Monday, July 11, 2016

Personalized Pictures to Color- a Tutorial

Oh, I am so excited over a new app I found. You can make a coloring sheet from a photo! I link up with Monday Made It to share.

The app I'm happy to tell you about is iPiccy.  It is an online app so all your work is done online and there's nothing to download except your finished picture. Open an account using your email address. Once you confirm and log into the site, the screen will look like this.

Click on "Upload photo" and a drop down menu will pop up so you can select the photo you want to work on. I put all the photos I'm going to upload to an online site, like Walgreen's for photo printing, for example,  in a desktop folder I named "Photos for Upload." Click on the photo you want to use and it appear on the screen, looking like this... with your own photo, not one of my daughters. snort.

Now you want to go to the "magic wand" tool up at the top, the second one over, and click. Suffer through my rather crude arrows I use to point things out in this tutorial.

Now you have a new menu of effects on the left hand scroll bar. Scroll past "Basics" "Vintage" "Area" and "Color" all the way to "Artistic." Under Artistic you'll see "Pencil Sketch." Click on it.

OOooo! They became a drawing! You can adjust the line weight by sliding the bar, and then hit "Apply" to save.

At this point you can be all done, or you can give the picture a caption. To add words click on the "Layer" button along the top menu, highlighted by my arrow.

Then the screen gives you the choice of a text tool button, a "T" highlighted by my arrow. Click. 

Now your screen will look like this.  

This next part is a lot like using many other apps like PowerPoint, or even KidPix. You'll want to drag the text box to where you want it on the image. Choose from the fonts by scrolling on the left. Then type in whatever caption you want in the box on the left where it says "Your Text Here." I tried getting a cursor to go into the actual text box on the photo and it didn't work. You have to type in the box on the left side bar and your text will appear on the photo. 

Here is what I ended up with. I can hear the eyerolls now when my two see that caption... good thing they never read the blog. Hee. And yes, when my DD do eyerolls, you can hear it...

To save the photo you first need to click on the "disk" image and a pop-up window will appear like as in the image below. Click on "Combine layers"

Lastly, a final screen will appear allowing you to save the image wherever you like.

Just print and TA-DA! All ready for coloring!

NOW, teacher friends, just think of the ways you can use this! The kiddos will LOVE coloring pictures of themselves. It would make a great cover for a portfolio, or to designate their display space in the hall. Or how about a field trip book of photos that they color. Or pictures of their building projects... the list goes on and on. And of course, once you become familiar with this app you will discover all sorts of other ways to customize images! I hope you find another good use of technology and as much fun as I do! I can hardly wait for the school year to begin... well, I guess I can wait just a bit more..

Click on their image to go to their home page.

If you are happy to find this, or you have used it and can think of other projects to do, add them below! I love to hear from anyone out there in the Internet Land.

Click on back and see what the rest of the teacher blogging world has been creating this week. See you next time. And Tara, thanks for the linky... it is a happy par-ty!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

No More Pencils! Sooo Many Tips!

This is a post I've been meaning to write for some time now. I'm going to tell you WHY I don't use pencils in my classroom, WHAT I use instead, and HOW I make it all work. I'm also going to tell you why I value a very special new pencil sharpener... you'll see that pencil alternatives AND good pencil sharpeners go together later. Through all of this I will give many tips, both big and small, about writing tools in the classroom. I share my five points through the Five for Friday linky.


I don't use pencils in my classroom. I literally own about six standard pencils and I am the only one who uses them, and then only for recording assessments. There are several reasons why my students don't use pencils:
1. The sharpening of pencils is a PAIN... yes, I know all the systems to make sharpening easier, but I still don't think the various hassles are worth the time and effort on my part or my students'.
2. Pencils are difficult to write with. It takes considerable effort and strength to make a mark on paper with a pencil. I want my kiddos thinking about writing letters, writing words, and putting their thoughts on the page, not thinking about making the tool work.
3. I want to see my students' mistakes. Teachers glean a lot of insight into kids' thinking when we see the mistakes they make, like what their emerging skills are. And I don't want them working away at rubbing off or smearing their answers with the eraser. More wasted effort.
4. I find chewed on pencils with missing erasers depressing. Yes, that's my truth... maybe I had a bad experience with pencils growing up. When I see a pencil with a missing eraser I immediately pitch it in the trash.


