The Classroom Friendly Sharpener

I’ve been thinking of starting up the blog again, but with a different focus. As usual, time gets away. If only the day were a couple hours longer! I have really been bit by the pen, pencil and paper bug thanks mostly to Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley at the Pen Addict podcast. So I figured maybe I’d throw a couple reviews of tools I’ve used. The first is the Classroom Friendly Sharpener.

Spoiler alert: It’s a total winner!!! I love this thing. So do my students. I will always have one at school and at home. You can read on, but if you are looking for a pencil sharpener just go buy it now.

I have owned and used all types of sharpeners. From cheap little bullet sharpeners to big expensive electric ones. I like my little manual ones very much, but they can be messy. The one bolted down on my windowsill would always break and the metal case that you remove is always loose and the kids have a heck of a time replacing it after they empty the shavings. The electric ones eat pencils so quick and seem to always die on me. They overheat or the kids jam something in there to break them. And they are so loud!

The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is a decent sized little gadget. Larger than the traditional bolted down crank turning sharpener. It’s tall and portable. It comes with a clamp to attach it to a desk, but I had trouble getting it to tighten securely. They sell a piece seperately to attach it to a surface more permanently, but I like having it free. I leave it on my desk and the kids come up and use it there or take it to their desk. I have used it for a few months now and it has yet to fail me. I’ve seen the kids sharpen everything from a regular old Dixon #2, colored pencils, and yes, even those awful things that are wrapped in some kind of plastic with Ninja Turtles on them. I’ve even see the glitter pencils go in! They all sharpened right up!

The design is very interesting. The sharpener is a single blade design. It can be easily removed and even replaced if necessary. The shavings fall into a clear chamber under the blade that is easily removed when it becomes full. There is a metal plate on the front which you pull out to begin sharpening. A few supports hold it in place once it is fully extended. In the center of this plate there is a hole with a set of little metal jaws on the inside. To use the sharpener you pinch together two levers to open those little jaws. Insert the pencil through the plate and into the sharpener’s body. Once you release the levers, the metal jaws hold the pencil in place while you sharpen. Once you start turning the handle the supports are released and the pencil will begin sharpening. The metal plate pulls the pencil into the blade as it operates. You turn the handle until the sharpening has ended. You can feel it, the handle turns very easily. Sounds strange, but really simple.

It’s a cool little gadget and that immediately hooked the kids. I heard audible gasps and “wows.” It puts a nice long EXTREMELY sharp point on the pencil. It’s also designed with a little stop and the end of the blade, so it is impossible to oversharpen. This machine cannot eat pencils! It has extended the life of our tools!

I should point out some of the cons I have discovered. They are small quibbles, but should be mentioned. They rubber feet on the bottom make black marks on any surface you use the sharpener on. I need to clean my desk often where I keep it. For whatever reason, it actually matters if we turn it clockwise or counterclockwise. We haven’t completely figured it out, but some new pencils are finicky with the direction you sharpen. Finally, it does leave little teeth marks on the pencil where the metal jaws hold it in place. The kids could care less, but if you are a pencil geek and you don’t want your Blackwing 602 marred up, you may want to look elsewhere.

None of those would keep me from wholeheartedly recommending the purchase of this sharpener. At around $25, it’s a steal. I have taken it from classroom to classroom to show it off. Just get it, you won’t regret it. Currently $24.99 at Classroom Friendly Supplies.

The Files are moving to a new location.

I have received numerous emails about the files.  Even though the site hasn’t been updated, people are still finding and using it.  The forum was impossible to keep spam free, so I have moved the files to  Awesome service, and it’s free!  And I have provided the remaining files to get you through Unit 11!
****I see the bandwidth for September has been reached. Since it is nearly October, I am going to let it go and see if it happens again. I can’t justify dropping the 10 bucks a month to upgrade if it doesn’t happen again. I hope it is simply a case of a bunch of people downloading at the beginning of the year****


I have already failed one of my New Year’s resolution to give this site more attention. I got around to cleaning out the forum. I’ve had a lot of stuff going on and this thing got moved WAY down on the list of priorities. I’m starting to catch the bug again though, but I’m sure I have lost many of the people I had checking in regularly.

I have really enjoyed teaching the second grade Everyday Math curriculum. I have been quite surprised how close it correlates with the Third Grade lessons. I can see why the students seem to be stronger math students each year. The spiral is there!

The bad news is– I have been TERRIBLE about collecting my Second Grade Smartboard lessons. This is the same problem I had during my first year in third grade. Maybe this summer…

I may take the blog in a different direction for a while with some new interests of mine, but know that I will do my best to keep the forums cleaned up and ready to go. Maybe we can try again to fill them up!!

Here’s a hint about what has been taking up my time and interests lately:

A Rough Start and I HATE SPAM!!

I had everything ready, my prep time would be next to nothing, and then…. boom!  My Smartboard lamp died.  Of course, my district didn’t have any on hand.  They have since ordered some, but for some reason ordering things in the public school system seems to operate on the dog year schedule.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful they have provided me with all these wonderful tools, I’m just frustrated.  Teaching without my Board just seems wrong.  It’s probably just me, but I don’t feel as effective.

It is really interesting teaching two grade levels of Everyday Math.  I’m surprised how similar the content is.  There have been a number of times I found myself wondering if I was repeating myself between grade levels.

I wish I had more to share, but I have been highly unmotivated to create new files with my situation.  On a more positive note, I have been contacted by quite a few people that have asked about sharing their files on the site.  Hopefully they will get up there sometime.

As far as the forums go, I apologize for all the spam.  I have all the recommended addons and precautions in place, but they aren’t proving very effective.  It’s starting to drive me crazy.  Hopefully something new will be available soon!

A New Year Begins

I’m so depressed.    I have less than two weeks of vacation left.  Some districts have already started!  The time sure did fly by.  I didn’t quite get through my summer to-do list, but I’m not giving up.   As you’ll see in the sidebar, I have uploaded my lesson files for Unit 1.

You may need to make more changes than usual to make them work for your classroom.  For example, I treat my toolkits differently than described in the manual.  I used to have Ziploc bags for every kid.   It was OK, but now I have a few sections of third grade math students, and now a section of SECOND GRADERs.   I’ve moved to tubs of materials.  It worked pretty well last year.  It’s all about setting those expectations high and stress showing respect towards the materials.

I also ignore the Length Of Day project.  After doing it for a couple years, I really can’t say all the work and effort was worth it.  I can pull out an old chart and the kids get the idea pretty quickly.   We practice elapsed time through the year as well, so I don’t think I’m taking away from the experience.  Anyway, you might need to add a few pages to lesson 1-13 if you do the project.

Remember, I make no claims that my Math lessons are the greatest thing in the world, or even what you should be losing.  I just know it is time consuming to create them, especially if you are not comfortable using the Smartboard. I hope if you all have files to share, you will add them to the forum. It would be nice to have a big library.

Hope you all have a great start to a new year!

Moodle + Mahara = Mahoodle!!!!!

The hosting switch is complete. There were many more hiccups than I would have liked. Not everything is right. There are problems logging in and out at certain places on this blog, but I don’t get many comments so I’m not too concerned. The login on the left sidebar works just fine. The forums were the only thing that switched over perfectly. I’m glad, there are a ton of files in there.

My biggest reason for switching was to install Mahara. I looked through a few forums and noticed it was possible to install it on Host Gator. I am SO happy I changed. Their customer service is outrageous. I have called and chatted numerous times and they have taken care of every issue I had. And they are totally green! Their servers are run by wind power. Somewhere in Texas there is a windmill farm and it produces the energy to run everything. Pretty cool!

Well, installing Mahara proved a challenge-but I did it. Not only that, I have it connected to my Moodle site. This might not sound like much, but it is awesome. Now my kids only need to have a user name and password for Moodle. When they click on the Mahara link, it automatically logs them in and transfers all their settings and info-even their pictures! I don’t have to do a thing!

Mahara is an open source Eportfolio software. It allows the kids to set up a “view” (a webpage) to display their work and make a quick blog post about it. They can upload files and pictures to accompany it. And most of it is drag and drop or “type and hit post.” I’m excited to play around with it.

Well, it’s August and I’m way behind on getting ready for this school year. Help me fill up the forum so everyone will have a great start when the madness begins.

The site may be down for a bit.

I am switching Hosting services.  It’s gone smoothly until the very end.  Now I’m having trouble getting my blog’s theme working.  It may go down and change it’s look a few times, but it should be back up and stable soon.

I am going through all this nonsense to install Mahara.  It is an open source Eportfolio software I hope to implement in some way this year.  I hope it is worth the headache.

No matter what happens with the blog, the forums are open and running just fine.

E-Portfolios and My iPhone addiction

I have been researching Electronic Portfolios for use in the classroom.  We use the old “toss some papers in a folder” approach now, but I need to move it into the world of Tech.  I have been to a few conferences and presentations where teachers have used Powerpoint to create them, but I’m not real crazy about that idea.  I can just imagine an organizational nightmare on my computers.  I would love to use the Presentation feature of Google Docs.  It’s like Powerpoint, but everything can be uploaded and more organized, plus the kids would have access at home.  There is one hang up though- you cannot insert a PDF into a Google Presentation.  Weird.  In Powerpoint, you just drag it onto the page and BAM!  I have yet to find an online site or program that really seems to suit my needs as a third grade classroom teacher.  There are some Eportfolio sites, but they are geared more for older students and adults, not my little kiddies.  I would love to hear some suggestions and ideas if you have any.

A couple side notes, I am venturing into more tech geek adventures.  I finally got my invite to Google Voice.  It’s really cool!  I won’t go into details, but if you want to learn more, check out the info here.  I set up a widget on the left so you can call and leave a voicemail if you have any questions or comments.  Don’t worry, I have it set to go straight to voicemail–I won’t pickup!  The site is now iPhone/mobile phone friendly.  Full websites work pretty well in the iPhone’s Safari browser, but I like when they are optimized to look more like an app.  I kind of like the mobile version better than the full!  Anyway, if you enter the address in your mobile browser it should take you there automatically. It runs through Mofuse, so there will be a small Google ad at the top.  Sorry, but free is free!  Hope summer is going well!

Lazy summer days.

I thought I might put a quick update for a couple reasons. One, I continue to get lots of emails and registrations, so I don’t want anyone to think I’ve stopped updating the site. Secondly, I got a new IPHONE and I am hopelessly addicted. I’m using it to create this update! I guess I’m a bigger tech geek than I had thought. We just returned from Iowa visiting family, so I haven’t made much progress, but I plan on getting back to the grind soon. Here is a look at some of my summer to do list.

-finish my 3rd grade files for EM
-create all the second grade units for EM
-create a language arts file for each of my lessons
-create reading story powerpoints for each of my stories
-rework my Moodle site to coordinate with all this
-redesign’s layout

Kind of ambitious, we’ll see how it goes. Of course, I’ll post whatever I can for all of you to use if you are interested.

Did I tell you I LOVE my iPhone? You all deserve one. Treat yourself, you won’t regret it.

Enjoy the fireworks!


Well, it’s nearing the end of a pretty productive school year.  I’m very happy about how this site is turning out.  I wasn’t sure if there would be much interest or not.  I’m glad there is!  I wish I had more to offer for the other grade levels in my forums.  BUT I HAVE NEWS!!  I am picking up a second grade Everyday Math class next year.  So my day will consist of two third grade sections and a second grade.  Long story, but I plan on creating and posting all my files.  If you have second grade teachers with a SmartBoard, pass on the info. I also plan on filling out the third grade lessons as well this summer.  Time just became a crunch here at the end of the year.

As far as my recent tech adventures, my Twitter page has been a HUGE success.  The page is getting hammered with people checking it out.  The kids love the fact that potentially thousands of people are reading what they have written.  Again, I’ve kept the parameters for their writing pretty loose, but I love that kids are choosing to spend free time in class writing on the computers- even if it is to say “Spongebob rules!”

The Moodle site has also been a big success.  If you are looking for a way to create more online activities for your students, it is a great program to use.  I look forward to integrating it even more next year.

I have also streamed our first class.  I broadcast our Lattice Multiplication lesson using DimDim.  It was awesome.  Next year I bet I will do it for many of my lessons.

Best wishes for a restful summer.  Be sure to check in periodically for updates.  If you have any questions or would like to collaborate next year in any way, please let me know.  I’m looking for some email buddies for next school year.