Thursday, September 25, 2014

BYOD Resources – Apps & Websites to Use

Recently, I had an e-mail from a follower asking for suggestions on websites and apps that could be used in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classroom.  The teacher’s problem was that all of her students were working on different formats.  She had some of her students on a Mac format – generally iPads, which don’t allow flash, but work great with apps, some of her students on Android tablets and Kindle Fires, which still don’t allow flash and don’t always have access to the same apps as iPads and then some of her students on regular old PC laptops, where they couldn’t get apps at all, but had access to lots of cool Flash based websites. 

BYOD - differentiating your technology options to allow for many different formats, including iPads, android tablets and PC laptops to all be used in your classroom - suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources

My suggestion to her was to get to know the resources out there.  There are a few resources – like Edmodo, LiveBinders and Google Docs that work on all platforms.  These resources are a good for projects where you want all of the students to create a nearly identical product or format – like Online Portfolios or published pieces from a Writing Journal.

 For other resources, it takes time to build up knowledge of which apps and websites work on each different format.  I suggest using Google Docs or a page on your class blog of to collect a list of great overall resources based on the three different formats.  As you, your students and their parents find new websites or apps to meet the skills and content you are working on, add these links to this document that so that is available to entire class.  In the spirit of collaboration, I have started my own collaborative Google Document with some of this information.  Feel free to add to this document and/or share it with your students and co-workers.BYOD - differentiating your technology options to allow for many different formats, including iPads, android tablets and PC laptops to all be used in your classroom - suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources

For example, if you want students to use their device to work on math facts, you might want to use Flash to Pass on iPads, Timed Math Pro for Android devices and Mathmagician on laptops.  All of these help students work on the same skill, in a similar format, but each works on a different type of device.  If you want students to work on creating a video, iPad users could use Explain Everything, Android users could use Animation Desk, and PC users could use Powtoon.

Also, try to choose activities that already have differentiated technology built in – like my Internet Scavenger Hunts, which have Type On Versions, perfect for students who have a PC with Microsoft Word, Clickable Link PDF Versions, perfect for students with Androids, like the Kindle Fire, or PCs, that are not equipped with Microsoft Word or the ability to scan QR Codes and a QR Code Version for your iPad users who can easily download a QR Code App, but often have difficulty opening PDFs.

BYOD - differentiating your technology options to allow for many different formats, including iPads, android tablets and PC laptops to all be used in your classroom - suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources.

Do you have a technology in the classroom question that you’d like answered?  E-mail me at hlraki (at) hotmail (dot) com and I will be happy to help you out!

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Salt Maps Solidify Understanding

Hello guys, sorry for my long absence here on the blog – I’ve had a migraine the size of Texas that makes looking at the computer screen a very big challenge.  It’s still there, but lighter, so here’s hoping we’re on the upswing!  Anyways, homeschooling (and teaching) rarely stops for a headache, so I wanted to share with you a project my boys did this week.
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad Resources
Instead of completing separate Science and Social Studies units, my kiddos are doing year long Country Study Projects.  Each month, we spend three weeks researching a specific topic in regards to our country – through books, encyclopedias, videos and field trips – and then on week four, the kids take all of what they have “learned” and put it into action with a hands-on or technology based project.  I give the kids some basic expectations for their project, but they have a lot of freedom with how they want to create and deliver project.
For the last three weeks, we have been looking at the geography and climate of our countries (Russia for my 2nd grader and China for my 5th grader), so this week they were tasked with creating a map. 
My younger son is much more of a kinesthetic learner, so he chose to create a salt map, giving him a chance to build the Ural Mountains and Bakail Lake with his hands and paint not only the landforms, but the bordering countries and the Arctic Ocean.  We used a recipe I got from another blogger I love – Becky from Kid World Citizen and he had so much fun that he kept telling me “This isn’t work mom, it’s easy!” Here are a few pictures of the process:
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad ResourcesFirst, he spread the clay out on the cardboard with the outline his daddy drew for him.
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad ResourcesThen, he added in all of the landforms.  This took a few trips back to the map to determine where exactly those rivers and mountains were supposed to be.
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad Resources Finally he determined colors for his landforms and countries and had a blast painting his map.
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad Resources And here is the final product.
Creating salt maps to help students make sense of geography - great project for elementary and high school alike.  Easy to differentiate - Details at Raki's Rad Resources
Since we were playing with clay, the little one (3 years old) decided he needed to get in on the action too, so he created the first letter of his name – S.

My oldest son is a technology guy and so he took a completely different take on this project.  Using Power Point, he created a layered map, and then recorded himself explaining the map using Camtasia Studio – the same program that I use for my Math Mini Lesson Videos.  Besides showing him how to draw on the map, he created this project completely independently – which was great for a mom with a headache!
Although both of the maps made by the boys came out quite differently, what I noticed was that during the process of making the maps, the kids would say things like “I know the mountains are in the East, but where?” and go back to the map to check again.  They were clarifying and building on to their own knowledge by building this project.  This will keep it in their memory so much longer than if they had memorized the information to study for a test.  Hope your week of teaching and learning was as fabulous as ours was!
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Give Kids Some Control Over their Writing

Give kids control over their writing and build strong writers

We’re always told that kids write the best if they write what they know, but then we’re also told that they need to write to answer this prompt.  So, how do we give kids a chance to have some control of their writing topics, and also prepare them to write for the prompts that show up on standardized tests all the way up to the college level?

The first step is to give them some sense of control in each and every writing task.  Emphasize for them where their choice lies, so that they can look at the various ways to answer a question, providing their own voice along the Narrative Writing Journal - Drafting Page - From Raki's Rad Resourcesway.  If you need them to practice writing a summary, let them choose the passage.  If you need them to practice information writing, let them pick a topic they know a lot about.  If you need them to practice fiction writing, let them include characters or settings that are familiar to their life or books or movies that they enjoy.  When we grade writing prompts, we are always looking for “voice”, so we have to teach kids what their options are within the confines of the writing prompt, giving them the place to put their own voice. 

Use a writing journal – like my Narrative Writing Journal – that gives students 9 weekly prompts, but let them choose the prompts they want to work on.  Let them identify the prompts that make a connection for them and help them find their voice within each prompt.

Next, focus on organization.  Model organization for students in whole group setting, and have students use an organizer, like an organized bubble map or an outline each time they write, so that they get the feeling for grouping their ideas together.  Once students have a sense of organization, they are ready to break “out of the box” and add in the extra dialogue and examples that create voice.  However, if we develop voice without organization, we get funny writing pieces that go nowhere and say nothing, which is not helpful to our students or their grade on those writing prompts.

Narrative Writing Journal - Organizing using an outline - from Raki's Rad Resources

Improve revision and editing skills with the use of a specific checklist.  Let kids peer – edit.  Kids often find mistakes in their friends work, that they won’t find in their own.  After kids peer-edit, conference with each pair to help students provide constructive criticism without hurting feelings.  This may also be a good time to point out where one student is strong and may be of help to other students.

Narrative Writing Journal - Revise and Edit using these checklists - from Raki's Rad Resources

Finally, let kids choose what pieces they want to publish.  Not every piece we write needs to be published, and students should start evaluating their own writing to choose which ones are their very best.  Once they have picked their best work, they can “polish it to a spit shine” with extra revising and editing, as well as a fun way to publish – like typing it into a blog post or creating an online storybook at

Here are a few writing pieces my kids have come out with recently, both done with only some very general parameters given and a good focus on structure and revising and editing:




Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Lesson in Letting Go – Checkin’ in with Courtney

imageCheckin' in with Courtney - a spotlight of democratic learning at Raki's Rad Resources I had the amazing privilege to teach with one of the best teachers in the world last year.  While we taught together, she provided me with inspiration – for my classroom and my blog – like no one else I’ve ever taught with.  Luckily for you guys, she has agreed to periodically share with us what is going on in her classroom.  Today is the first edition of Checkin’ in with Courtney.  For more of Courtney’s awesomeness, you can check our her class Weebly.


Our first unit of the year is Magical Morocco! I have always felt that one of my strengths is allowing kids to chose and discover what and how they learn through an inquiry based approach. I knew that I wanted to teach them basic geographical skills and to increase their understanding of Moroccan culture as well as their own, but I wanted to leave it up to them to guide our learning.

Then last week, we had the best morning! In the middle of a read aloud we somehow stopped and began a wonderful conversation in which students shared their thoughts and ideas, and we sorted it all out through a majority voting process. Before I knew it we had agreed that the kids would break into 4 research groups: Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fes. They were anxious to use recycled products and our new supply of Legos to recreate the cities. While they were at snack I whipped together a “City Planning” sheet to help students organise their research by listing common buildings, transportation, landforms and bodies of water. Over the course of a few days the groups looked at maps, drew from their own knowledge, and looked online to fill out their planning sheets.

photo 1The fun began and before I knew it miraculous cities were forming before my eyes: roadways with cars and trains, airports, palaces for the King, hotels, mosques, souks and more. When I conferenced with one group they informed me that the building they had worked on for over an hour was a spaceship. I quickly dismissed it and told them that it had to be one of the several buildings they had written on their city planning sheet. As the day went on I felt uneasy about it, but I had convinced myself that I was allowing enough creativity. The next day I watched the boys continue to work with such diligence on their city, I began to ask them questions and knew that they definitely understood everything I wanted them to from the lesson. So why was I having such a hard time accepting their spaceship? I suggested that perhaps their “spaceship” was actually a mosque.

Finally, this morning I woke up and knew what I had to do. During our photo 2 morning meeting I told the kids I had something very serious to discuss with them. I told them that I was disappointed in myself because I am constantly emphasizing, “the one thing no one can ever take from you is your ideas.” and here I was, their teacher, telling them their ideas were wrong. I explained to the class that I knew the boys had done a great job thinking and writing the buildings of Casablanca, and that after they had worked so well together to build a spaceship, I told them that it couldn’t be what they had intended. The class looked at me quite seriously, and I asked the particular group to forgive me and confessed that it was hard as an adult admitting to kids that I had made a mistake. They quickly forgave me, and the whole day was pretty incredible.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we want kids to not just learn information but to analyze and synthesize it, when we accept the responsibility to encourage such freedom, we must also work hard as adults to relinquish the control we have been programmed to maintain. LET GO!!!!!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Problem Solving Mini Lesson is Recorded!

Well, we’ve had a few technological issues due to the move to a new campground with very LIMITED internet access, however, I have gotten this week’s mini lesson recorded.  This week’s Math Mini Lesson (Taught from Our RV) is on Attacking a Word Problem.

problem solving lesson - interactive math notebook - Raki's Rad Resources It aligns perfectly with my newly released Problem Solving Lesson for your Interactive Math Notebook, which you can download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Next week’s lesson will be on Place Value, so be sure to stop back.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Do You Need For Your Classroom? Resources Made to Meet Student Needs

What do you need for your classroom?  Resources to meet studen needs - Resources on Demand from Raki's Rad Resources

I was recently asked where I come up with ideas for the resources I create.  This idea made me giggle a little, because I never "came up with ideas", I have always responded to the needs of my students by creating what I saw that they needed.  When my students needed more real life problem solving practice, I created Problem Solving Path.  When I got a class that needed basic English vocabulary, I created ESL Vocabulary Packets.  The next year, my group needed a focus on spelling patterns, so I created Spelling Vocabulary Packets.

allaboutmeset    Long Vowels

This year, I don't have a class - outside of these three little sweeties who I am homeschooling. (You can read about that new adventure atRVing with the Raki's.)  So, while I am still finishing up old projects, I don't have nearly as many new projects on my plate. However, I know that there are TONS of teachers out there who are saying "My kids need xyz and I wish I had time to make it."  If you are one of these teachers, please consider my new Resources on Demand program.

To participate in the
Resources on Demand program, teachers complete the sign up form, telling me what they are looking for and I will create it for them in an agreed upon time period.  Please feel free to share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues as well!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Online Video Creation Sites for Elementary Students

Video creation should be a part of every elementary classroom - programs and website suggestions for the elementary and middle school classroom.  Suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources. Two years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a technology conference in London where Marc Prensky was speaking.  I remember a lot of what he said, but the one thing that stuck with me was, “If your kids aren’t making videos every day, they should be.”  At this point, my kids hadn’t made any videos – except playing around with Educreations a little.  So, I headed back to my school on a mission to see how I could fit video making into what we were already doing, because we all know there’s no time for extras in a busy Elementary School classroom!
So, where did I find the time?
Video planning for tutorial videos from Raki's Rad Resources 1.)  Math tutorials – the kids had been creating little lessons to present to our friends about the concepts we were covering in class.  (You know the saying about remembering 95% of what you teach – it’s true.)  Now, instead of presenting the lessons to a group or to the class, the kids recorded them and we shared them with our classmates through Edmodo as part of our flipped classroom model.  We used this great planning sheet to help the kids think about what exactly they would need to share.  Here are a few my kids created:

2.)  Project presentations – I’ve always been big about letting kids create projects to show their learning in different Science and Social Studies units.  Videos gave kids a whole new way to present, and really helped out the kids who got stage fright!  Here are a few my kids created:

3.)  Novel skits – At the end of a novel study, it is common for me to have students act out a chapter of the book as a new and interesting way to show comprehension of the book.  These novel skits turned into movie trailers with the use of iMovie’s great movie trailer templates.  Unfortunately, I can’t share any examples here, as they all show student faces, but the kids loved acting out their favorite characters! However, here is a summary of 3 Billy Goats Gruff done by another class:

4.)  Publishing writing – I’ve always given my students a variety of ways to publish their completed writing – blog posts, Google Docs, pretty cursive handwriting, etc.  However, videos gave them an extra option.  They could create a video of the actual story happening, or create a simple recording of their words and illustrations.  Here are a few my kids created:

Making videos is not that difficult, and can be done in SO many different ways.  We were lucky enough to have iPads.  If you’re lucky enough to have iPads in your classroom – check out my blog posts: Video Making Apps and 10 Ways to Use Your iPad’s Camera for information on how to use your iPad to make videos.  We were also lucky enough to have iMacs with iMovie.  iMovie is hands down one of the best softwares I have ever worked with to make videos, and it’s super user friendly.  If you have iMovie – use it, it’s wonderful.  However, it’s not wonderful enough for me to justify purchasing a Mac for my homeschool use this year, especially when there are so many other movie making options out there.  Here are a few other options for those of us not lucky enough to have iPads and iMovie.  :)
 1.) Powtoon – I have blogged multiple times about how much I LOVE Powtoon, the software is so user friendly and the kids love being able to animate the characters and edit so simply.
2.) Screencast-omatic – This website allows you to video whatever is going on on your screen right now – whether it is a group of pictures drawn by the kids, a slide show they created etc. etc.  Here is a screen cast video I made about how I used Edmodo for homework.

 3.) Photo Story – This is an actual program that must be downloaded, but it is FREE.  It allows kids to upload pictures and then record their voice behind it, creating a slide show type of video.
4.) Cam Studio – Similar to Screencast-omatic, this website allows you to video whatever is going on your screen, so as long as you can take a picture and get it onto your computer, this can really give you a lot of leeway!
5.) Jing – Another great screencasting program, this one needs to be downloaded to your computer.

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
Websites to Teach Typing Skills
Websites to Create Videos
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cranium in the Classroom

Suggestions for using the board game - Cranium - in elementary and middle school classrooms.  Suggestions from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources. 

Recently, my family found the game Cranium at a thrift store and decided to grab it, since we didn’t already own it.  Wow, what a great game!  If you’ve never played Cranium, it is the epitome of multiple intelligences in a game!  Rather than just having players answer logic based questions, the questions are split into different categories.  With the Creative Cat cards, you have to draw or sculpt something (sometimes with your eyes closed) in order to get your teammates to guess a clue.  With the Data Head cards, you have factoid, true and false and multiple choice questions about a variety of topics.  With the Word Worm cards, you have to unscramble words, fill in missing letters, spell difficult words and determine the meaning of vocabulary words.  Finally, with the Star Performer cards, you act out famous or commonplace characters or hum out famous songs. 

Suggestions for using the board game - Cranium - in elementary and middle school classrooms.  Suggestions from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources When my boys and I started playing, I realized how awesome this could be in the classroom!  There are so many options – standard play, personalized versions, team challenges, the works.  Here are the just a few possibilities:


1.)  For older students (5th grade and up), standard play is a definite option and perfectly possible for a classroom setting, as you play on teams, and could easily split your class into 4 teams and play as a getting to know you or team building activity, or as an end of the day reward for good behavior.


2.)  Give your students multiple intelligence surveys and split them into groups based on their results.  Let these groups become your teams and have students play only the questions that match their intelligence. 


3.)  Split into your multiple intelligence teams, have students create their own questions for their intelligence.  Then, have the entire class play with the student created questions.


4.)  Choose a topic you have been studying and have students create a Cranium that is focused completely around the topic.  Students could work within their intelligence or not – depending on your class makeup.


5.)  Use Cranium questions as brain breaks and part of a management system.  Pull a random card during a transition.  The team that gets it right scores a point.  Keep track of the points and reward the winning team at the end of each week.


How can you use Cranium in your classroom?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Background Knowledge IS NOT the Same as My Students

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: 

Tip for teaching English Language Learners- Students will have different background knowledge than you.  Make sure students are connecting with their background knowledge and not yours.  Tips from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

You know that perfect moment when you describe an old t.v. show or snack food that you remember from your childhood and the other person completes your sentence?  For me, it would be something about Roseanne or Saved by the Bell or drinking Kool-Aide and eating soft serve ice cream from the ice cream trucks (Mr. Softy!!!).  These are experience that define my childhood and thereby myself.  They are my background knowledge - the basis that I use to connect all my new knowledge to.  However, they are NOT the same as the background knowledge that my students have.  So, while these may be cool things to share with my students, it WILL NOT help them to connect their new knowledge with their previous knowledge. 

When we are teaching, it is very easy to use examples that make sense to us, forgetting that our students do not have the same background knowledge as we do.  This is particularly true for ESL students and students who come from other countries or households influenced by other cultures.  When I was teaching overseas, I often used books and materials that had references to “American culture” without even realizing it. 

For example, while doing a Novel Study for Frindle, my students and I had a long discussion about what Dairy Queen was.

During our Magic Tree House Novel Studies, we had an interesting discussion about the availability of public libraries in the US.

When doing a read aloud of Captain Underpants, we segued into a discussion on football games and cheer leaders – a very abstract concepts to my soccer playing, World Cup fans.

Daily Language was also a huge source of cultural discussions.  Ask a child who has never watched Sesame Street to complete this analogy:  Big Bird:yellow::Elmo:_______. 

Or have them label the name of the group when the items include Snickers, Mars, Mr. Goodbar and and Butterfingers, none of which are available for sale in many countries.  (This brought on an even funnier discussion because lots of students thought that snickers was the same as SNEAKERS.)

And the ENDLESS baseball references!  I can’t even begin to tell you.


While all of these were great times to talk about cultural concepts, they also taught me that if I was the one creating an example or a connection for my students, I better choose concepts to talk about that THEY  would connect with.  So, when we were talking about supermarkets, we talked about Marjane instead of Walmart.  When making sports connections, it was ALWAYS soccer, and I took some time to listen to their favorite music and play their favorite video game – Minecraft – in order to help ME know what would make a good connection for THEM.  Believe it or not, Minecraft provides a TON of background knowledge for kids and it’s good for educators to know what the game is all about, because most kids are playing it these days.

So, how do we make sure that our students are connecting what we are teaching with THEIR background knowledge and not just listening to ours?

Tip for teaching English Language Learners- Students will have different background knowledge than you.  Make sure students are connecting with their background knowledge and not yours.  Tips from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources   Connection boards 1.  Encourage students to share their connections – write these connections on post it notes and use them to create a bulletin board.  Use the connections they share to improve your own examples.

2.  Watch popular kids tv shows, listen to popular kids music, play popular kids video games.  Call it market research.  If you have kids, you’re probably already in the know.  If you’re not, taking 30 minutes a week to check this stuff out will probably save you hours of frustration as your students make sense out of what you are talking about quicker.

3.  Have students share connections with a partner, someone who will get their stories and connections!  Give students a 2 to 5 minute – timed – break to share their connections with a partner. 


How do you help ESL students connect with THEIR background knowledge?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources