Thursday, August 28, 2014

Top 10 Science Websites for the Elementary Classroom

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.


Top 10 Science Websites for Elementary Students



Top 10 Science Websites for Kids - Great online resources to get kids engaged in learning science.  Suggestions made by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

For the past two months, I have been busy re-working my Internet Scavenger Hunts.  This included checking each and every link to make sure that the links were working, current, and appropriate for the grade level of the Internet Scavenger Hunts, and fixing the ones that weren’t.  In the process, I discovered a bunch of new great sites, and “remembered” a bunch of old, bug good sites.  Each of my Internet Scavenger Hunts is designed to meet Science or Social Studies standards, so I decided to put together a list of the Top 10 Science websites.  (Next week, I will post a list of the Top 10 Social Studies websites.)  My internet scavenger hunts vary greatly in topic from Life Cycles to Rocks and Fossils to Light & Sound, so there should be a little bit on this list for everyone.

Nasa Education – If you are teaching astronomy or any type of engineering, Nasa is the place to go.  Their amazing education website has ready made lesson plans, articles geared specifically for kids, videos about astronauts and the space station and even a Kids Club area with games on different topics like building a jet and naming the planets.






1.)  Nasa EducationIf you are teaching astronomy or any type of engineering, Nasa is the place to go.  Their amazing education website has ready made lesson plans, articles geared specifically for kids, videos about astronauts and the space station and even a Kids Club area with games on different topics like building a jet and naming the planets.


BBC Bitsize Science Games & Simulations – BBC has great educational games for every subject, but the sciences ones are really tops.  They have a variety of topics from Microorganisms to States of Matter to Friction.  For each topic, there is a chance for kids to read and to play and the play section offers very engaging, interactive activities.  I have yet to find a game on this site that I didn’t love.












2.)  BBC Bitsize Science Games & Simulations – BBC has great educational games for every subject, but the sciences ones are really tops.  They have a variety of topics from Microorganisms to States of Matter to Friction.  For each topic, there is a chance for kids to read and to play and the play section offers very engaging, interactive activities.  I have yet to find a game on this site that I didn’t love.


Top 10 Science Websites for Kids - Great online resources to get kids engaged in learning science.  Suggestions made by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources














3.)  Nature Works – This site is based around 16 different videos about different topics dealing with the natural world, including: Adaptation, Migration and Habitat.  In addition to the videos – which stream off of a connected PBS site – there are pages for students to read on the same topics and information about 208 different animals!  For teachers, there are lesson plans designed specifically around the various episodes, including key vocabulary and hands on activities.

Physics 4 Kids, Biology 4 Kids, Chemistry 4 Kids, Geography 4 Kids, Cosmos 4 Kids Although this is technically 5 different websites, they are all interconnected and have the same types of great, student friendly articles with information about key topics in science.  The only difference between the sites is the topics available.  When assigning research on any area of science, these are the first websites I turn to.










4.) Physics 4 Kids, Biology 4 Kids, Chemistry 4 Kids, Geography 4 Kids, Cosmos 4 Kids Although this is technically 5 different websites, they are all interconnected and have the same types of great, student friendly articles with information about key topics in science.  The only difference between the sites is the topics available.  When assigning research on any area of science, these are the first websites I turn to.

Science Kids – Based out of New Zealand, this science site has 30 possible science topics.  For each topic, there are games, videos, images, experiments and activities, fact sheets, quizzes and lesson plans.  This is really a one stop shop site for most science units.





5.) Science Kids – Based out of New Zealand, this science site has 30 possible science topics.  For each topic, there are games, videos, images, experiments and activities, fact sheets, quizzes and lesson plans.  This is really a one stop shop site for most science units.

Kids’ Science Experiments – In addition to tons of science experiments, each with materials needed and instructions, there are science fact sheets and a great science glossary to help build children’s science vocabulary.






6.) Kids’ Science Experiments – In addition to tons of science experiments, each with materials needed and instructions, there are science fact sheets and a great science glossary to help build children’s science vocabulary.

Kids’ Astronomy.com – Great graphics, fabulous information and more are available at this site, all about Astronomy and all geared for student research and learning.  In addition, there are games and songs, and even entire Astronomy Class with reading and assignments.  By the end of the class, students can print their own completion certification.






7.)  Kids’ Astronomy.com – Great graphics, fabulous information and more are available at this site, all about Astronomy and all geared for student research and learning.  In addition, there are games and songs, and even entire Astronomy Class with reading and assignments.  By the end of the class, students can print their own completion certification.

National Geographic – Where better to start a science study than at National Geographic?  Their kids site is amazing, full of games, videos and facts about different animals and habitats.  My kids’ favorite section is the Weird, but True! which contains amazing facts that sound like they could never be true, but of course they are.  On the site, kids have a chance to “heart” their favorite fun facts and there is always a “trending” number at the top so they can see which facts other kids like.  These facts are a great jumping off point to trigger student interests and begin genius projects.













8.)  National Geographic – Where better to start a science study than at National Geographic?  Their kids site is amazing, full of games, videos and facts about different animals and habitats.  My kids’ favorite section is the Weird, but True! which contains amazing facts that sound like they could never be true, but of course they are.  On the site, kids have a chance to “heart” their favorite fun facts and there is always a “trending” number at the top so they can see which facts other kids like.  These facts are a great jumping off point to trigger student interests and begin genius projects

Ducksters – Science Information – This site has great information and diagrams on a very wide range of science topics.  Topics range from Cell Division to Electricity to Black Holes.  The reading level is slightly higher than many kids’ sites but is still very doable for 4th grade and up.





9.)  Ducksters – Science Information – This site has great information and diagrams on a very wide range of science topics.  Topics range from Cell Division to Electricity to Black Holes.  The reading level is slightly higher than many kids’ sites but is still very doable for 4th grade and up.

Shephards Software – Science Games – This site has great educational games overall, but the science ones are fabulous.  There are tutorials, interactive games and quizzes on topics like Cells, Life Cycles and the Digestion System.










10.)  Shephards Software – Science Games – This site has great educational games overall, but the science ones are fabulous.  There are tutorials, interactive games and quizzes on topics like Cells, Life Cycles and the Digestion System.




For more resources to integrate technology into your classroom, check out my Technology Integration Kit.  You can also check out these blog posts:

Top 10 Reading Websites
Top 10 Writing Websites
Top 10 Math Websites
Top 10 Social Studies Websites
Websites to Teach Typing Skills
Websites to Create Videos

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Math Mini Lesson – Why Do We Learn Math?

Math Mini Lesson #1 - Why do we learn math?  A flipped classroom video by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad ResourcesFor the past two years, I have used the flipped classroom approach to teaching Math.  (For more specific details on this, check out my blog post – My Flipped Classroom)  During the course of these two years, I spent A LOT of time scrounging through YouTube and other sites looking for the PERFECT video to cover what I needed to cover.  Of course, I rarely found the perfect video, so I used ones that were close and compiled quite a list, which you can find in the post Using Google Docs to Aid in Collaboration.  I never made my own videos for one simple reason – time, as a classroom teacher you NEVER have enough time.

Since I do not have a classroom to prepare for this year, I have a bit more time on my hands.  So, I decided to go ahead and record those mini lesson videos that I needed last year and share them with you guys on my YouTube page.  The videos are created to be used with my Interactive Notebook pages, which will linked in the video descriptions, but can honestly be used by anyone in a flipped classroom, blended classroom, homeschool environment or just to save you from having to prepare a mini lesson.  :)

This week’s mini lesson is on the age old question:  Why do we learn math?

Feel free to use this lesson in your classroom or share it with your teammates.  I will be posting new videos to my YouTube page regularly and will feature one video a week here on the blog.

Are you flipping any part of your instruction this year?  If so, please leave me a comment telling me what grade level and subject!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Keeping Kids Reading – 10 Ways to Get Kids to Enjoy Reading

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Building a culture of reading in our classrooms is an important step to creating life long readers.  Kids who enjoy reading read more.  Kids who read more become better readers.  Better readers enjoy reading.  And the cycle continues. 

This – and what I’ve seen in action in my classroom - leads me to conclude that getting kids to enjoy reading is an essential part of building good readers.  So, here are some tips to helping students enjoy reading and develop the skills to be life long readers:

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Read Aloud Journal 1.  Introduce students to different genres and authors through read aloud.  Exposing students to books they wouldn’t think to choose for themselves is a great way to get kids enthusiastic about reading different kinds of books.  I always start the year out with a few authors that I love, to expose kids to quality books on a variety of topics.  Find some of the authors I love in my blog post – Authors that Belong in All Elementary Classrooms.  In addition to listening to books read aloud, I encourage my students to utilize their reading comprehension skills during read aloud, using my Read Aloud Journal.  This helps kids understand that these strategies are something they do every time they “intake” information, in any format.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Self Selected Novel Study 2.  Let kids choose the book.  Just as important as it is for us to expose students to books and authors that we love, it is also important to take time to let them read about something they love.  My 5th grader currently LOVES World War 2 (don’t ask), so I have encouraged him to read Number the Stars, Anne Frank’s Diary, and Farwell to Manzanar.  My 2nd grader is head over heals for Captian Underpants (and anything to do with bodily functions – again, don’t ask), so we have made sure he had access to the entire series.  These self chosen books don’t have to just be for pleasure reading either.  We are using my Generic Novel Study Packet, which works with any book, to do a full novel study on books that THEY have chosen.  Knowing that there are books out there that make them happy – while keeping their teacher happy – is a priceless moment for most kids.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Encouraging kids to read on an e-reader3.  Encourage reading in other places than just paper books.  Whether it’s an E-Reader, reading articles on the computer or an online magazine, there are so many places to read online books that capture the interest of your “screen kids”.  My family is a Kindle family – we have 3 kindles registered to our household.  However, there are TONS of other places to find online books and access to online articles.  Check out my blog posts – Free E-Books for Kids and Top 10 Reading Websites for Kids to find some great places to allow kids to take reading into the virtual world, their world.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Reading Response Journal 4.  Get students to think and write about the books they are reading.  When kids start thinking about what they are reading – connecting it to their own life experience, to movies they have read, thinking about the big ideas and themes – they not only better understand what they read, but they start to enjoy what they read more, because it now has impacted their life in a new way.  One way that I help students to think about the books they are reading is by having them write responses in their weekly Reading Response Journal.  With a different prompt each week, kids are encouraged to look at different parts of their books than they would normally focus on.  This extension of their thinking also encourages more enjoyment in the books they read.

5.  Let kids be creative with the ways that they report about a book.   There are so many more ways to do a book report than simply to summarize the book in an old fashioned book report.  In my class, we did Online Book Reports, where students choose to make an online project (like a Prezi or LiveBinders) or a video with the information from the book.  Students get so much more engaged with the books when creating these projects and their classmates love viewing the projects.  Often, after we present Online Book Reports, the books presented became the most checked out books of the class library.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Writing Book Reviews 6.  Have kids write recommendations to each other about the books they read.  Kids are much more likely to read books recommended by other kids than by us – just like we are more likely to read a book recommended by our friends than by our parents.  In my class, we complete Book Review Bookmarks and hang the recommendations around the class library.  Kids love choosing books recommended by their friends.

7.  Read in fun places! Books – and other reading materials – are extremely portable.  Have your students take their books outside to read under a tree.  Read laying on your bellies.  Bring in beach towels and spread them out in the grass.  Read in the hallway.  Encourage kids to read in the car, in bed, by the pool, wherever they can take a book.  Reading in different places will give students new, hopefully pleasant, memories with their books Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Buddy Readingand encourage them to try reading at many different times in many different ways.

8.    Read with book buddies. Reading with older or younger students give students a chance to practice their fluency, make new friends and discover new books.  The books they read with their buddies will be further cemented in their brains by this new experience and they will be encouraged to read new kinds of books and make new kinds of friends.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Reading for a purpose with internet research and internet scavenger hunts 9.  Give students a purpose for reading.  Having students read to find information gives them a purpose behind their reading.  Children will read books and articles that are new and challenging to them if they are dedicated to their purpose.  Children working on genius projects or internet scavenger hunts have a new motivation to read things they wouldn’t even consider reading otherwise.  Then, once they realize they can do it, they are motivated to read new and different things.

Getting kids to enjoy reading is the most important step to creating life long readers.  Find 10 tips getting kids to enjoy reading.  Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources - Keep track of reading on a reading log 10.  Have students keep track of their reading.  Using any type of reading log helps students to keep track of how much and what kind of books they have read.  Keep a year’s worth of reading logs together in one notebook and let kids look back at the end of the year, to take pride in the wide range of amazing books they have enjoyed this school year.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This Year’s Homeschool Curriculum

Our homeschool curriculum for world schooling - how we educate our children while we travel around the world in our RV. For the past two years, I taught at a school with multiage classrooms and small class sizes.  This prepared me fully for the “teaching position” I am taking on this year – homeschooling my own children, ages 3, 7 and 10.  For the last few years, my sons have been attending school in French and Arabic in Morocco, so we are homeschooling to help them maintain their languages, even though we have returned to the US to full time RV. 

When I tell people that we are going to homeschool, the first question is generally – what curriculum are you using?  Due to our unique circumstances, I have created a curriculum specifically for my children, with a mixture of my own resources and resources that I purchased when we were in Morocco.

Each week, we will follow a distinct routine, with the kids doing independent learning using a to-do list and me filling in where I see they need help.  Here’s a look at what my 5th grader’s to-do list will look like:

Our homeschool curriculum for world schooling - how we educate our children while we travel around the world in our RV

Listening:  He will complete 6 “listening” activities a week for the first 3 weeks of the month, and then on the 4th week, he will choose his favorite from each language and revise, edit and publish that listening summary to his blog – Traveling From a Kid’s Point of View.  The listening activities are educational videos on a topic of his choice – 2 in each language.  After watching the video, he summarizes what he learned and makes connections in a two to three paragraph write up.  This activity helps him to “immerse” himself into the languages regularly.  It also gives him a chance to work on note taking, summarizing and all of our writing skills, including staying on topic, giving enough details and using good grammar.

 Reading logs can be used in classrooms and homeschool settings alike.  Raki's Rad ResourcesReading:  In addition to 40 minutes of reading in each language (logged on his Weekly Reading Logs), he will complete novel studies in English and Arabic using my Generic Novel Study packet.  In French, he will complete pages in his French “basal type” reading book.  I want him to combine pleasure reading with a more structured approach to reading.  Also, each week he will record himself reading for a one minute “fluency check” – each week in a different language.

Typing:  By this age, his handwriting is pretty much what it’s going to be, so instead of handwriting, he will be practicing his typing – on both an English and Arabic keyboard – using websites that you can find in my Teaching Typing blog post.  My second grader will do handwriting in French and Arabic, but work on typing in English this year. 

Grammar:  While we will be doing a lot of applied grammar in our listening summaries and writing, there are still some grammar rules that need to be introduced in case they don’t come up naturally.  We will be using Daily Language to do this in English and specific grammar books to work on this in French and Arabic.

Writing:  We will be doing writing in two week blocks, with two weeks dedicated to brainstorming, drafting, revising and editing a writing pieces in a specific genre from my Writing Journals.  Each two weeks we will change languages, but stick with one genre for a trimester.  We are starting out with fiction writing and my oldest is excited to write a fantasy story with dragons and elfs!

Math:  In math, we will be introducing new concepts in English with Interactive Notebook pages, and then complete assigned work pages on these topics in all three of their languages.

Memorization:  In Morocco, the boys spent A LOT of time memorizing – poems, articles, Koran passages etc. etc. etc.  While I am not in favor of the amount of memorizing they were doing, I do still think the skill is important, so each week they will choose their own poem or passage to memorize, rotating through the three languages.

Science & Social Studies:  Instead of working on separate science and social studies topics, we have decided to devote ourselves to a year long country study which will cover all of our topics.  My 2nd grader has chosen Russia to study and my 5th grader has chosen China.  Each month, we will have a different focus as we study our countries:

September – Maps & Landforms (Geography)

October – Plants & Animals (Life Science & Ecology)

November – Folk Stories, Religion, Art & Music (Culture)

January – Archeological History (Earth Science/Fossils)

February – Ancient History (History)

March – Modern History (History & Government)

May – Structures & Inventors (Physical Science)

June – Government & Political Relations (Government)

July – Holidays & Food (Culture & Physical Science)

Exploring the environment around you is a great way to learn about science. In addition to our “book learning”, we will be going on lots of field trips – near and far – and exploring the natural world around us.  Recently, we have been watching the growth of a group of ducklings that lives near our current campsite.

For a look at our homeschool schedule or find out more about our RV adventures, check out our sister blog – RVing with the Raki’s.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fill Your Back to School Wishlist with a Blog Hop

Since I’m currently in Georgia, I know that “school is back in session”.  However, for my International School friends, and my family back in Buffalo, NY, school starts up next week or the week after.  This means that the Back to School sale at Teachers Pay Teachers, that happened a few weeks ago was a bit too early for them to benefit from, as they were all really still in vacation mode.  Luckily, Teachers Pay Teachers has decided to give them an extra day.  So, tomorrow, August 20th, with be a one day Back to School Bonus sale!!  Whether you have already started back, or you are starting back in the next few weeks, this is a great time to grab an extra 28% off of resources you need for your classroom.

gimme5To give teachers just a little bit more, I am participating in the Gimme 5 Back to School Blog Hop and giving away 5 teacher resources to one lucky winner.  All you have to do is to win is leave me a “wishlist” in the comment area.  Leave me links to five resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store that you would like to use in your classroom – a Back to School Wishlist – and your e-mail address.  At 10:00 p.m. TONIGHT, I will use a random number generator to choose one person to recieve EVERYTHING on their wishlist for FREE.  If you win, you will have all five items in your e-mail account tonight, but remember this is a one day offer, so be sure to leave your comment before 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

blog hop list graphic_new Also, there are 17 other Teachers Pay Teachers stores who are offering a similar giveaway in this Gimme 5 Back to School Blog Hop.  Stop by A Grade Seven Heaven to find a list of all of the Gimme 5 giveaways.

 

Feel free to pass these giveaways around to your colleague and other teacher friends, so that everyone has a chance to fill their Back to School Wishlists, and don’t forget to stop by my Teachers Pay Teachers store tomorrow to save 28% off of everything at my store – using the coupon code: BOOST.

 

Happy Teaching & Planning!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Get in Touch with History by Walking Around It

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

Historical Sites: Battlefields, lighthouses, colonial homes, ancient ruins, anything of historical importance can be of great insight to students.  Seeing how things once were helps them to better understand how things once were.  My best historical site field trip had to be the Ancient Roman Ruins at Chellah, which you can read about this old blog post.

Reading: Historical fiction stories come to life when you are able to visit the places where these stories take place.  Newspaper articles – new and old – make for great reading in connection to historical sites, as do “first person accounts” of what went on in these places.  This is a great time to talk about the difference between primary and secondary sources, as well as in comparison with historical fiction based off of these events.

clip_image001Writing:  Once students have experienced the historical site, they can have a chance to write from the point of view of a person who lived or worked at this site.  Students may also write informational – newspaper articles – about the current site, OR about the site as it existed during it’s most important time period.  Taking time to write a descriptive essay that makes someone else feel as if they experienced the same field trip is also a great writing activity for historical field trips.

Math:  Using timelines is a great way to teach elapsed time.  Create a timeline of important events that happened at this location.  Have students create their own word problems based off of this timeline.  For example:  How long was it from when the castle was built until when King X moved in?

Science:  Students can explore the questions:  What materials were used to build this site?  How have they lasted as long as they have?  What types of preservation has been done? Were any archeological techniques used?

Social Studies:  Exploring the history of the area is huge, but students could also explore the time periods when this building was in its peak, the geographical and political elements that led to its creation, the elements that led to the downfall or closing of the site.  Creating a map or timeline of the site could also be beneficial.

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, August 16, 2014

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Learning When You are Assessing

It’s the beginning of the school year, time to teach, right?  Wrong!  For many teachers the beginning of the year means sitting down with each student and assessing them to build their base line for those data walls.  While studies show that assessments shouldn’t be done until 3 - 6 weeks into the school year, when students have regained whatever they lost during the “summer slide”, we all know that many administrator want these assessments need to be done by the 10th day of school. 

 10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

Often we need to start assessing before we have even finished teaching procedures and routines, which means that the students who are not being assessed end up working on busy work in order to keep the class calm and quiet while we are assessing.  So, how do we keep the other student engaged AND have a class that is quiet enough to do a quality assessment?  Here are some ideas:

 10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 1.  Whole class learning videos with graphic organizers – You know what science and social studies topics are coming up, start building up your students’ back ground knowledge by putting on a learning video about an upcoming topic.  While students are watching, ask them to complete a graphic organizer – to keep them focused and quiet.  You will get the ability to pull students one at a time for assessments, then when you start teaching this topic, students will have some background knowledge on the topic and you can show the video again, stopping to explain where necessary, without kids whining about wanting to see the end.

2.  Autobiographies  - Have students write an illustrated version of their life story.  Tell them that spelling and grammar doesn’t matter – just try their best, but that you are looking to get to know as much as you can about them. This will make a great beginning of the year writing assessment, as well as a piece of writing that you can later use to help students practice revising and editing.  Plus, you will get lots of information about your students that can help you form relationships and build in student led differentiation.

3.  Board Games – You know all those games that you never get to pull out?  Now’s the time to pull them out and teach kids how to play them.  Take a minute to go over the rules of each game before you have kids play them, and then split them into groups to play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Yahtzee and Battleship.  Students will work on cooperation and problem solving while you get your assessments done.  Extra bonus - later on in the year you can pull out these games for early finishers or to reuse with academic rules.  For ideas on how to reuse board games with academic rules – check out my Friday Game Night blog posts.

10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 4.  Math Projects to Review last year’s skills – Have students work on real life math projects – like my Ice Cream Shop project or Designing a Dream School.  Choose a project that is just below your instructional level, so that they can do the entire project independently, building confidence and reviewing key math skills, while not boring students so that they get distracted.

5.  Reference book scavenger hunt – Split kids into groups and have students to find information with the reference books in your classroom or library.  Ask students to find the meaning of key vocabulary words using the dictionary, synonyms and antonyms using a thesaurus, bordering countries or states using the atlas and fun facts using the encyclopedia.  The group that finds the most items wins a small prize (like a no homework pass), and the quietest group gets 10 extra points.  This gets kids looking through reference materials they forget about, working with each other and you can pull kids one at a time for assessments.

10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 6.  Puzzles – Jigsaw and self correcting – Puzzles build critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Having students work on any type of jigsaw or self correcting puzzle will get students using their noggen and staying focused, and hopefully quiet, while you are assessing.

7.  Let the Kids be the experts – Most kids think that they are experts at something.  While you are assessing, tell students that they will be teaching the class about something they are an expert at (can be anything, video games, dinosaurs, making a peanut butter sandwich, whatever!) and this is their time to create their lesson plans.  When all of the assessments are done, take a day or two and let each kid teach the lesson they created.  The kids will get a chance to be the teacher – every students’ dream, you will find out what kids are interested in and what they already know about, and how they are at public speaking.  But best of all, students will be so busy planning their lesson, that they won’t have time to interrupt you while you are assessing their classmates.  Download some guidelines for this in my own blog post – Give Students a Chance to Teach.

10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 8.  Read & Review Classroom Library Books – Give students time to read several books from the class or school library.  After students have read a book, let them rate and critique the books with my Book Review Bookmarks.  Hang the bookmarks around the library so that students can make an “informed decision” the next time they choose a book.

9.  Explore apps or websites to be used during the school year – All year long, we are in a rush for students to use this technology or that one for a specific project, but students rarely get a chance to just “fiddle around” with apps and websites.  However, children (and adults for that matter) often find that they learn more about how to properly use an app or website by “fiddling with it”, so take this time to let students play around with apps and websites you’ll use later in the year.  Students will be excited to “play on the computer” while you know they are really building background knowledge that will be used in future assignments.  For more information on what apps or websites to use – check out my blog post – Technology Accounts to Create for Your Classroom.

10 ways to keep students engaged in thinking and learning while you complete beginning of the year assessments.  Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 10.  Fast fact practice – Two months off means most students have forgotten their math facts – well not forgotten, but they certainly aren’t as fast as they were in May.  Use this time to let students practice their math facts with dice and card games, or laminate math fact quizzes and let them use a dry erase marker to race each other or a timer.

 

 

How do you keep the other students engaged while you complete your assessments?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Friday, August 15, 2014

Differentiating Technology Suggestions

At the beginning of the school year, I try to provide parents with helpful websites and apps that they can use at home to support their children at home.  However, before suggesting anything, I try to find out what technology they have at home.  Once I know what technology students have access to at home, I can make suggestions that are appropriate for their particular situation.

One way to find out what technology students have at home is to send home a technology survey to parents at the beginning of the school year.  You can find this technology survey in my newly released Parent Communication Forms and Surveys packet.

Use this technology survey to know what technology your students have access to.  This information will help you differentiate your homework and better help all of your students.  Raki's Rad Resources

Once you know who in your class has iPads, who has computers and who has limited technology, put that information into lists and keep that information in your parent communication folder. 

Use this technology survey to know what technology your students have access to.  This information will help you differentiate your homework and better help all of your students.  Raki's Rad Resources

With this information, you can send app suggestions only to those students who would actually use them.  You know which students you can ask watch a video over at home or practice skills on an assigned website.  Plus, you know if a student truly doesn’t have access to technology after they leave your classroom.  I DO NOT use this information to exclude those without technology from after school technology activities.  Rather, I suggest ways that they could get access to technology – at the public library, or finding a homework buddy in class and I offer this group of students a non-technology alternative to any at home technology assignments.  The overall focus of having this information is to be able to provide more differentiated suggestions for using technology at home.

Looking for websites and apps to suggest to your parents?  Try these:

Reading Websites for Elementary Students

Math Websites for Elementary Students

Writing Websites for Elementary Students

Typing Websites for Elementary Students

ESL Apps for Elementary Students

Generally GREAT Apps for Elementary Students

Video Creation Apps for Elementary Students

Ticket Out the Door Apps for Elementary Students

 

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TESOL Teaching Tip #52 - Maintaining Home Language is Important for English Language Development

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students were English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers were living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #52 - Maintaining Home Language is Important for English Language Development. Students who are strong in their home language are able to develop better English skills. To learn how to help your ESL and ELL students maintain their home language, stop by my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.

The focus for English language teachers is always English, and often we forget that all of our English Language Learners are not only learning English.  ESL students are bilingual (and sometimes trilingual) students.  This means that in addition to English, students have another language to learn and master, whether it is Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, or any of the other hundreds of home languages our students come to us with.  Just because their parents speak the home language does not mean that they come to your classroom knowing everything there is to know about their home language.  In fact,  since they are learning English, they probably will never have the same mastery level in their home language as a student who only ever spoke that home language.  However, the benefits of maintaining what they do know, and encouraging them to learn more in their home language, are undeniable.
TESOL Teaching Tip #52 - Maintaining Home Language is Important for English Language Development. Students who are strong in their home language are able to develop better English skills. To learn how to help your ESL and ELL students maintain their home language, stop by my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.
Students who maintain their home language are able to:
1.  Find cognates between the two languages, increasing their vocabulary.

2.  Compare and contrast grammar structures in the two languages they speak, increasing their understanding of parts of speech and sentence structure.

3.  Make connections between common stories between the two languages.  ie.  Little Red Riding Hood in French is La Petite Chaperon Rouge, increasing the likelihood of comprehension.

4.  Make connections between idioms and sayings in the two languages, encouraging a better understanding of these phrases, and how language is used overall.

5.  Explain themselves clearer in speaking and writing, as they have more vocabulary to explain the same topic.

6.  Learn English faster and more completely.  Studies show that a high literacy level in a students’ home language makes it easier for students to learn English and that they will better understand their new language by connecting it to their home language.

Since we are in charge of teaching English, we often think that what the students know in their home language isn’t our responsibility.  However, with so many benefits to maintaining the home language, we should be promoting home language growth as well.  Some ways to do that are:
TESOL Teaching Tip #52 - Maintaining Home Language is Important for English Language Development. Students who are strong in their home language are able to develop better English skills. To learn how to help your ESL and ELL students maintain their home language, stop by my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.

1.  Encourage students to read (or be read to) in their home language.  Many, many students who speak a second language, NEVER become literate in that language because schools promote English Only.  I encourage my students to split their independent reading time between English and their home language, so if I ask them to read 30 minutes each night, they should read 15 minutes in English and read (or be read to) 15 minutes in their home language.  Not only does this keep kids reading in their home language, but it shows parents that the home language is important and encourages them to share stories with their children.

2.  Tell students their home language is important.  I spend a good amount of time each year reiterating to my students how important it is learn new words in BOTH of their languages, and how lucky they are to have the knowledge of their home language.  We talk about the job and school advantages for bilingual individuals, as well as real life times when knowing two languages is helpful (travel, web searches, communication, etc.)  If we teach students to see their home language as an advantage, rather than a liability, they will be more motivated to continue learning and growing in their home language. 

3.  Allow students to use their home language at school in non-academic settings.  So many schools have English Only policies that send the message to students that English is more important than their home language.  In order to reiterate to my students that their home language is important, I encourage them to use their home language at school – but within specific restrictions.  First, I encourage them to use only English during academic periods (once they have enough English to be able to work this way) because it takes a lot of brain power to switch between two languages, and I want them thinking in English while they’re working in English.  Second, I require them to be respectful with their language use.  If they choose to use their home language at recess, in the lunchroom, or during other non-academic times (like packing up or transitions), then they must NEVER use their language to purposely exclude other students.  I also talk to my monolingual students about how hard it would be to go through a day without ever speaking English, so that they know that if a student slips into their home language, it isn’t meant to hurt their feelings or talk about them.

4.  Talk to the parents about the importance of home language development.  I have had many parents tell me that they had been instructed by experts – pediatricians, other educators etc. not to speak to their children in, or teach their children to read in their home language.  This bad advice leads to parents speaking improper English to their kids when they could be teaching them the proper way to speak their home language.  It also stops many parents from reading to their children in their home language, preventing fluency and vocabulary growth.  I am very clear with the parents of my ESL students that it is MY job to teach their children English and THEIR job to teach their children the home language.  I encourage parents to speak to their children ONLY in the home language, even to go so far as explaining homework in the home language if possible.  I ask them to read to younger children in the home language and help older children learn the phonics patterns of the home language, in order to promote literacy in that language.  I encourage them to find curriculum in the home language and encourage their children to work in the home language on grammar skills, science and social studies topics and math vocabulary.  Speaking (and reading and writing in) a second language are important skills that these parents can pass on to their children.  Many are willing to do so, but need our encouragement and advice in doing so.

For more tips on teaching ESL/ ELL students, click on the banner below.
esl
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Purpose Behind Bulletin Boards

Despite the thousands of cutsie bulletin boards floating all over Pinterest, the true purpose behind bulletin boards is not to have the cutest room in the school.  The true purpose behind bulletin boards – as I see it – is to increase the learning opportunities for our students. Decorations for the sake of decorations do not help learning and often provide a distraction to students with ADD or other disabilities.

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.

Bulletin boards:

1.  Should provide students with information that they can reference during lessons or centers.  Bulletin boards should be a part of the learning experience, not a decoration.

2.  Should be built with the students OR have an element that the students can interact with.  Either of these opportunities allow students to feel ownership for the board and encourages them to use the board rather than just be distracted by it.

3.  Don’t have to be changed every week or month.  Bulletin boards can be built slowly over the course of the school year, helping students to connect new knowledge to knowledge gained earlier in the school year.

 

Just because bulletin boards aren’t decorations, doesn’t mean they can’t be visually attractive.  In fact, good graphic design elements make bulletin boards easier for children to read and thereby more access to the information on them.  Here are a few examples of meaningful bulletin boards for your classroom:

 

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.  Word Family word wall, with graphics to help out ESL students.

Word Family Word Wall – These Alphabet Labels, Sight Word Cards and Word Family Word Wall Cards help your students to sound out and recognize the meanings of common words.  Students refer back to this word wall during literacy centers, like read the room and journal writing.

 

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.  Math Word Wall with definitions and graphics to help students understand key math vocabulary.

Math Word Wall – Math Word Walls should do more than simply list the important vocabulary words.  Definition cards, like those in my Math Vocabulary Packets (Addition & Subtraction, Multiplication & Division, Fractions, Geometry 1 and Geometry 2) give students the definition to refer to when they are stumped by those vocabulary words at math centers or independent problem solving

 

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.  After students answer the questions in their Problem Solving Path math journals, they can check their answers using the QR codes on these posters.

Problem Solving Path – This interactive bulletin board displays the monthly word problems from the Problem Solving Path Journals, as well as giving students QR Codes to help them check their answers.

 

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.  Build concept maps with key vocabulary, like the defintions of technology vocabulary.

Technology Word Wall – Word walls don’t have to be listed in alphabetical order.  For topics like technology, it’s better to group Vocabulary Word Wall Cards into connected words or concepts.  Add connecting words or ideas to help students make those connections when they are using the word wall later.

 

Bulletin boards should be educational, not decoration.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources for ideas on how to make your bulletin boards more educational.  Use bulletin boards to create pictographs with data on student achievement - like success on mastering math facts.

Math Fact Reward Board – Students can track their own progress on math fact quizzes, and stay motivated to practice during math centers by having a math fact reward board with a fast fact reward system.

 

How do you keep your bulletin boards meaningful?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources