Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween Centers

Don’t you love how you make something for your classroom, you think it’s perfect, then you print it for your kids and they find your mistakes!  That’s what happened with my Halloween Centers.  Luckily the mistakes weren’t too big, but I fixed them halloweenanyways, and re-uploaded it to Teachers Pay Teachers.  So, if you were one of the 232 lucky people who got this packet for FREE, please feel free to go and download the “upgrades”.  If you missed my free offer, it’s 20% off for the weekend, just like everything else at my store, so feel free to click on the picture and find a link to these great centers.  Here are some pictures of my kids working on them in their cute costumes, they had a blast!!






Happy Halloween!!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Centers

halloweenMy school is celebrating Halloween this Friday.  We will be having costumes, candy, trick or treating – the works.  However, when I looked at our schedule, I realized there was still some “dead time”.  So, I decided to put together a Halloween Center’s Packet.  It covers skills my kids are working on – sequencing, writing stories, making patterns, word families and animals.  I am so super excited with how it turned out, that I put it up on TPT, and left if FREE.  However, it won’t be free for long.  On Friday, when my 20% off sale begins, I will put a price on it.  So, hop over to my TPT store and get yours while it’s still FREE.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Internet Safety on YouTube

You can now find Raki’s Rad Resources on YouTube!!  I just posted my first video – on internet safety. 

Take a look – I’m open to constructive criticism.  I am planning on working on a few more videos – what would you like to see a video of?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Top 10 Phonics Videos

I love to use YouTube in my classroom as a teaching tool.  Let me preface this post by saying I did not make any of these videos, nor do I know the people who did.  These are simply ones I have found as I search and thought I would share my searching skills with you.  So, that being said, here are 10 great videos to use for teaching phonics skills:

10.  Short Vowel Song – This cute jazzy song reviews short vowel sounds.
9.  Long Vowel Song – This little song gives lots of great examples of words with the long vowels.
8.  Letter Sound Song – Great little song with a picture and sound for each letter.
7.  Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Video – Good explanation for how to blend sounds – not a song.
6.  Digraph Rap – Cute way to explain digraphs.
5.  Beginning Blends – Explains blends at the beginning of words, with great graphics.
4.  Magic E with Ms. Jenny – This video explains how the silent e changes a short vowel into a long vowel sound.
3.  At Family Song – Song version explanation for how to sound out at words.
2.  The Big Pig Song – Wonderful song with good graphics for the ig family.
1.  Super E – This video explains a silent e turning a short vowel into a long one with a cute, hiphop beat, and a GREAT explanation!  This is my new favorite video and my kids love it too!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

What is a Mop?

For those of you who are unaware, I am teaching at an American school in Morocco.  In my class of 19 students, I have 3 native English speakers and 16 EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students.  We call them EFL instead of ESL (English as a Second Language) because after they leave my classroom, they go home to speak their home language EVERYWHERE they go, at home, on the streets, in the stores.  In the states, our ESL students hear English (at least a little) outside of school, which helps with the emersion process.  Here, in many cases, I’m all my kids get when it comes to English, which makes my job even more interesting.

One of the places this language becomes most apparent is when I am teaching reading.  Many of my kids are still reading pattern books (I see the _____.), whichimage is actually the same level as my own son.  However, the difference between teaching my students and teaching my son (who is a native English speaker) is that when my son looks at the picture, he can easily fill in the last word (only sometimes needing to use the first letter of the word as a cue).  When my students look at the picture, they often have no idea what they are looking at (in English).  Don’t misunderstand this and think they don’t know anything.  They probably know what the picture is in two or three other languages (Arabic, French, Spanish, Phillipino are all languages spoken by students in my room).  However, we are reading in English, so we take a lot of our guided reading time talking about vocabulary.  In the long run, these students will be ahead of the average American student, because they will know how to read in 3 languages (eventually).  Right now, they are definitely behind average first graders in the states, because they are ALL language learners.

imageOkay, so by now you’re wondering why I titled this post What is a Mop?  Well, one of the activities built into our text books (Next Sunday I’m doing a whole post on text books, btw), there are all these “phonics builders” wimagehere students look at the picture and circle the initial consonant sound or the final consonant sound – really pretty good activities.  The problem is that my students might not know what the words are.  I had TONS of students tell me that a glass started with a K.  (I am thinking they were either thinking cup or keiss, the arabic word for glass.)  Even my native speakers do not know some of the pictures, due to the difference in culture here.  For example, there was a picture of a pie, which my kids have never seen, since people don’t eat pie here.  But, the one that got me the most was the mop.  They do sell mops here in Morocco, but people don’t use them.  Instead 99% of people use a broom or squeegie on a stick to push around a large cleaning rag.  Or they simply use the cleaning rag, while bent at the hip in this cool zig zag motion.  Either way, none of my kids, not even the English speaker who spent the first 4 years of his life in the UK knew what a mop was.  So, the moral of the story is when you are dealing with students, don’t forget that their language and background knowledge can DEFINITELY influence their performance, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent, they are simply looking at life through a different lens that you are.

BTW – this is the reason that I use so many graphics in my word wall cards, which you can find here.  If you have ESL students, you might want to grab a copy to help with your vocabulary and word family lessons.


Themes are a Waste of Time

Maybe it’s the “intermediate” teacher in me, but I really do not see the point in themes.  I LOVE reading teacher blogs – it’s one of my addictions, one that keeps me up on nights when I should really be asleep because the baby’s going to be up in an hour, but I just have to read this cool blog post.  I love seeing everyone’s ideas and finding out what other teachers are doing.  I’ve been turned on to the Daily 5 this way, and found great ideas to use in my centers.  I recently figured out how to use Pinterest (here is my board, btw) and that is a whole other cycle of interesting ways to see what everyone is doing.  I love it, I really do – the collaboration inspires me. 

However, the more blogs and pins I read, the more I see of this forcing everything I am doing into a “theme” that does not match anything I am teaching (pirates, imagecamping, frogs etc.)  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the purpose behind thematic units and finding connections.  I create units to connect my science and social studies units to my reading or my math, where I see that it fits.  For example, we are reading books on animal folktales right now, simply because we are studying animal characteristics in science.  I understand how connecting everything makes kids remember it.  What I don’t understand is how putting a picture of a tent on a number card, or even adding pictures of tents and saying that you are doing a camping theme in your math unit is helping your kids.  I think it’s just taking up unnecessary time when there is already so much to do.

animalsOkay, end of rant.  If you really love themes, keep on doing them, it’s your time, not mine.  This is just food for thought.  BTW – here is a group of centers based on animal characteristics that my students are working on right now.  I’ll eventually tweak it and put it up on TPT, but for right now here is a google doc FREE for you, just for sitting through my rant.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vote for Me!!!

Circle of Moms has nominated Raki’s Rad Resources for a blog award.  Go here to vote if you think this is one of the best blogs around.

Also, while you are surfing around, you can now find me on Pinterest as well.  Check out all the cool stuff I found and pinned at

Primary Writing Journals

Well, it’s the 6th week of school, and my kids have just completed their 1st week in their writing journals.  LOL – so much for good planning!  I didn’t realize before I made the journals that my kids would have so little writing experience walking into first grade.  Anyways, I took a step back and punted as the saying goes and spent the first few weeks on the fact that people write for a reason, and that writing allows us to get ideas across, and that writing happens in sentences.  Now, they are ready for brainstorming and writing, most of them.


Here are some examples of what I got out of them for Week 1’s Narrative Writing Prompt:  What do you like to do on the weekends?



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Conferencing   (I quickly figured out we are not ready for peer-conferencing, but will try again after a few weeks.)


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Now we are starting on Week 2 – What do you do when you get angry?  The kids had a variety of answers for brainstorming, from crying, to pouting, to throwing things.  I can’t wait to see the finished products on those!  If you want a copy of this Narrative Writing Journal, you can get it from my Raki’s Rad Resources store on TPT, just click HERE or on any of the images.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Take on Show and Tell

Every week, on Friday, our class has show and tell.  However, it is not a free choice show and tell.  Instead, students are to bring in items that follow a certain criteria, based on our phonics standards.    Click here is the schedule for show and tell for the year.

Here are some of the amazing things the students have brought:

For the letters v, g and c – we had:  a guitar, a valentine bunny, a gluestick, vitamins, cars, gel, carrots, a giraffe, vanilla ice cream and a picture of a volcano.



For the letters f, h and j -  we had: flowers, hats, a helicopter, a jar, a fish, a horse, a jump rope and a flag.


How do you do show and tell in your classroom?  Post a comment so we can learn from each other. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Self Correcting Puzzle Craze

Centers, Centers, Centers – I have found that the key to my children this year is to keep them working in small group centers, so we do centers three times a day.  Here is a post I did for my parents on what centers looks like in my room.  Many of my parents are used to the French system here in Morocco, where students sit in their seats all day.  My room is the direct opposite of that – so it needed a visual explanation!

100_5859The favorite center of my room: puzzles!  We don’t do many jigsaw puzzles (although I do have some great 9 piece square puzzles), but we do TONS of self correcting puzzles.  Every time I think I have created every self-correcting puzzle I need, I come up with another topic to make them on.  I am even starting to use them in reading puzzles.  However, where they have worked best is math stations.  I have used one for number words, (You can get it FREE from TPT by clicking here.)  Now, we are working on counting stars100_5857 and matching it to the number words, which is a step up for my kids.  (You can get this one from TPT by clicking here.)  And the newest self correcting puzzle workstation – Base Ten Block Representation.  This one has been the most important, because they have never heard of real base ten blocks at my school – but there are base ten block representations in the math book and on the MAP testing my students will do next year.  So, in order to help them learn about Base Ten Blocks – we are using this puzzle as one station and Virtual Manipulatives as another station.  (You can get this last puzzle from TPT by clicking here.)

Self correcting puzzles have become my favorite math station.  A word to the wise though, if you are going to use more than one puzzle, mark the back of each puzzle piece with a color, or number or shape (preferably BEFORE cutting them out and laminating them), so that they will be easy to sort when the kids mix them up!  If I was in the States, I might even print them on colored card stock – but that is not an option here.

Want more Math Workstation Ideas?  Chalk Talk is having a linky party all about Math Workstations.  Pop over here and find some great ideas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are They Ready For Word Families?

ACKI think they are, I think they are.  My kids are slowly getting a real handle on beginning consonant sounds and pattern books – so the next step is Word Families.  I know they are not,  ALL ready, but I have 2 solid groups who are going to start word families next week.  I am going to use these cool Word Family Centers within my Guided Reading groups to introduce the word family we are working on.  The kids put an initial sound card (letters, digraphs and blends) in the beginning of the word family and try to find the picture to match the word family for the end.  (Click here or on the pictures for a package of these centers covering 41 different word families.) After we practice in Guided Reading, the centers will ack2eventually make their way to individual word work centers.  I am excited to see how they handle it.   I’ll let you know how it goes.  I also need to bring in my camera and take some pictures of centers – because that has been the success story for my talkative kids.  Seat Work is never quiet, and NEVER works, but active centers has provided active learning and is working really well for this group.  Anyways, for more Word Work Activities – Check out the Linky Party at the Rockin' Teacher Materials Blog.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall is Here


I know that it is fall because apples are everywhere.   I know it is fall the calendar says October.  In fact, my calendar even has these pretty October numbers.  (Get them by clicking on the picture, btw)  I know it is fall because Teacher Tam is having a Fall linky party.  I know it is fall because my student’s writings are filled with zombies and monsters and ghosts.  I know it is fall because I have to put my six month old in actual pajamas to go to sleep, instead of leaving him in his onsie.  I know it is fall – I’m just now sure how summer went away so fast.  Anyone know the answer to that question?  Anyways, post a reason you know it is fall and your email address and I’ll send you these halloween numbers FREE.