknown word in guided reading.  One student said that the word had to be a noun because it followed a preposition and every prepositional phrase ends with a noun!

If you would like to take a closer look at my Eight Parts of Speech Jar, you can find it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Fun products from

I was recently asked to review a few fun products from Office Supplies.

These two products will definitely have a place in my classroom!  The Big Stacker Inbox works great for holding papers that need to be graded!  I love that fact that it has built in handles.  I can grab it and go!  It's extra deep which means it can hold a lot of papers.

The Compact Suggestion Box will be great for so many activities!  I know I'll use it next year during the presidential election or any other time we need to take a class vote on something.  My students will think it's so official!  I may use it as a compliment box, too!  I love that it can hold full size papers in the back.    Check back later to see the suggestion box decorated and in use!

Head to to check out these to products, other products by MMF, cleaning supplies, and medical supplies from Shoplet!

Activities for early finishers with a December Holidays theme

What better way to keep early finishers busy in December than Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzza activities.  My December Holidays Early Finishers Jar has 27 activity cards for each holiday.  The activities are easy enough for students to do without teacher instruction.  You can take a closer look at my December Holidays Early Finishers Jar in my TpT store.