So I bet you're wondering what I use instead. I have two main writing tool alternatives.

One is Crayola Classic skinny markers– no I don't use "Washable" ones because the ink comes right off the paper making a bigger mess of hands than the classics. And classic markers wash out of clothes and off of hands just fine. I have yet to figure out why any teacher prefers washable. I buy my markers at Target when they go on sale for a buck a box. And yes, I buy a lot... like fifty boxes. Plus some fat ones for drawing. Significant budget goes to Crayola markers, but not to worry, you'll see I save money later in the post.

Our other pencil alternative is retractable pens, or "clickers" as we call them. Yes, the kids will click them at the beginning of the year, and one or two curious little engineers with inquiring minds will take them apart to see how they work– I put some out just for that purpose. However, with regular daily use, multiple times a day, the novelty of the clicker pen very quickly wears off.

My absolute favorite student pens are the Staples medium point 1.0 mm retractable pens with a comfort grip. The barrels of these clickers are generously sized and the soft grip makes them comfortable to hold. This pack of fifty pens includes three colors– black, blue, and red, and the bin costs just $11.99. $11.99 for fifty pens means the price per pen is just TWENTY FOUR cents!

The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 soft pencil, in the 72 bulk size is $12 on sale. That amounts to seventeen cents per pencil. And how long will those pencils last... you'll have to tell me because I don't use them. With all the lead dulling, tip breaking, and repeated grinding to get a point, I'm betting that box of 72 won't last too long in the classroom... to say nothing of the annoyance factor.  

How long did my bin of 50 clicker pens last?? Come on. Ask me. You know you want to know. I still had some left when I packed up the classroom from the bin I bought TWO falls ago. YEP. We got two years use from them. The ink in those pens lasts a long time. I'll buy another bin this year, but really, six dollars a year for pens is a very good thing for a teacher's budget. 

I invest more money in the Crayola markers, even though they are just ten cents a piece when on sale. The marker ink does not last as long because it dries out quicker, and the kids do occasionally use them to draw with as well as write. I let the kids write with markers for the first month of the school year and then we officially switch to clickers. They still get to write with markers sometimes, but I am careful to distinguish that skinny markers are for writing and fat markers are for drawing. It just makes the skinnies last that much longer. And they always get to draw with fat markers or crayons when they are writing with clickers. 

3.  One more WHAT

I would be remiss if I did not say that we also use skinny dry erase markers on clear eraseable envelopes. The best deal I've found is on Amazon– the fine tip Expo markers are about seven dollars for a box of twelve. I've found Lakeshore and the dollar store brands at good prices, too, and they work just as well. No matter the brand, make sure you get the fine point as the wide felt chisel tip gets smashed in when little hands use them. (The tips can be pulled out with needle nose pliers, but that is a hassle.) 

We use the C-line Stitched Shop Ticket Holders– I believe these were the original dry erase envelopes although there are various brands in use in classrooms these days. You simply slip whatever activity sheet you want the kids to be writing on into the sleeve. The kids fill out the sheet, then erase the sleeve so the next student can use it. This method really cuts down on the number of copies you need to make. 

And here's an extra tip– on Amazon the neon colored ones are ten for $13, while the black stitched ones come in a box of 25 for $23. You do the math. And the residue from the dry erase ink will not show up as much on the black edged ones as it does on the neon, so they look nicer with less cleaning. I know the neon ones are cuter, but for the money, and the reduced dirt, I say go for the black.



Okay, there are a couple of HOWs that I need to answer. First of all, with no erasers, how do kids correct their mistakes? Well, we use what I fondly refer to as the baseball method– three strikes and it's out. We learn how to draw one line through the middle of the letter or word, then one strike across the top, and one across the bottom. Yes, I know we as adults know that one strike will do it, but the little guys just don't think it is "fixed" enough with only one line. To take away their tendency to scribble and completely obliterate mistakes, wasting ink and making holes in paper, I came up with the baseball method. With three strikes, the kiddos feel they have thoroughly identified and marked out the mistake.... and the baseball metaphor gives me another quick teachable moment (usually half the class does not know how baseball is played), and it makes it fun.

My tip for storing the clicker pens is to teach the kiddos to click the pen "closed" so the ink doesn't mark up the bottom of the caddy. This way the retracted ballpoint end points down and the ink stays at the tip ready to write for the next day. They get it. It works really well.

Another suggestion– I put both the black and blue pens out for writing right from the get-go, right after the first month of school which we spend writing with skinny markers. A choice of black or blue is good and eases them away from the full rainbow of choices. I save the red pens for the revision writing unit to use for editing. I'll add here, for any remaining skeptics, that when I went to Teachers College for a week of Lucy Calkins training, the kindergarten team recommended writing with skinny markers at the beginning of the year, too. They were not too fond of pencils for the same reasons I give here. I felt somewhat justified in my uncommon rejection of classroom pencils.

The HOW of how I store the dry erase pens includes several not-so-obvious tips, too. I stumbled upon this tray while looking for a pen holder of certain specifications. I wanted one that would hold a table group's worth of pens and leave the marker caps in plain view, so we could go hunting immediately for any that turned up missing.

This black tray (also available in blue) comes from IKEA. It is supposed to be for making long skinny ice cubes for water bottles. However, if you turn it over it holds five dry erase markers really well. It you leave it right side up there are six slots, and that's good if you have six kids at a table. I go to the trouble of labeling these markers, one for each kiddo– it leads to much more responsible use. I put colored binder clips on the trays to distinguish which table group the pens belong to– no type of sticker or tape would adhere to the rubbery plastic. And a bonus, they stack really well. The whole system is a good one for us.

5.  And now...

I have a pencil sharpener to recommend. Yes. You read that right. After a whole post on how I DO NOT use pencils, I have cause to talk about a pencil sharpener. You see, although we don't use regular #2 pencils in class, we do draw with colored pencils. I like the brands that have softer leads as they seem to hold more pigment. My favorite brand for special projects is Faber-Castell, and for everyday use we use Crayola, the best of the common school pencils, I think. The problem is that colored pencils need to be sharpened quite regularly. AND another problem is that they shouldn't be sharpened in an electric pencil sharpener– something to do with extra wear on the blades and motor.

Chances are if you read any blogs you already know that this really neat-o pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies is all the rage. The sharpener holds the pencil in such a way that it feeds the pencil in just the right amount for a sharp tip, with no over-sharpening. The kiddos only need to crank the handle. It comes in groovy colors to coordinate with any classroom decor. It is surprisingly quiet, too. And the price is very reasonable at only $24.99, or if you go in with teacher friends and buy three, each one is just $17.99.

When I heard Classroom Friendly Supplies was looking for blog reviews, I immediately thought of a REAL pencil sharpener challenge for them. heh, heh, heh. (evil laugh) I emailed the company and asked how their groovy sharpener did with COLORED pencils.

Their response was a true one: "Colored pencils are the kryptonite of most sharpeners!" They rose to the challenge though, and sent me one, free of charge, to test it out.

My honest recommendation: It worked great! The kids figured out how to let it hold the pencil, it went in as promised and came out with a sharp point without being ground to bits. All this was as promised.

How many kids does it take to sharpen pencils? snort.

When customer support emailed their response to my question about colored pencils they added that it might be best to have the kids only partially sharpen colored pencils. When the tip of a colored pencil gets very sharp the tip is more likely to jam, they said. I don't know if it jams when you sharpen it all the way, because I modified the directions for sharpening our colored pencils for another reason. Drawing and coloring with colored pencils is better if there is a lot of lead exposed, but with a slightly rounded tip, not a sharp point. So I told the kidpeople to load the pencil into the sharpener then give it three turns of the crank. They were also instructed to only sharpen when the leads were about gone. When the pencil went into the sharpener in this dull state, three turns of the handle put a perfectly rounded tip on the pencil.

See the little cuties counting the turns of the handle
on their fingers. hee. 

Another little colored pencil sharpening tip is to sharpen both ends of the pencil. That way drawing can happen for twice as long before a sharpening is needed. You can't really see the pencils in the cup to see that this is usually the case.

Needless to say, the pencil sharpener was a GREAT hit in class, both with the kiddos and with me. I will be using it over in the art area for years to come. I can heartily recommend the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener because if it can do tricky colored pencils so well, it can certainly do any regular pencils that you might stubbornly continue to use after reading this post. snort!

You can find the sharpener by clicking on the icon below.

Whew, thanks for staying with me through this rather long post. I hope I gave you food for thought! I have been asked several times to explain how I get away without using pencils and I hope this explained it. I encourage you to share your thoughts and ask questions in the comment section below. I also ask you to PIN! PIN! PIN! if you found some ideas worth remembering and sharing. I would be thrilled to see it shared on Instagram, too. I hope you'll try going pencil-less this year. I swear, you'll never go back.

Now scootch on back to Five for Friday. So many good things are out in the blog-o-sphere. Thanks, Doodle Bugs Teaching for your ever wonderful linky!

See you next time! By the way, next time is going to be Monday, and it will be a tutorial on a new photo app I've discovered. Don't miss it.

P.S. If you haven't already, quick click on the pic below and enter to win a $100 TPT gift certificate. You can have up to twenty chances and you'll also find twenty freebies of various kinds if you go through the blog hop. My freebie is a writing packet from my TPT store, but HURRY! The giveaway and freebies end Friday night! 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday Made It– MAKE

Well, here is a third day with a third post in a row... must be summer! I'm linking up with Fourth Grade Frolics to post about a little project I did for my new classroom. Yep, I'm moving rooms. Might as well have a little fun with it.

So, this is nothing especially original– letters that say words in your classroom. Imagine. But in the new room I am creating a new maker space. I mean, I think I am... I've written this several times now... publicly on the blog... so I hope it does actually, eventually, by end of summer, come to be... sigh. Anyway, I want to designate an area in the room as a maker space and what better than to have a sign that says so. Besides, MAKE is a good word for the kiddos to know.

So here is mine all finished. I show it to you on top of a doorway in our house, so you get the idea that it is going to be up on top of a bulletin board in the classroom.

I bought the wooden block letters at Target for four bucks each. Then I painted the letters white with acrylic paint, also from Target. You don't have to paint the letters white, I just wanted the washi tape colors to really show up. Then I covered the letters with four washi tape patterns I liked. Here are the letters half done. I did not use any rhyme or reason applying the tape, just wanted the letters randomly covered with no repeating patterns to be seen.

When the 3D letters were completely covered with tape on the front and sides, I painted them with Mod Podge so the tape wouldn't peel away over time. Mine have a shiny finish but you can use matte finish Mod Podge, if you prefer.

One little tip to share– place any painted object on crumpled foil when you are done painting. The crumpled foil makes a sort of easy drying rack which allows air to circulate, cutting the drying time, and the objects don't stick to the surface as much. Pin to remember!

I'll show you pictures of MAKE when it goes up in the classroom. Hope you are inspired to try some words for your room– math, read, learn, laugh, play... so many great words to choose from. It wasn't hard to do and it gave me a nice feeling of accomplishment at the start of summer. If I don't get to any other fun thing for the classroom, at least I did this one!

Click on back and find lots more inspiration on the Monday Made It list! Thanks, Tara!

And, oops, almost forgot. I'm part of a blog hop giveaway– a $100 TPT gift certificate. And for just the next few days I have my letter writing packet as a FREEBIE on TPT, too. Not. Too. Shabby. Click on pic to get everything... but hurry!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July's 3 Classroom Idea Pins

Hi Folks! I just got back from a weekend away and have picked 3 Pins to share through Pawsitively Learning, Just Reed, and Inspired Owl's Corner's link-up– Thanks, Ladies!

I have to move classrooms this summer, so this month's Pick 3 is about classroom set up and decor. If you are not interested in classroom details at the moment, then you can just move along until next time... oh, after you enter the $100 TPT giveaway that I'm part of this week– skootch down to bottom of post to check it out!

As I said, I'm busy setting up a new classroom this summer. I would save these classroom Pin ideas to share for next month, as more teachers might be interested, but if you are like me, you like to get ideas and then let them stew a bit in your brain to make best use of them. I also want to have them in mind as I do the set up so I can accommodate them from the get-go, and not have to redo what I've already done. 

Pin number one is from and one way to let kids use a white board. I have a white board that is going to be near my makers space, and although I might use it as display, I would like to "give it to the kids" so to speak. It could be as simple as Expo markers being used for graffiti, or it could be that I give them a supply of post-its to use. I could put up a word that we are discussing and then have them draw and write about that. An advantage is that I could gather the post-its so I have a bit of a record when it was time to change topics. Or it could be less structured and just let them go at it and see what they do.  

Pin number two from shows two ways to make hanging display or drying space for paintings. I love letting the kidpeople paint, but the drying space is always an issue. My old room was in a centrum, so I had much more space out in the central area for drying artwork. Both the circular and rectangular devices in the picture are for drying laundry. I want whichever one I use to be over by the makers space, too, as that is where painting will happen. I think the rectangular one would offer more drying room but it takes up more space, of course. I'll have to keep my eye out this summer whenever I'm in laundry departments with these in mind.

This idea comes from and is so cute and so easy I hope to use it somewhere. I have my eye out for washies that go with my color scheme. 

Well, that's all for my Pins. I do need to share, though, that I'm part of a blog hop going on this week. You can pick up a freebie letter writing packet right now which is usually on my TPT store, AND you can enter to win a $100 TPT gift certificate. Just think of all the materials you could put in your cart if you had $100 to shop with. Click on the picture below to go to the post to find the goodies. 

Now check out all the wonderful Pins on this month's Pick 3 linky party below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

School's Out Blog Hop

Whoot! Whoot! It is SUMMER and that's reason to celebrate so I've joined up with some lovely blogging ladies for the

I'm sharing all sorts of stuff– some choice books, my summer bucket list, a limited time freebie on TPT, and the chance to win a $100 TPT gift card! Here we go!

I added a half dozen new books to my constant pile from which I'm always reading. I'm going to share two of them that I'm most excited about.

First of all, I should probably share what is going on with me right now. I LOVE five year olds. I am a kid person and think kids of all ages are neat, but the year kids are five is my favorite year of childhood, I think. So many things are happening in those growing brains and because they are quite verbal while still being pretty egocentric, you get great glimpses into what they are thinking.

Kindergarten is the logical place for me, right? Yes... and no. I don't need to tell anyone reading this post that there are some things happening in kindergarten that from a child development perspective are less than ideal. So, I have stepped up to the bat to teach a Young 5s class next year at our school. It is not a given that it is going to happen at this point and the final decision as to it's existence will come about in the last days before school starts– it's all about the numbers, isn't it? I have my fingers, toes, arms, eyes, tongue (tongue?) and every other crossable body part crossed in hopes that it will happen. I'll be blogging about it in the future so for now I just share that whether I have a kindergarten or Y5 class next year, I have a strong desire to provide deeper and more meaningful hands-on exploration and play opportunities for my students. Simply put, that is where all learning begins. I strive each year to keep the hands-on imaginative piece front and center to learning- no matter if the learning is math, science, reading, or writing. With all the curriculum we have to teach it is a struggle, and I know a lot of other kindergarten teachers struggle, too.

In my search to keep focused on play, and to keep the learning fresh, the most recent addition to my reading pile is Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children written by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.

I am a hoarder collector by nature. I have dozens if not hundreds of wine corks, marker caps, woody pinecones, buttons, bandanas, etc, etc. And I do use them with my students. However, when I saw this book, I knew uses for my treasures would expand tenfold.

The book is divided by parts and chapters: Senses– Color, Texture, Sound; Creativity–Art, Design, Symbolic Play; Action– Movement, Transporting, Connecting/Disconnecting;  and Inquiry– Construction, Investigation, Correlation. Good, eh? The book is simply gorgeous with hundreds of photos that are pure eye candy to this teacher. And the book forward includes special thanks to Bev Bos. I am not a teacher who fell off the apple cart yesterday... in other words I have many years of experience in teaching young kids and I am proud to say one of the earliest influences over my thinking came from Bev Bos. Don't know of Bev? Just google to find her books, her songs, her thought provoking and boundary pushing ideas about kids. Bev passed away this year just a few months ago, which means she is truly legendary, and anybody who teaches young children must get to know her words and her work.

Another little swarm of topics buzzing around in my brain include maker spaces, STEAM (STEM with arts added in), and early foundations for writing. I was happy to stumble upon Make Writing by Angela Stockman.

The subtitle says it all– 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer's Workshop Into a Maker Space. This book has a broader audience than Loose Parts in that it is written with students of all ages in mind. I hope to glean new ideas and ways of thinking about writing from this read.

Any of you out there wanna do a book study with either of these two books? We'll figure out how to do it no matter where you live in this wide world. Just throw me an email and we'll see what we can cook up. I'll probably be blogging about some of the concepts that strike me strongest over the summer, so if you are too shy to email me– geesh– just keep coming back for my little monologues... but I sure wish you'd join me :)

Okay, I am least excited about this part of the post. It's not because I have anything against summer bucket lists– I think they are a good way to organize the summer. Let's just suffice it to say that I have to move classrooms AGAIN. I had to a mere five years ago. I went from THE kindergarten classroom in the building, as designated on the school blueprints, with wonderful space and storage, to a total space of about half the size. And the room I'm moving to now is another twenty percent smaller with very poor storage. My family lost the garage with the first move, I had to haul so much equipment and materials home. At the moment two rooms in the house are crowded with more stuff awaiting it's fate– to be carted off to the Salvation Army or lugged back to school if a miracle happens and I create a niche for it. Deciding what to keep and not keep is also complicated by not knowing with certainly that I'll be teaching Young 5s. 

I have swung between rage and despair. Cramped quarters to teach and learn in. So much good stuff that will not be in the hands of my kiddos– wonderful materials that I have purchased with my own money. And now blood, sweat, tears, days of work and more money will go into making the new space work, and creating storage out of nothing. The reasons for this move I cannot discuss here, but let's just say they are "less than convincing." How do you spell disrespect?

So the first to-do on my summer bucket list is simply to create the best possible classroom for five year olds, be it kindergarten or Young 5s, under some rather restrictive new parameters.  In other words, I'm about to attempt magic. 

And second on my very short bucket list is finding time for relaxation. In between the days spent at school may I find the rest and activity that lets me be a person first and a teacher second. I want to start school in September rested and rejuvenated, in spite of the work ahead, and with nothing but a positive, enthusiastic outlook on my new classroom and (hopefully) new program. Stay tuned if you are into imaginative storage ideas and classroom set-ups, because I'll be doing a good bit of problem solving on this score, and I will blog about this new "adventure." As my mother-in-law always said, "Adventure is inconvenience rightly perceived!" She was a very positive lady– her nickname was actually Happy. Here's to new perceptions. 

Now, I mentioned there would be a limited time FREEBIE on my TPT store. Many of you know I am not one of the big TPT bloggers. snort. In fact I don't think I qualify as even a miniscule TPT blogger. Most items in my tiny shop are free. But I do have a packet that K-2 teachers will have fun with and that is my letter writing packet. So although it is usually two dollars, for this short period it is FREE! DH Jonathan did the graphics for it, so it has some good stuff your kids will like to use. And having opportunity to write letters is a great mini-unit for writing in the classroom. Just click on the image below to find it on TPT.

And NOW here is your chance to win a $100 TPT gift certificate! Just click to follow me on Bloglovin' or email– I can check either method. And if you already follow me than put that and QUICK enter! 

School's Out Blog Blowout

Thanks to all my regular followers for stopping by. And to any new readers, I hope you found some interesting stuff and some new bloggers to follow on the hop. I have lots of ideas for summer blog posts– classroom set-up and storage ideas, new shopping finds, reading materials that help tweak teaching practice to be as effective as possible, and even a funny kid story or two. I hope to see you again soon!

Click the image below to take you to Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, the next blogger on the hop! Read, enter, and good luck to you!

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