## Saturday, December 31, 2011

### Introducing: Friday Game Night

I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom.  In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills.  So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom.  Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:

Chutes and Ladders – Part 1

Who doesn’t like Chutes and Ladders (also called Snakes and Ladders)?  It’s a classic game that is a part of most primary classroom and home game collections.  It’s also a great way to work on both math and literacy skills.  This week, I have a list of ideas for using this game to work on math skills.  Next week, I’ll continue my list with literacy skills.  So, how can we use Chutes and Ladders in the classroom?

1.  Standard Play – By simply playing Chutes and Ladders in it’s original format, you work on math number sense.  Although the game looks like a hundred’s chart, it does not start each ten over at the beginning of the row.  So, while children are playing, they must always be aware of what number is larger, in order to know which way to go.  This leads you into a great discussion of which number is larger and which number is smaller.

2.  Hundred’s Chart – While or after playing, compare the game board to a hundred’s chart.  See if students can figure out the difference between the two boards.  Then, have students rearrange the Chutes and Ladders board using post it notes, until they have a hundred’s chart.  Can they see the pattern they have now?

3.  Addition & Subtraction Facts – Not only can kids create an addition fact for each move (I’m on space 23 and I spun a 5, so 23 + 5  = 28.),  but they can create addition facts that go with each of the ladders and subtraction facts that go with each of the chutes.  Or, you can make these addition/subtraction facts ahead of them, write them on index cards and let the kids figure out which chute/ladder each fact goes with!

4.  Problem Solving – I love to have students write their own problem solving questions, and Chutes and Ladders is an easy way to facilitate this.  Have students write out their own word problem for one of the chutes or ladders.  Then, allow students to trade their word problem with a neighbor and solve!

I hope some of these suggestions will allow you to use Chutes and Ladders in a new, interesting way in your classrooms.  Keep playing games and watch your kids learn!

## Friday, December 30, 2011

### Let the Kids Make the Problem

My students were having a bit of trouble understanding the difference between addition and subtraction.  We did a variety of activities to help them understand, including using manipulatives, pictures, and putting two equations with the same numbers, but different signs right next to each other (5+3=8  5-3=2).  However, the thing that worked the very best was to let them come up with their own word problems.  At first, they were just excited to be able to use each other’s names, but as they got to drawing, they really understood all of a sudden that in addition you have two separate groups, where as in subtraction you have one group and you are giving some away.  It’s also made my problem solving center run so much smoother!  Here’s what we did:

1st – We wrote an addition word problem using the names of our friends.  We also drew a picture to represent our word problem.

2nd – On the back, we wrote the addition fact that would solve the word problem we created.

3rd – We had each student’s page bound into a book and placed it on the “warm shelf” to be read over and over.

4th – Repeat Steps 1-3, with a subtraction fact.

Want to try this with your class – click on any of the pictures and get the pages for FREE from my Google Docs.

## Thursday, December 29, 2011

### Kid Friendly Search Engines

It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!!  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 used with my students.  If you want to search through some of them, you can check out my IKeepBookmarks site.  Or, you can check back here each week for the Wednesday Website suggestion.

This week’s Wednesday Website suggestion is a Kid-Friendly Search Engine.  Search Engines like Google and Yahoo are a major part of how people do research “in the real world”, so it’s very important for kids to learn how to use search engines properly.  However, I personally don’t want to be responsible for some student finding an “inappropriate” website or image when doing a Google search, so when I am working with kids, I use a variety of kid friendly search engines.  My favorite is AskKids, because it does a good, clear, easy search, but monitors the items found so that they are safe for kids to use.  The next time you ask your kids to do internet research, try using www.askkids.com to ensure to help them stay safe on the web.

Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wedensday’s Website suggestion. Check out previous Wednesday Website suggestions by clicking HERE.

## Wednesday, December 28, 2011

### TESOL Teaching Tip #7 - Do you TEACH listening?

My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

ELL Teaching Tip #7: Teach and understand all 4 domains of language
Have you ever read your English Language Arts standards?  Generally, as teachers, we work really hard on the reading and writing standards, but have you ever taught (or even read) the listening and speaking standards?  They are a part
of every English Language Arts curriculum, including the Common Core Standards, and include things like “students should describe people, places, things and events with relevant details” and “ students should ask and answer questions about what a speaker says”.  Since these standards seem so much easier than “students should write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure”, listening and speaking standards have a tendency to fall by the wayside.  This is especially true because native English speakers often accomplish the listening and speaking standards with little to no instruction.  English Language Learners, on the other hand, need direct instruction in listening and speaking standards.  As a teacher, I know that there’s not enough time to teach what we already have on our list, let alone to add more.  So, here’s a list of suggestions on how to incorporate all 4 domains of language within what you’re already doing.

***  The first thing to do to help yourself incorporate listening and speaking standards is to READ them, so take a planning period, and print and read your listening and speaking standards.  Then, post those standards near wherever you write your lesson plans.  This way, you’ll have them in the back of your mind when you are planning your weekly activities.  ***

- Students listen all day, but how often do they really listen?  Use a random generation technique (such as kid’s names on popsicle stick) to choose who will answer questions during read aloud and mini lessons.  This will help you know who is truly listening, and will increase participation from students who don’t usually participate.

- Switch up the questioning.  During read aloud and mini lesson, have students come up with a question of their own for the class, instead of answering a question you have.  (Using random generation is good for this and most other strategies.)

-  Have students become “experts” on a piece of the content topic you are studying and allow them to interview each other, practicing both speaking and listening.  (For example, each child can learn about one animal in a habitat and then they can fill in a list of questions, or create a book about each of the animals studied.)

- Create and encourage group projects and centers (literacy and math) where students have a chance to speak and listen to each other – with structured questioning.

- Teach “good listening” skills, including looking at the person in the eye, acknowledging speech with body language etc.  Then, give away small rewards (stickers or tally points) when you observe “good listeners”.

Do you want more TESOL Teaching Tips – check back each Tuesday for more. View previous TESOL Teaching Tips by clicking HERE.

## Monday, December 26, 2011

Due to the Christmas holiday, this week’s Top 10 post is a little late – sorry guys! I don’t know about you guys, but my personal children got some gift certificates for Amazon, and I am going to use them to buy some educational toys to supplement all those non-educational toys that Santa Claus brought.  So, this week’s Top 10 list is on great educational toys to fill your children with.  Lots of them would also make great center stations!

10. Science Kit – My son is absolutely obsessed with all things science.  In fact, he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up.  So, we’ve had a bunch of science kits come through our house.  This link is to a “kiddie” one that he got last year for Christmas, which was super cool.  It helped him make a bouncy ball and a rubber worm and other goopy stuff.  But, what I liked the most was that it gave an explanation of how this was science.  I love science kits, because they are so hands on!

9. Critical Thinking Games – Problem solving does not just come to kids – it must be practiced, but it should be practiced in a fun way!  So, try getting a game like Rush Hour to have fun and build skills!

8. Word Games – I think my household owns every word game known to man: Boggle, Scrabble, Upwords, Taboo, Very Silly Sentences etc.  However, our personal favorite is You’ve Been Sentenced, where you build all these crazy sentences, trying to see how many words you can use.  We love it because we can play just kids, adults with the kids or just adults – fun either way!

7. Foreign Language Talking Toys – For those of you who don’t know – I am currently raising my kids in Morocco, with them learning French & Arabic.  So, I am a big proponent of working on foreign languages.  There are so many toys out there these days which work on other languages and I say eat them up and build that vocabulary.  Even if they never learn to speak that language, they’ll know another word which might lead to understanding a cognate or a root word later down the road!

6. 3-dimensional Puzzles – I’m a fan of all puzzles, seriously – we own tons! However, this year I really want to get my oldest some three dimensional puzzles.  He has a globe puzzle, but I think he would really do well with some of the building puzzles.  Plus, once it’s put together, he can use it for imaginary play with his soldiers and super hero toys.

5. Open Ended Building Toys – Legos, Kinex, wooden blocks, there are so many building toys out there, and they lead to great creative thinking and problem solving.  My kids even build with the Jenga blocks!

4. Arts & Crafts Supplies – Just like building, arts and crafts builds that creative thinking and problem solving.  I’m personally anti finger paint and glitter (although my husband is very pro these two for some reason), but I do always keep on hand: a bucket of crayons, scissors, glue sticks, play-doh, string & beads, etc. etc.

3. Board Games – When we moved to Morocco, we brought more board games than books, and I love books, which should tell you something about my family!  (Don’t be too fooled, I got a Kindle before the move, so my books just took up less space!)  I love playing games with the kids.  This year I think we’re going to use gift cards to get Guess Who and Yahtzee, two oldies but goodies that we don’t have yet.

2. Museum Membership – Okay, so you can’t get a museum membership with an Amazon gift card, but it’s my favorite thing to do with “Christmas money”.  Not only is it educational, but it’s a great way to always have something to do on those days where you don’t really have any extra money!  (Works the same with a zoo, aquarium or aquatic center!)

1. Books, Books, Books! – Have you seen my pinterest boards?  I have an entire board devoted to kid’s books.  I LOVE children’s books, and I truly don’t believe kids can have too many.  My kids have 2 bookshelves full of books, and read every day.  So, I am very well known to bring kids books as presents!  (My oldest is currently reading Harry Potter.  My middle son is reading – with me – Magic Tree House.  The baby’s only 9 months old – but he can sit through some serious Sandra Boyton board books!)

## Thursday, December 22, 2011

### Online Stories for Kids

It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!!

This week’s Wednesday Website suggestion was brought to my attention last year from my son’s first grade teacher.  (How many of you have ever stolen ideas you’ve seen your kids do?  I know I’m not the only one!!)  It’s called Storybird, and it’s made a HUGE difference with my reluctant writers.  I do a lot of writing in my classroom.  We do Free Write every week during centers, to allow students time to write for pleasure.  I use the Primary Narrative Writing Journal during Guided Writing to model my writing expectations, and I do Modeled Writing anytime I can fit it into a mini lesson.  However, Storybird is the one thing that finally got one of my stream of letters writers (you know lkjaoicmslikeis says lion) to write to write 4 true sentences (His story, about rabbits was:  I see rbts.  I see 8 rbs.  I see 2 rbs hop.  I lk rbs. – For those of you with beginning writers, you know how much that can mean!)
Storybird allows students to choose from real illustrations, and put them into a virtual storybook.  Then, they can write the words to go with the picture.  When they are finished, you are able to share their online stories with your class, parents, and even embed them on your blog!  It’s a great resource, and the basic version is FREE!

Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wedensday’s Website suggestion. Also, feel free to check out previous Wednesday Website suggestions by clicking HERE.

## Wednesday, December 21, 2011

### TESOL Teaching Tip #6 - Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #6: Repeat yourself, a lot!

Do you ever feel like a broken record?  I know that I often feel that I am saying the same thing at least a hundred times a day.  I give the same direction, over and over, trying to use the same words each time.  If I change my wording, I’ll know about, because at least one of my students will look at me like I have 5 heads.  While this is annoying to me, I find that the direct repetition helps my English Language Learners understand directions clearly.  It is especially important when you are saying something that can be said in multiple ways.  Imagine yourself not knowing any English, and you master the phrase “I need to go to the bathroom.”  Then someone looks at you and asks you if you need to “use the restroom.”  For most English Language Learners, if there is no context (ie. standing outside the known bathroom pointing) they will not make the connection between “go to the bathroom” and “use the restroom”.
While this is a simple, silly, example (though a valid real life one), think about the number of times you give directions in different ways.  While there is a valid time for teaching students new ways to say something familiar, this is an instance where you need to make a conscience decision as a teacher, as to when you are teaching vocabulary and when you are trying to get something accomplished.  Once I know that all (or at least a good majority) of my students are familiar with one direction, I will then throw in a new way to say something – often with direct instruction for the first few times.  For example, my kids can now all count very well, so they are ready to work on the words first, second, third.  However, in the beginning of the year, when I tried to introduce this to them (through our math unit) it went right over the majority of their heads.
Also, don’t expect all of your students to catch the same words at the same time.  Students will learn words that are most important to them first.  If they are a student who rarely uses the restroom at school, it may be six months before they realize that you are using two different words for bathroom.  However, if that student constantly has a runny nose, they might learn that both kleenex and tissue mean the same thing.  Students who know more English will pick up these words faster, as they already have a stronger base.  (See Tip #24 for more information on how language learning cycles.)

Do you want more TESOL Teaching Tips – check back each Tuesday for more. Also, check out my previous tips by clicking HERE.

## Tuesday, December 20, 2011

### TESOL Tip #5 Explain what this word means

My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

ELL Teaching Tip #5: Direct instruct ALL vocabulary

One thing I’ve learned from teaching English Language Learners (and living with one – English is my husband’s 5th language) is to never assume that a word is already in their vocabulary.  As I explained in Teaching Tip #1 – I have many kids who know understand the words ice crystals, plot sequence, hurricanes, equation, and molten lava, but don’t know what the words grape or pit mean.

As a first grade teacher, this makes teaching reading very interesting.  My students are quick to learn their sight words, and are getting good at sounding out.  However sounding out slug doesn’t do much good to a student who has no idea what a slug is.  One solution to this problem, as I mentioned in Teaching Tip #1, is to use pictures and graphics as much as feasible.  Another is to pick vocabulary out of every lesson possible and talk about meanings and connections.

When I’m doing vocabulary, I do a combination of pre-teaching and reviewing meaning, so here’s a quick look at both.

Pre-Teaching
Before teaching a story or a topic, I will introduce the vocabulary words that I think are important for the lesson.  Not too many, but the 5-7 words that are most important for students to gain meaning from the lesson.  (For animal characteristics, we talked about: coverings, nocturnal, habitat, predator and prey.)  I will either add the words to our word wall, or write them on the board, and we will talk about their meanings as a group.  If possible, I will share graphics, and often the students will complete a graphic organizer using at least one word.  (Here is a graphic organizer I use with my older students – grades 2 and up.)

Reviewing Meaning
After we have done our lesson, or read our story, I will stop and check for meaning by asking pointed comprehension questions or connecting idea questions.  Often during these questioning sessions, new words will come out that I used in the lesson or story and the students did not understand.  These words come from the students, as they say “Ms. Raki, what’s a ……”, or give me that blank stare when I ask a comprehension question.  (For animal characteristics, the words that came from the students as not understood were:  scales, claws, wings, nectar, burrow and centipede.)  We attack these words with the same emphasis as the pre-teaching vocabulary words, because they are just as important.  I will use graphics or help students make connections.  For certain words, I will try to provide a translation in their home language if I know it, or have another person of the same home language in the room.  (See Tip #9 for my take on using home language with English Language Learners.)

No matter how you choose to teach vocabulary, know that English Language Learners will be lacking in this area, so it is very important to teach it directly, and not assume that they will know the meaning of these words.

Do you want more TESOL Teaching Tips – check back each Tuesday for more. Check out previous TESOL Teaching Tips by clicking HERE.

### Christmas in Morocco

10 Facts about Christmas in Morocco

1.  Morocco is a Muslim country, so Christmas is not an official (banks, stores closed) holiday in Morocco.

2.  Morocco used to be a protectorate of France, so there are many people living in Morocco with French citizenship or French ancestry, including many (but not all) are French Catholics, who do celebrate Christmas.

3. Morocco is on the continent of Africa, and there are many people living in Morocco from “Sub-Saharan” African countries like Senegal, Congo and South Africa.  Many (but not all) of these people are Christians and/or Catholics, who do celebrate Christmas.

4.  Morocco also has a significant “expat” community from Europe and the United States, as well as the Phillipines.  Many (but not all) of these expats celebrate Christmas.

5.  Most Moroccans know Santa Clause by his French name – Pere Noel (literally – Father Christmas).

6.  Even though the majority of Moroccans do not celebrate Christmas, you can find Christmas trees, lights, decorations and plenty of toys on sale at the big stores (Marjane, Alpha 55 and the Morocco Mall).

7.  All of the American Schools, and many French Schools held Christmas Shows, Christmas Fairs etc. to celebrate the Christmas Holiday.

8.  Many individuals held individual holiday dinners and holiday parties to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

9.  The French and American schools are on break during the Christmas holiday (which means I’m out for 2 weeks!), but most of the Moroccan public and private schools are not (Which means my kids could’ve gone to school on Christmas – although thankfully Christmas falls on a Sunday.)

10.  My family has been able to turn this holiday season into a great one, but choosing the holiday traditions we like best (making cookies, decorating the tree) and feel slightly separated from some of the commercialism we sometimes felt in the states.

For more information on my experiences in Morocco, check out my personal blog Journey to Morocco.