March 1, 2015

You Can, Toucan, Math (Mentor Text for Mental Math)

This week, my second graders have been practicing mental math. They were struggling to make the connection from their 'worksheets' to what we meant by doing mental math. I'm not a huge fan of worksheets, so I took a step back and remembered I have a great tool at my disposal. I told my students to put everything away as I pulled out the book "You Can, Toucan, Math" by David A. Adler.

If you haven't heard of this book, and you teach math in the primary grades, I'd highly suggest you go pick it up. It's one of my favorites for math. According to, it is less than $10, and it  "introduces kids to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a fun and unthreatening fashion. Math riddles encourage young readers to think through math problems as they study both the amusing verse and pictures."
If you haven't heard of David A. Adler, he has written books for children such as, Cam Jansen, Picture Book Biographies, and books related to math strategies (fractions, money, area/perimeter, etc.)
Anyways, as I read the first word problem to the kids, we talked it through. I picked a fairly easy one. Then I prompted with questions like...
 How do you solve this problem?
Do we need to add, subtract, multiply, or divide?
Ok, now how do we know what to add?
Alright, so what answer did you get?
Are you right?
Are you sure?
You're positive?
Well, so and so got a different answer, so who is right?
All of you try it one more time and see if you get the same answer.
Well then how did you get to that answer?
What strategy did you use?
As the kids got the hang of it, I didn't use as many prompts. Eventually, I would read the riddle and wait for them to raise their hands to give me their answers. Often, I would have each student (keep in mind I'm working with groups of 2-4) whisper me their answer so the others couldn't hear and copy off of each other. Then I would prompt with, "Are you right?" and "Are you sure?" I would follow up by asking them what strategy they used (ex. counting on).

I have noticed that many of my kids, when asked, "Are you right?", they would immediately change their answer because they are so used to being wrong when questioned. I try to question my students whether they are right or wrong. I want them to gain the confidence in their answers and start thinking more for themselves.

If you decide to try this out with your kiddos, or you have used this book in other way, I'd LOVE to hear about it!! :)

Until next time..


February 21, 2015

Through Your Child's Eyes (Simulations)

This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed an article from, written by a mom of a child who has Dyslexia. (Now before you stop reading my post because your child does not have Dyslexia, or because you think this is all that it's about, it's not. There's more.) Normally I would keep scrolling, but the title of the article drew me in. It is called "Now I Understand What My Child With Dyslexia Is Going Through".  As I read the title, I thought to myself, "how could anyone possibly know what a child with Dyslexia is going through, unless they've gone through it themselves?"
According to the author of this article (Lyn Pollard) one way to understand what these children are going through is to see for your self through simulation. As a special education teacher of children with multiple learning disabilities, I had to find out what this simulation was all about.
But before I tell you more about this simulation and my thoughts, I want to explain what the site,, is all about. (Keep in mind that I am in no way affiliated with, I simply thought this would be a good resource to share.) is a site dedicated to helping parents access information needed to help them understand their children with learning and attention issues. It provides resources, tools, and support. is supported by 15 non-profit organizations (including the National Center for Learning Disabilities) , and countless numbers of experts and advocates.
The experts at have put together a simulator in order for others to experience what a learning and attention issue might look like. Each simulation starts with a video of a child and/or expert speaking about the specific issue (You can skip these videos if you'd just like to try the simulation). Afterwards there is a simulation that takes you through what that child might be experiencing. Keep in mind that each child's experience is going to be unique for them. The simulations are short, and if you are interested, it should only take you a few minutes.
I, myself, still don't fully understand what my students are going through even after experiencing the simulations. It did, however, give me a different perspective. It is not the child's fault that they struggle on a daily basis (yes, I already knew this, but it was a reminder I needed). As teachers and parents, it is our job to help these children find ways to cope, adjust, and succeed with the tools they are given.  Each time I get impatient and frustrated, I am going to come back and revisit this site as a reminder of what these children are dealing with.
If you take anything away from this, hopefully you will have a little more understanding, compassion, and patience for these children.
Please continue reading for step-by-step directions on how to access the simulations.
(You do NOT need to set up a profile in order to access the simulator.)
1. Click on the link
2. Go to 'Your Parent Toolkit'.
3. Click on 'Through Your Child's Eyes'.
4. Find the box that says 'Experience It' and click GO.
5. From there click your child's grade level (I clicked grade 1 since I teach K-2)
6. Click on 1 or ALL (Reading, Writing, Math, Attention, Organization) issues. ( I chose to click on ALL since I deal with all on a daily basis.) It will prompt you to begin, or continue.
(Feel free to click on the direct link below)
I hope to have helped open your eyes just a bit, as this did for me. It is one thing to know that a child is struggling, but it's another thing to experience it for yourself.

February 18, 2015

The Battle of the Pencil Sharpeners! (My Review)

Who doesn't love a good pencil sharpener?!
Before this year, I had been using the cheap pencil sharpeners that only last 1/2 a year at most. I was soo tired of them breaking mid-way through the year that I decided to invest in some better ones.
I had seen, all over social media, buzz about this pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. When I first heard about it, I thought.. "Manual? Why would I want a manual pencil sharpener? Electric are soo much nicer."
Boy was I wrong!!
I sharpened that first pencil and my eyes lit up. It did a fabulous job! It was probably the sharpest pencil I've seen in a long time. I couldn't believe it so I sharpened another pencil, and another. I could even sharpen those cheap pencils, you know those ones that the stuff peels off the outside if not done correctly.
I was sold!
I was so excited about these pencil sharpeners that I convinced a few of the other teachers I work with to invest in one. Like me, they were all skeptical, but after seeing it in action, they were amazed!
Check out this video from Classroom Friendly Supplies to see how it works!
As of right now I am using it with the basic clasp it comes with. Every so often it will come loose (especially if my students use it). I am in the process of ordering the permanent mount.
So on top of the manual pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I also wanted to see if I could find an electric one I enjoyed just as much. I also needed a pencil sharpener that would work for those big pencils. Although they didn't have it at the time, Classroom Friendly Supplies now has a pencil sharpener made for those bigger pencils!
I decided to try out this one I found at Staples. Its the X-ACTO School Pro1670 Pencil Sharpener. For an electric sharpener this one is pretty great!
SO far so good.
So you may ask, "which one do you like better?"
To be honest, I can't choose. I like them both for different reasons and I use them both on a daily basis. I like the convenience of the electric sharpener, however, the manual one works wonders. You be the judge. :)
Until next time...