Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Silly Songs Boost Memory

Using silly songs can help books your students' memories and improve their test scores. Raki's Rad Resources will be hosting a Facebook Live Video on this topic on February 23, 2017.

Memory tricks, mnemonics, hand movements, dances; every teacher I know has a few tricks up her (or his) sleeve to help their students remember things. For me it's silly songs. Some songs I find online, some songs I've learned from other teachers and some songs I make up (often on the spot in front of my kiddos). Each year I seem to add more songs to my repertoire. Now that I have been teaching over 10 years, I feel like I should have a song for everything, and yet I've added 3 more just this month!

I tell my students that these songs are meant to get stuck in your head like the commercial songs that you sing without really meaning to. My explanation is that on test day I can't give them hints, but they can remember the songs and that will be like me giving them a hint. The songs help them remember specific things, and so we focus on making sure they know what the song MEANS and not just memorizing the words. For this reason, I have found that the simpler the song the more helpful to the students.

Some of my favorite copyrighted songs are the grammar songs by Shurley English. They are catchy and get stuck in your head so bad I am often still singing them while I'm cooking dinner! But the ones the students remember the most are silly things like "A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, that is where you're comma should be!" which I learned from my mentor teacher while I was student teaching. This song is sung to a Jackson 5 tune and used when we are trying to figure out where to put a comma in a number with at least 4 digits.

I can promise you that often when I am singing these songs I feel like an idiot. I really hate when my instructional coach decides to walk in while we're singing. But then on test day I love watching the students sing these silly little songs in their head. I love seeing the "aha!" moment when the song actually helps them. This makes all of the silly embarassing moments completely worth it.

Since it's hard to really share these songs in a blog post, I have decided to try out my first Facebook Live Video. Tomorrow evening (Thursday, February 23, 2017) around 6pm MST/ 8pm EST I will share a video with you of all kinds of silly songs that I use in my classroom. So even though I know I'll feel silly, please tune in at my Facebook Page and see if any of these songs could be a good memory jog for your students. 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Math Fact Quiz Updates

So it's that point in the year for me that my supplies are slowly starting to run out, including copy paper. One of the biggest uses of copy paper in my classroom is math fact quizzes. We started out the year taking addition and subtraction mixed quizzes and now we have moved into multiplication quizzes. After years of doing these quizzes, I had "Duh!" moment this week and realized that if I made the quizzes two per page they would still be big enough for the kids, but I would save a bunch of paper. So I've just gone through and revamped all of the fact quizzes in my All Inclusive Math Fact Quiz Bundle so that now all offer 2 quizzes per sheet, as well as the original 1 quiz per sheet.

Math fact quizzes - you have the choice one quiz per sheet or two quizzes per sheet - with a level to meet everyone's needs - math fact all inclusive bundle from Raki's Rad Resources.

On Wednesday, I printed my first set of half sheet quizzes and the kids looked at them and said "Why didn't you do that a long time ago Mrs. Raki?" Good question kids, good question!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Low Level / Low Income Students Need Projects Too

Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

In my experience, I have found that low level / low income students often don't get access to the same projects and higher level thinking activities that their higher level / higher income peers do. Mainly this is because teachers feel like there isn't time for those things when students are behind in basic skills. So instead, we spend a lot of time drilling and skilling low level students in hopes that they will remember those basic facts because of the repetition. 

Now I'm a big fan of repetition. I use it in certain ways in my classroom. It's great for building math fact fluency or memorizing site words. It can also be helpful for building classroom routines. But, it's not the end all and be all of education. In fact, it often leads us to the quote "Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results is the definition of insanity."  Understanding content and using critical thinking skills to solve a problem do not come from drill and skill repetition. Those types of understanding come from making connections between what we already know and what we are learning.

Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

Brain based learning research shows us that students need to be able to connect what they are learning with background knowledge in order to understand and remember what they are reading. One thing that many of our low level students are lacking is background knowledge. So realistically the best thing we can do to help our low level students is to build their background knowledge. Student will more background knowledge learn faster. As teachers we know this to be true because we see it in our classroom all the time. I can personally think of multiple students in my classroom right now who do better not because they have better processing skills but because they have more background knowledge to connect to. 

Projects are a wonderful way for students to build their background knowledge. They are also a wonderful way for students to make connections between different background knowledge that they already have because projects ask them do work with multiple different skills and concepts simultaneously. 

Another thing that brain based learning research shows us is that students (and people in general) remember things better if they are invested in them. The choices that projects allow students make it more likely that they will be invested in these learning experiences. For example, my students who are working on country study projects have chosen their countries for their own personal reason. This gives them buy in and personal investment in their learning, ownership if you will. How many students take ownership for drill and skill worksheet learning?

Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

Maria Montessori is famous for developing a hands-on curriculum that gets students engaged in learning through real life projects like cooking meals. Few people remember that her first famous schools was in a poor, inner city area of Rome. She saw unprecented growth in students of low income, low background knowledge and low academic levels. Why then are our American Montessori schools private and geared towards middle to high income students? Why are we not using the Montessori methods, or at least project based learning, in our low income/ low level schools with the kids who need these methods most?


I teach in a school like this and I try to incorporate as many projects as I can. Here are a few of the projects I have used this year with my 3rd graders:

Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.


Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.


Why we should use project based learning with our low level students - a research based presentation from a teacher in a low income school - Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

What projects are you going to do with your low level/ low income students?