Sunday, July 20, 2014

Exploring Nature Field Trip

During the summer, most teachers I know spend at least some time planning for the next school year.  My favorite “planning” to do during the summer is field trip planning, because it means I get to tour cool places I’d like to take my students to – often with my own kids in tow.  Here are some of my favorite field trip locations, that can be found in most every community, as well as a list of content connections you can make for your students.  Often as teachers we only include field trips in our science and social studies, but there are lots of reading, writing and math connections that can be made in these locations as well.  I am going to share one type of field trip a week and ideas for making curriculum connections with each field trip.

field trips - make the most of them with these curriculum connections from Raki's Rad Resources

 Nature Preserve:  Seeing natural animals in their natural habitat – outside of cages – can be highly beneficial for students.  Knowing how animals are helped to stay in their natural habitat can also be completely beneficial.  Plus, there are so many benefits from simple nature hikes.  Find a blog post I wrote about nature hikes here.    

Reading:  Any number of books about animals can be read before and after going to a nature preserve.  Non fiction books about the types of animals you will see.  Fiction stories about animals, like Winnie the Pooh, the Berenstain Bears or Make Way for Ducklings – Talk about the difference between fictional animals and real animals. Read news articles and opinion pieces about nature preserves vs. zoos.

field trips - make the most of them with these curriculum connections from Raki's Rad Resources - trip to a nature preserveWriting:  Write informational essays about the natural habitat of one of the plants or animals that can be found in the nature preserve.  Persuasive writing – which is better nature preserves or zoos?  Write a fiction story from the point of view of one of the animals.

Math:  Measure how wide the trees are; learn about tree rings and calculate the age of a tree stump.  Create a graph of the animals living at the preserve, or of a statistic (like survival rate or release rate).

Science:   Learn about animal habitats, animal life cycles and animal adaptations.  Learn about plant habitats, plant life cycles and plant adaptations.  Discover how to protect the earth.  Explore the interconnectivity of plants, animals and humans.  Look at leaves and try to identify the different types of trees.  Look for “proof” of animal activity – footprints, feathers, droppings.

Social Studies:  Learn about how native people used nature to live.  Research people like Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, who worked to set aside national parks to preserve nature, and complete a biography projects with the information.  Explore the laws and current trends that affect ecology.  Discuss what happens when gold or oil is found in a place that is protected by law.

 

To make field trips more educational, I often use graphic organizers and other activities to keep my students focused.  Read more about the specifics in this blog post: Field Trips Aren’t Just For Fun.  Be sure to stop by next week for another Field Trip Curriculum Connection.

What is your best field trip idea?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can Students Use YouTube to Do Research?

 Look at these pictures of my students – they are all on YouTube, but they are…researching?  Can that be right? 

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources.

 Yep, that’s right – these students were researching famous Astronomers for our Historical Scientists Project.Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources And these students were researching for their virtual desert field trip project during our Desert Science Unit.

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources

In my mixed age class of 2nd – 5th graders (Year 3 – Year 6), my students often used YouTube as a research tool.  I always required a “mixture of sources” including some you have to read and some you can watch, but I found that there were some distinct advantages to my students to being able to use video as a research tool.

1.  My younger students, and lower readers, were able to find much more information, making them much more successful in Science and Social Studies.

2.  My students developed very good note taking skills while they were using videos to research.  When they were reading, they tended to copy down the exact words on the screen or in the book, but with videos they had no other choice than to put the information in their own words.

3.  Students were exposed to lots of ads and distractions.  While this may not seem like a good thing, they quickly learned how to get rid of the ads and distraction and focus on the task at hand, so that by our second project, they worked like those distractions weren’t even there – this my friends is a life skill in our current digital era.

4.  YouTube is like Google – it is a search engine, and search engines can be quite difficult for kids, who often think of them as question answering devices.  While I generally start my students out with suggested videos, they were also allowed to use search and became very good at picking out great key words and finding synonyms for less common words, as well as looking at a video critically to see if it was entertainment or informational.

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources

As with any type of research, you need to start out teaching students HOW to use video as a research tool, but pausing, taking notes, finding just the right video etc.  Here are some great YouTube Channels that you might want to consider using with your students:

 

 

 

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources - Crash Course

 

Crash Course – 10 to 15 minute videos on tons of Science and Social Studies topics

 

 

 

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources - Make Me Genius

 

 

Make Me Genius – 3 to 8 minute videos designed for kids on tons of Science topics

 

 

 

 

 

Educational videos from YouTube can provide quality research tools in the classroom - find out details from Raki's Rad Resources - TED Ed TED Education – 5 – 20 minute videos designed for kids on tons of Science and Social Studies topics

 

I know that many schools ban YouTube, if your school is one of those, check out these Alternatives to YouTube with educational videos.  Either way, I ask you to consider video as a research methodology for your students this year.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Friday, July 18, 2014

Charades in the Classroom

There are so many classic party games and recess games that kids in our digital age have never heard of.  These games are mentioned in books all the time, and not knowing the games means that kids have a hard time connecting to and understanding these books.  Teaching them in the classroom not only increases a child’s background knowledge and gives them a creative new way to play, but also can include curriculum connections.

Using charades can help increase student engagement and encourage curriculum connections.

Charades is a great example of a game that can be used to create curriculum connections while keeping kids engaged and giving them a new set of background knowledge.  Remind students that in charades you can use movements and gestures, but no sounds or words.  Here are some simple ways to use charades in your classroom:

1.)  Act out vocabulary words – Anything from vocabulary words in your content unit to vocabulary words from a novel study to ESL vocabulary words can be acted out. 

Write each word on a piece of paper – throw them in a hat (or cup or baggie or whatever you have on hand). Have students pull a paper and act it out while the rest of the class tries to guess what the word is.

Using charades can help increase student engagement and encourage curriculum connections. 2.)  Act out the plot of a book you have read as a whole class – This works best at the end of the school year, when you have read a variety of books together.  For older students, this could be a way to review classic books like Dr. Seuss or other books they “should have” read when they were younger.  It can also be way to review a group of short stories or poems that you have read.

Write the title of each story on pieces of paper - throw them in a hat (or cup or baggie or whatever you have on hand). Have students pull a paper and act out the plot while the rest of the class tries to guess which book it is.

3.)  Pretend to be a favorite person, or a favorite time period – Great for your Social Studies review, but would also work with famous scientists, famous authors or people in the news. 

Write the names of a bunch of people on pieces of paper (You could substitute historical events here as well) - throw them in a hat (or cup or baggie or whatever you have on hand). Have students pull a paper and act out the person – or people from that time period - while the rest of the class tries to guess who or when it is.

4.)  Pretend to be a certain animal – For younger students guessing the animal itself would be enough, but to make it more challenging for older students, they might call out an animal that would be predator – or prey – to this animal, where the animal might live (habitat or continent) or an evolutionary cousin of the animal (ie. horse and donkey)

Write the names of a bunch of animals on pieces of paper - throw them in a hat (or cup or baggie or whatever you have on hand). Have students pull a paper and act out the animal’s actions while the rest of the class tries to call out the correct answer.

5.) Act out a shape or an angle – Even Math can get in on the charades game.  Have students “be the shape” – 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional, or create the correct angle, while their friends call out the names of these geometrical principles.

Write the names of a bunch of shapes or concepts on pieces of paper - throw them in a hat (or cup or baggie or whatever you have on hand). Have students pull a paper and use their body to represent that shape or concept while the rest of the class tries to call out the correct answer.

 

boardgamesfortheclassroom How else could you use charades in your classroom?  For more suggestions on how to use games in the classroom, come back regularly for my Friday Game Night posts.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Thursday, July 17, 2014

All Kids Should Experience Camping

As a child, I went camping regularly, with my parents, with my grandparents, with Girl Scouts.  I knew all about how to identify poison ivy, how to cook over a camp fire (even if it was just marshmallows and hot dogs), how to search for kindling, how to wash dishes in a bucket. Since I spent so much time in the outdoors, I just assumed everyone else did too.  It wasn’t until I started teaching that I realized that there are people who don’t like to hike and who have never slept in a tent!  While I now understand that not everyone is a comfortable in nature as I am, I still feel like camping is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives – especially children.  There are so many things that kids can learn from the experience of camping, like:

1.)  There are living things everywhere.  When you camp, you experience living things – deer, rabbits, ants, bees, flies, mosquitoes etc.  Some of these things are annoying, but generally they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.  When you are camping, you are visitors in the homes of these creatures and you see them a bit differently than when they invade your house. 

2.)  It’s okay to get dirty.  Dirt is a part of nature, and as long as you don’t eat it in large quantities, it won’t hurt you.  Digging in the dirt, picking up rocks and sticks, climbing trees, this is all part of camping and you’re going to get dirty.  It’s important for kids to know that it’s okay to do this, and gives them a chance to realize why it’s so important to wash our hands before we eat!

10 reasons all kids should experience camping - it builds real life skills that transfer over into the classroom.  Raki's Rad Resources3.)  Fire can be fun – as long as you’re safe.  For kids, building a campfire can seem like this amazing thing.  You collect kindling (small sticks, pinecones, anything that will catch fire easily).  You pile it up and light it on fire.  You blow on it and hope it stays lit.  You learn that dry wood burns and wet wood doesn’t. (That’s a good science lesson all on it’s own!)  You learn to always have a full bucket of water nearby.  Then, you get to use the fire to roast marshmallows, cook hotdogs or make hobo pies.  This is a great time to talk about fire safety, and to let kids do something that is “dangerous” in a controlled environment. 

4.)  Self – sufficiency:  how to cook food over a fire and wash dishes without a sink.  There are so many life skills that can be taught while camping.  Wait, you can wash dishes without a dishwasher?  You can cook food without a stove?  Water doesn’t  come in infinite supply when you turn a tap and there are places without flush toilets!  These are skills our ancestors took for granted, and camping is a great time to remind kids how long people lived and prospered without electricity, or even indoor plumbing!

5.)  Nature deserves our respect.  When you experience nature – the joys of a starlit night, the sound of the owl at night and the bluebird in the morning, the scent of a pine tree – you are more understanding of why nature needs to be protected.  Even the youngest kid can understand that candy wrappers and other trash don’t belong on the forest floor and that we don’t want to pour chemicals into a pretty stream.  By making these connections early on, kids will be able to connect them to bigger picture topics, like landfills and toxic waste later on, hopefully remembering the respect they built for nature.

6.)  Stars are more beautiful than the T.V.  When I teach about mythology, I always teach kids that these stories were mostly invented while people sat around the campfire at night looking at the stars, because there was no t.v. or computers.  Most of my students can’t understand the joy of laying under the stars and observing their beauty.  Camping gives them that experience, that connection to their ancestors, and that appreciation for the amazing universe we inhabit.

7.)  When it rains – you play cards!  In our current, climate controlled world, we forget that sometimes the weather has a different plan than we do.  Sometimes it’s hot when we’d rather it be cold, or rainy when we wish there was sun.  Camping reminds you that there are other ways to deal with weather, than just running into an air conditioned house.  We can swim and find a shady tree when it’s hot.  We can throw on a sweatshirt when it’s cool.  If it’s raining outside – sit in the tent with a deck of cards and enjoy what life throws at you.

8.)  There is a difference between wild animals and domestic animals.  Kids who never learn the difference between a pet and a wild animal put themselves in danger for animal bites or other incidences later in life.  Camping teaches you never to feed a wild animal, because it domesticates them and makes them dig into your cooler for more.  It teaches you to respect the homes of the animals living near your campsite, because YOU are the guest, not them.  It teaches you that all animals were once wild, before humans decided some would be better as pets.

9.)  “Tree” is a very simple word when you consider how many different kinds of plants are classified this way.  There are so many different kinds of trees out there, each with different leaves, different seed pods, and different types of bark.  The same can be said for flowers, bushes, ferns etc.  Being in nature and exploring these concepts can help children develop their scientific observation and classification skills, as well as developing a true appreciation for the variety of life that exists on earth.

10.)  Be alert and prepared!  When I asked my 10 year old about the most important things he’s learned from camping, he said:  Cover the tent with the rain tarp.  Don’t leave food on the picnic table.  Always bring a sweatshirt.  Be aware of where you are.  To me, all of these things can be covered under, be alert and prepared.  Be prepared for different types of circumstances and weather, and thinking ahead and observing your circumstances help you to make predictions about what might happen. 

 

Family camping, scout camping or school sponsored “day camping field trips” are all great ways to get kids banner1understanding these concepts and skills that provide real life learning, background knowledge and connections to science and social studies topics too.  My family is currently living in an RV, and while this may not provide exactly the same experience as a tent, I am thrilled with the life lessons my sons are learning.  Check out our adventure at RVing with the Raki’s.

 Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interactive Internet Safety Websites to Share with Students

For two years, I was the Technology Specialist at a school in Georgia. During that time, I amassed a large collection of websites that I use with my students. You can download my E-Book of Websites for the Elementary Classroom for free from Teachers Pay Teachers or Smashwords, or, you can check back here each week for the website suggestion.

interactive websites to help kids learn about Internet safety - list compiled by Raki's Rad Resources.

Some of us are beginning to think of the new school year.  Others have just gotten out and are hiding their heads in the sand, rightfully so.  Either way, as we consider technology projects for our students, we should first start thinking of internet safety.  At the beginning of every school year – and sometimes again in January – I take time to go over internet safety with my students.  I talk with them about how much information is too much information, about Internet Safety Presentation for Kids from Raki's Rad Resources preventing cyber bullying and about understanding that while the person on the other side of the computer SAYS they are a 10 year old girl, doesn’t guarantee that that’s who they really are.  There are some fabulous sites out there that have great information about internet safety, and they are a great place to start with your students, but always remember, that you MUST talk with them about what they should be learning too!

Here are the websites I have used with my students.  I start out with my Internet Safety Presentation, and then I introduce the games and/or videos whole group, ask students to explore further (generally with a guiding question) for homework, and then send home and share with the parents as well.  The Cyber Pigs - Fabulous internet safety resources for kids from CanadaFinally, we return to the Internet Safety Presentation and take the E-Quiz.

 

1.)   Cyber Pigs:  The Cyber Pigs have two episodes of combined video and interactive game.  The first one talks about giving out too much information and knowing who is on the other side of the computer.  The second one addresses evaluating information on the internet and cyber bullying.  Both episodes are done in very kid-friendly ways that work for students from 2nd grade up.

 

Faux Paw's Adventures in Cyber Space - young child videos for internet safety 2.)  Faux Paw’s Adventures:  Remember McGruff the Crime Dog?  Well, he pals up with his friend, an animated cat named Faux Paw to go on an adventure through cyberspace where Faux Paw quickly learns that the cat she thinks is on the other side of the computer is really a scary dog.  There are additional episodes that talk about cyber bullying, music piracy and balancing real life experiences with screen time.  I have used these episode with students as young as 4 and 5 and it works wonderfully to bring the concept of internet safety down to their level.

 

3.)   Learn with Clicky: Clicky is an Learn with clicky - internet safety website for kidsanimated mouse – the computer kind, not the animal kind, who hosts videos and games to teach students about different internet safety topics, including telling parents when something doesn’t feel right, using good nettiquite and internet ethics.  These are lovely and well animated and work great for students from 2nd grade up.

 

Stay Safe - videos about lots of topics dealing with the internet, including cyber bullying and honesty 4.)  CBBC Stay Safe:  This is a collection of videos with famous British kids’ stars that talk about everything from internet privacy settings to cyberbullying, to being honesty about your age when you are online.  These videos are fabulous for kids from 3rd grade up. 

 

Wise Kids - teaches kids to think critically while they are on the internet5.)   Wise Kids:  I love this site because it presents the internet as a good place, not a scary one, but teaches kids to think critically about what they are doing and how they are doing it.  There are videos, games and tips that are great to get kids talking about the pros and cons of the internet.  Additionally, there are links to kid friendly search engines and positive organizations created by kids.  I use this site for 3rd grade up.

 

6.)  Safety Land - interactive game where kids control a super hero by making good internet safety decisions Safety Land:  This is a game created by AT&T where kids help Captain Broadband to keep the land safe from a hacker by answering internet safety questions correctly.  It is a cute game, but there is a lot of reading to it, so I use it with my strong readers in 3rd grade up.

 

The internet opens up so many amazing learning opportunities for kids.  Think of it like the public library, kids can go there on their own and explore topics that interest them.  We wouldn’t send them to walk to the library without teaching them how to be safe in traffic.  We wouldn’t ask them to look for a book without teaching them how to search for it.  We always teach them to talk to the librarian, and to work nicely with others they meet there.  The internet is the same, we have to teach kids the safety rules so that they can use this amazing tool that they have at their finger tips.  I hope that these websites will help you to introduce solid guidelines to your students, so they can use the internet safely and intelligently.

How do you help your students stay safe on the internet?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Happens in Vegas….

gets shared in the blogosphere!  At least when what happens in Vegas is the first annual Teachers Pay Teachers Seller’s Conference!  On Friday, July 11th, I had the great pleasure to attend this conference with some of the biggest names at TPT, including Rachel Lynette, Laura Candler and Deanna Jump.  Even more exciting, I was able to meet some bloggers that I have worked with “behind the scenes” for the past three years, but never gotten a cardsebook chance to meet IRL (in real life), like Angela Watson, Rachel Reyna and Adrienne Melbourne.  It’s amazing to “work” with people you’ve never met – Adrienne and I even created a Playing Card Mats E-Book together a few years back!  Being able to speak to these people in person, made this conference so very special to me. 

In addition to meeting up with wonderful bloggers, I got to attend sessions by some of the best at TPT.  The sessions I attended taught me about providing excellent customer care, tracking my sales data, collaborating with other bloggers, marketing my materials and the importance of time management for those wishing to use TPT as their sole income.  All of this information will help me to provide better resources and service to more teachers, and thereby students, around the world. 

banner1 In my last newsletter, I announced my family’s next big adventure.  We have officially left Morocco, and are back in the United States with the goal of traveling around the United States in an RV.  (Check out our blog – RVing with the Raki’s for more information about this adventure.)  My income from Teachers Pay Teachers will make this a possibility for our family, and this conference has given me skills and connections to help turn our dream into a reality.  I can’t think of a better reason for a trip to Las Vegas! 

Now, for the questions I know are coming:

1.)  Did you gamble while you were there?   Nope, I’m not a casino girl.  I spent the time outside of the conference in the pool with my kiddos.  My husband, Khalil of Raki’s Rad Language Resources, did go over with my grandmother for a bit and won $20, so hey, that’s something!

 

2.)  Did you really drive an RV to Vegas?  Yep!  It was a bit of a crazy trip out there, with a few repair issues, but we made it right on time and spent two nights at the KOA that is attached to Circus, Circus.

 

3.)  What’s it like traveling in an RV with 3 kids?  No problems!  My kids are great travelers, and they much prefer the RV, where they each have their own beds, books and toys to a tent, which is how we previously travelled.

 

Have more questions – about the conference, or our new adventure?  Please feel free to ask it in the comment section!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Behind the Scenes Factory Tours Have Learning Benefits for Kids

During the summer, most teachers I know spend at least some time planning for the next school year.  My favorite “planning” to do during the summer is field trip planning, because it means I get to tour cool places I’d like to take my students to – often with my own kids in tow.  Here are some of my favorite field trip locations, that can be found in most every community, as well as a list of content connections you can make for your students.  Often as teachers we only include field trips in our science and social studies, but there are lots of reading, writing and math connections that can be made in these locations as well.  I am going to share one type of field trip a week and ideas for making curriculum connections with each field trip.
field trips
Factories:  Behind the scenes tours of any sort of factory can be extremely educational and can give students a chance to see a world they had no idea existed.  Need help getting into a factory?  Ask around, the families of your students often include someone who works in a factory of some sort, in some capacity, and can put you in contact with the right people.  I have personally done behind the scenes tours of furniture factories, baked goods factories, candy factories and power plants.
Reading:  Read a how-to manual or recipe to create a good similar to those who are created in the factory.  Read advertisements from the factory and determine the persuasive techniques used. 
clip_image001Writing:  Write an essay from the point of view of one of the natural resources that comes into the factory, how it is then changed into a processed good.  Create an advertisement campaign for the factory.  Write an informational essay about how safety procedures are applied in the factory.
Math:  Keep track of the temperatures used in various departments and use that information to create a graph.  Look at the resources that come in to the factory.  How many items are in a package?  How many packages are there?  How many items altogether?
Science:  Search for machines – simple or complex, using my Factory Field Trip sheet.  Find examples of conductors and insulators or magnets or computerized techniques.  Look for safety methods used by factory workers.
Social Studies:  Choose a “good” and research all of the steps it takes to go from the natural resources to the processed good.  Then try to visit a factory that produces that type of goods.  Compare and contrast how goods are made today with how goods were made 200 years ago.  Map out the trip taken by the natural resources that come into a factory and the processed goods that come out of the factory.
 
To make field trips more educational, I often use graphic organizers and other activities to keep my students focused.  Read more about the specifics in this blog post: Field Trips Aren’t Just For Fun.  Be sure to stop by next week for another Field Trip Curriculum Connection.
What is your best field trip idea?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources