Thursday, November 29, 2012

How do YOU divide?

Today is Thursday, so my post should be an iPad app suggestion, and I have a great one for you, but I had something cool come up in class today and decided to share it with you.  Stop by tomorrow for this week’s app suggestion.  Now, on to my eye opening math lesson.

Last week, on my kids math assessment, there was a problem that asked the kids to divide $5 between 6 kids.  All of my kids got stuck on this problem, so I decided to take the opportunity to use this to review long division.

Now, bear in mind that my math program doesn’t actually teach long division, instead it teaches students to use multiplication to solve division problems.  However, many of my students have been taught to divide in previous years at other schools.  All of my students are new to this school and this math program, and as they are coming to me in 3rd or 4th grade, they already have a base built in their previous programs.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), they don’t all come from the same previous programs.  Out of a class of 7 (Yes, I’m the luckiest teacher in the world and I only have 7 kids!), 2 have “American International School” backgrounds, 1 has a “British International School” background, 2 have “Moroccan  Private School” backgrounds and 2 have “Spanish Private School” backgrounds.  Because of all of this diversity, I always try to tell my kids that there are many ways to solve a problem and you should choose the way that makes the most sense to you. 

Last night I assigned a few math division problems to help them review.  While we were reviewing them in class today, one of my students taught me a new way to divide.  Here’s what her paper looked like:

A New Strategy for Long Division

It totally blew my mind at first, and I actually had to go to my husband (who grew up in the Moroccan Private School system) to actually explain it to me.  Once he did, I was able to see the connections between the now 3 different ways we haFree printable poster with three different strategies to solve a long division used to solve a long division problem.  So, I decided to make a poster for my kids to help them see the similarities and to guide them through choosing the strategy that works best for them.  I’m going to make similar posters for the other operations, as I work out all the different ways to solve those problems too.  Right now, I only have division finished, but if you’d like a copy of the poster, feel free to grab a free copy from Google Docs.

Now, my curious mind is wondering – how do you divide?  Which of these methods is your preferred method?  Do you have another?  I’d love to hear about!  Please leave me a comment!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Website for Geography and More

It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!! For two years, I was the Technology Specialist at a scFree E-Book:  Websites for the Elementary Classroom by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resourceshool 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 Wednesday Website suggestion.

This week’s website suggestion was suggested to me by my teammate.  It’s a website she swears by because “it has everything”, called Sheppard’s Software.  It really is wonderful and has interactive games for so many different topics, including language arts, science and math.  However, our favorite sections of this site is the World Geography section.  There are interactive games allow students to play with maps of the world, or maps Use Shephard's Software to teach Geography - Suggested by Raki's Rad Resourcesof specific regions. 

My students’ next unit is on the continent of Africa, and when I started searching around this site for games on Africa, I found:

- a game where students can learn the names of each country

- a game where students can learn the capitols of each country

- a game where students can learn about the rivers of Africa

- a game where students can learn about the bodies of water surrounding Africa.

- a page where students can learn about the animals of Africa

- a page with information for each country of Africa


I am so excited to use this website to build a base of knowledge on Africa and geography for my students.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Most Basic Math Manipulative

Last week, my class was working on mixed numbers in math.  I had tried everything – manipulative pieces, iPad apps, drawings, explanations, but I had 2 students who were just stuck on this concept.  They just couldn’t seem to grasp what I was talking about.  Then, one day at lunch, we came across the answer – oranges.  Everyone wanted more oranges, but there weren’t enough oranges left for everyone to have one.  So one of our directors took the two oranges, peeled them and split them between the students.  One of my students who has been stuck on mixed numbers said “Look Mrs. Raki, we get to eat two oranges!”

Talk about dropping a teachable moment in my lap.  WSome of the best learning happens not because we plan it, but because of those wonderful teachable moments.  Stop by Raki's Rad Resources and see how I used oranges at lunch to teach mixed numbers.e talked right then about how she actually had one whole and a fraction – a mixed number.  Then, as a class we walked out front the the orange tree (Yes, we are lucky at the International School of Morocco and we have our own orange tree!), and collected some oranges.  We went upstairs and immediately used the oranges to model and write out a variety of mixed numbers, and to add, subtract and divide using fractions.  None of this, of course was on my lesson plans, but my kids had light bulb moments and serious learning took places, so who cares!

What’s the best lesson you every taught that WASN’T IN THE LESSON PLANS?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers

I hope that everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.  We are celebrating today here in Morocco, as many family members were working or at school on Thursday.  However, I had to stop by and let you know about something big that’s coming up on Teachers Pay Teachers on Monday.  There is going to be a HUGE sale for Cyber Monday, which has also been extended to Tuesday.  Many, many teacher authors are putting their stores on sale for 20% OFF (including ME – check out my store here) and then the amazing people who run Teachers Pay Teachers are offering another 10% – with the promotion code CMT12 - which equals a possible 28% off (not 30%, because one discount is applied after the other) of literally thousands of possible teaching products.  Here are some of the deals you can score at my store alone:

Get 28% off of everything at Raki's Rad Resources' Teachers Pay Teachers store during the Cyber Monday + Bonus Tuesday Sale.

Get 28% off of everything at Raki's Rad Resources' Teachers Pay Teachers store during the Cyber Monday + Bonus Tuesday Sale

Get 28% off of everything at Raki's Rad Resources' Teachers Pay Teachers store during the Cyber Monday + Bonus Tuesday Sale

I hope you stop by on Monday and stock up on resources that will make your teaching life easier.  While your waiting, please leave a comment letting us know what is your wishlist.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing From the Rock’s Point of View

Last week, my class did a special read aloud to connect to our Earth Science unit.  Rather than read another informational book, we used our class iPad and an app called The Rock Cycle (free at the iTunes store) to read a story of a rock that changes from lava to igneous rock, to sedimentary rock, to metamorphic rock.  This interactive story was written in rhyme, and was written from the point of view of the rock.  It gave my students a great picture of how rocks change, and gave me a great idea for a final project. 

Have students write stories from a rock's point of view to work on both earth science and point of view in writing - free download from Raki's Rad Resources.My students  have been working on the different ways that rocks form and the different ways that rocks break.  Next week, they are going to write their own stories from the point of view of two rocks – Slow Sammy who changes very, very, very slowly (through erosion and sediment etc.) and Fast Freddy who changes very fast (through a volcano, earthquake, hurricane or other destructive force).  We are going to write our stories on this quick sheet I made (which you can grab from Google Docs if you’d like), and then they are going to transfer their writing onto large sheets of paper and illustrate.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Visit from the Book Jeannie

Today we have a special guest blogger joining us.  I’m proud to present Richard Giso from Room to Read.  He has agreed to share a great class reward that he uses.  After reading, be sure to grab the freebie he is offering.  signature



Here’s a spin on an idea that a fellow first grade teacher shared with me about a “Book Fairy” that visited her children’s literature class when she was a graduate student.

I searched online and found a jeannie lamp. The whole idea is that my class gets a visit from the “Book Jeannie” as a reward. The first time the Book Jeannie comes to my classroom, the lamp appears with a brand new, wrapped book and a letter written on “Book Jeannie Stationary.”

I act all surprised and really jazz this occurrence up! We read the letter and book together. The book becomes a part of my classroom library. I leave the lamp in my library. When the Book Jeannie comes again, it always moves to a new spot. This fun filled idea is a great addition to any classroom. Here are some pictures of me getting ready for a “visit”:


Use the Book Jeannie as a class reward and literacy builder.

I chose the book “Perfect Square” my Michael Hall.



Use the Book Jeannie as a class reward and literacy builder.

I bought some shiny wrapping paper with a glitter bow.



Use the Book Jeannie as a class reward and literacy builder.

I wrote a note on my Jeannie Stationary.



Use the Book Jeannie as a class reward and literacy builder.

I get my jeannie lamp, wrap the book, attach the note and I am ready to place this in my classroom library. Not only does it serve as a reward for good class behavior, but it also promotes a love of literacy.

Please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for this freebie.

  - Richard Giso 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chocolate Rocks

My class is working on Earth Science and what better way to way to work on that, but to make rocks out of chocolate!  We had a free morning, so here’s what we did:

We started by cutting up a big hunk of chocolate into nice big chunks to melt down into “lava”.
Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.     Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.
We also chopped up some nuts to stand for our “minerals” that mix into our “lava” during heating.  Then, we scooped our rocks onto a tray to let them cool into our “igneous rocks”.
Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.     Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.
Next, we started in our “sedimentary rocks”.  On top our our cookie “layered rocks”, we layered melted chocolate, chunk chocolate and nuts.  Then, we covered the “rocks” with plastic wrap and worked together to apply pressure to our “sedimentary rocks”.
Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.     Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.
Finally, we made our “metamorphic rocks” by placing our pre-formed sedimentary rocks into the microwave for some quick “heat” and applied more pressure.  This time, however, the pressure was applied by just me, as it was a sticky, chocolately mess!  Of course, at the end, we at our yummy products!
Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.     Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.
Throughout the entire process, my students had a data collection sheet that they used to record what their rocks looked like, and keep them busy Free printable sheet to guide students through the process of making candy rocks.through the transition time that generally occurs in all cooking activities.  Feel free to download a copy of this sheet from Google Docs if your class wants to make Chocolate Rocks too.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Friday, November 16, 2012

Better Than Sticky Notes

Report card time is here!  My school uses standards based report cards, which means that my “grade book” is more than just a series of number grades.  MoreUse everynote to organize your anecdotal data - better than sticky notes! important than number grades for standards based report cards are anecdotal notes.  This year, a co-worker of mine has turned me on to a better way to write down those anecdotal notes than on the endless stream of sticky notes.  It’s a free iPad app/ website program called Evernote.

Inside this program, I have created a notebook for each of my students and then notes for each subject.  Every few days, I leave notes about each student.  When I use this as an app on my iPad, I can add pictures, pdfs or recordings to each note.  This has been a great way to do fluency checks and running records.  I can take a picture of the page or upload a screen shot, and then record my students reading the page. 

Use everynote to organize your anecdotal data - better than sticky notes!Since this program is also available on my computer and the notebooks automatically sync, I can also edit the notes on my computer.  This is great for me, because honestly as much as I love my iPad, I HATE typing on it, and I HATE trying to copy and paste even more.  So, if I have comments that require typing or copying and pasting, I can easily add them in on my computer and still have those notes on the iPad when I need them to conference with my students.

I am also planning on using these notes to help guide my conferences with parents.  Also, since my co-worker and I group our students for reading, we can also e-mail each other our notes on each others students, making report cards and conferences that much easier! 

Overall, this app has made my life so much easier and it’s way better than sticky notes!

For more ways to organize for report cards, check out this linky part at Teaching FSL.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Teaching Geology

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 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 Wednesday Website suggestion.

For my current Earth Science Unit, we are using lots of different websites to research the materials of the earth.  This week’s website  - Kids Geo - is my students’ favorite research site so far.  They have all found some rgeologykidseally good information on this site to help them with their Glog Project, and it’s sorted out with a kid-friendly index on the left hand side.  Best of all, the information is written in a way that even my English Language Learners can pick out the information they need.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

TESOL Teaching Tip # 41 - Can I Go In the Toilet?

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students are English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers are 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 #41 - Spend time on prepositions and positional words. Prepositions can be very different from language to language and they can be challenging for esl or ell students to discern which word to use. Stop by this blog post at Raki's Rad Resources to learn strategies for teaching this important skill.

ELL Teaching Tip #41:  Teach Positional Words
Have your students ever asked you “Can I go in the toilet?”  Mine always do in the beginning of the year.  Of course they mean “Can I go to the toilet?”, but those positional words, which give us so much meaning, are challenging for language learners.  For this reason, we must take time to address positional words in our lessons and in the real world situations where they come up.

Place positional words in the appropriate places on this box to help your English Language Learners work on their positional words.One way to do this is to teach specific lessons on positional words.  I recently used this box lesson, where you place positional words on and around this box, that you can download free from Google Docs.  We should also address issues when they come up for students.  For my students, they think of toilet as in the French word for bathroom, which is toilet.  So, to help them to to ask them to go “to” the toilet, we talk about what would happen if we went “in” the toilet.  It’s also important to address the oddball positional word situations.  For example, we get “in” bed, not on it.
How do you deal with positional words for your language learning students?

Everythings-Intermediate-Expo7222232[1]Do you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Would you like to view an hour long presentation on this topic? I recently presented on Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo. Now you can grab the presentation for just $3.95 from Teacher’s Notebook.

Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rocking and Rolling with Earth Science

My class’ new unit is focused on Earth Science.  We’ve gotten off to a great start and the kids are super excited to be working on science after our start in social studies/ health.

Have students search these assigned websites to find the answers to this free constructive and destructive  internet scavenger hunt.


First, we used our Constructive and Destructive forces Internet Scavenger Hunt to begin gathering information about how rocks are formed and how they break apart.



KWL chart



Next, we used a KWL chart to put together what we knew and what we wanted to know.  The students came up with some really great questions like:



Can all of the land disappear?

How are continents formed?

How do rocks and plates move?

How does water change rocks?

How do volcanoes erupt?

Questioning ChartThe students came up with a list of 15 questions total, and then transferred their top 5 questions onto our Questioning chart. We stop periodically and see if we can answer some of our questions.




We have read the book How Mountains are Made and watched two Magic School Bus Videos – Blows it’s Top and Rocks and Rolls.  We also used the app the Rock Cycle to read a story from a rock’s point of view.


Now, my students are working on their Earth’s Materials Glog project.  They are using books like Rocks and Minerals and Usborne Geographical Encyclopedia, Have students research a material of the earth and create a glog using their well as websites like and kid-friendly search engines like to find information about a material they chose.  My students have chosen: clay, gold, granite, diamond, pearl, ruby and sapphire.  They should be finished with their research by the end of this week and then they will use to create a glog about their material.

During Thanksgiving week, we will be completing some cool hands-on erosion activities with sugar cubes and we will create candy rocks.  Then, to finish off our unit, the students will write stories about the “rock brothers” who choose different paths.  One brother changed slowly and the other changed quickly.

What are you studying in science right now?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Memorize or Not to Memorize

First I have to say Thank You to all of those who left me birthday wishes and signed up for your birthday present.  If you haven’t received your present yet, please leave me a comment here.


Another blogger, who I love – Angela Watson, from The Cornerstone, recently shared a great article with me from Time Ideas called Why Kids Should Learn Cursive (and Math Facts and Root Words).  The article timearticleargues that students need to spend some time on “skill and drill” memorization and then take those facts they have memorized and apply them using all of the higher level thinking and collaborative learning that we now focus on.  I was pleased to read someone calling for a balance, and this article really got me thinking about the difference in education systems I am experiencing right now.

As many of you know, I am currently living in Morocco with my husband and three young sons.  My two older sons (grades K and 3) go to a Moroccan school in French and Arabic.  Their school requires a lot of memorization and handwriting, and very little higher level thinking and creative writing.  I teach an the International School of Morocco in English.  My school spends a lot of time on creative writing, exploring and building critical thinking skills.  As a mother and a teacher, I often feel caught in the middle.  My sons go to the school they do because I want them to learn the language, but I do wish they spent more time learning the way that I teach.

This article got me to thinking though that some of how they are learning is making them stronger learners in some ways.  My older son spends a lot of time memorizing – Memorization has helped my sons become stronger students.poems, verb conjugations, Koran verses, paragraphs about science, and the younger one is starting to come home with these same types of activities.  While this sometimes seems to be a waste of time, he is practicing the skills of memorizations and visualization.  When it comes time to memorize things that I think are important (like math facts), it comes a lot easier to him because he has spent time practicing this skill.  In addition, he has a ton of information stuck in his memory that he can connect his new information with.  Granted, his school does not seem to spend time teaching him how to make those connections, but he makes many connections on his own and my husband and I are helping him to make more connections.

Back in my own classroom, I am trying to use some of this to help my students.  I am finding that my students who have a background in schools that focus on memorization can learn and memorize things faster.  In order to build their memorizing ability, we are working on memorizing in class, using math facts, nursery rhymes, songs etc.  However, in my classroom, I take the time to show students 1.) why it’s important to memorize the things we need to memorize and 2.) how to connect this memorization to other things that don’t need to be memorized.  Here are some specific places I have found to use memorization in my classroom:

1.)  We practice math facts every day.  While we have learned why 3 x 4 = 12, we have also talked about theMemorizing Facts is vital to making progress in math. fact that in order to know 342 x 12, we need to know all these basic facts, and know them quickly.  So, every day we take our fast fact quizzes and we spend a lot of time using those basic facts, and making the connections between easier problems and harder problems ( 8 x 4 = 32 so 80 x 4 = 320).

2.)  We memorize a nursery rhyme each week.  We use the rhymes to talk about vocabulary and fluency, but we also use them to practice our reading strategies and make geographical and historical connections. 

3.)  We memorize verb conjugations.  Luckily for us, our verbs are much easier than, say the French verbs, however, the only way my English Language Learners are going to remember that it is I have, you have, she/he/it has is by repeating it and memorizing it.

4.)  We memorize songs.  We’ve used songs for basic vocabulary and introductions, for heritage week, for shows and productions, but our most important songs are our Grammar songs.  I use the Shurley English songs, and we sing them over and over and over.  Then, as we diagram our sentences, we sing the songs again and again to help remind us what those parts of speech are and why.

5.) We memorize root words, prefixes and suffixes.  Each week, we work on one “word part”, which helps my students to find cognates with their home language, but it also helps them to understand the meaning of so many of their words.

Do you use memorization in your classroom – is it helpful?  Do you totally disagree with me and think memorization is moot?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources