Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Fun Alternative to the Vacation Work Packet

Free resource - vacation homework bingo a hands on alternative to the vacation work packet - from Raki's Rad Resources.

Next week we have the week off for Thanksgiving. While I am excited to have the time off, I worry about my students losing all of the momentum that we have built. In order to help them keep their momentum, I am assigning Thanksgiving homework. However, I didn't want to send home a bunch of worksheets. Instead, I want my students to do fun, yet educational things. Basically I wanted them to have a better alternative than watching Cartoon Network and playing Call of Duty on the XBox the whole week. So I created this Vacation Homework Bingo for my students.

Using this Vacation Homework Bingo, I am able to encourage my students to read, write and do math. I am also able to introduce them to educational t.v. shows like Cyber Chase and educational websites like The hope is that the students enjoy some of these things enough to do them simply for fun, allowing them to learn and have fun at the same time. The Vacation Homework Bingo also encourages kids to do things with their family, like visiting a zoo or talking to a grandparent. If you'd like to use this Vacation Homework Bingo with your kiddos, it is a free download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I hope it works well for my class and yours!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Birthday Present Giveaway

Today is my birthday. I turn 34 today. One of the things in my life that makes me happiest (outside of my family) is being able to help teachers with quality resources that save them time and help their students. For the past 5 years, I have celebrated my birthday by giving a present of these resources to my followers. 

Free resources for everybody in my birthday giveaway at Raki's Rad Resources.

It's a very simple giveaway. All you have to do is explore my Teachers Pay Teachers store, choose one item that you would like to me to e-mail you. (The only restriction is that my e-mail service will not let me e-mail .zip folders, so please check the file type before you ask for a present.) Then go ahead and post a comment on this blog post with two things:

          1.) the link of the one resource from my Teachers Pay Teachers store that you would like me to e-mail you
           2.) an e-mail address that I can use to send that resource to you. I will not send you anything else, no newsletters (unless you want to sign up for my newsletter here), no advertisements, just your present 

I'm going to White Sands National Park with my family to celebrate my birthday this weekend. I will leave on Friday at 3:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. At that time I will close the comments and send out the presents. Until then, feel free to leave me a request and feel free to spread the word so that all of the teachers you know can also get their present.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Five Strategies for Teaching Informational Texts to Students with Little Background Knowledge

Informational text is one of the hardest types of texts for many students to comprehend. This is particularly challenging for students like mine, in title one schools, who lack in background knowledge. These students struggle with informational text often simply because they lack background knowledge. These students do not visit museums, watch documentaries or have access to as many educational toys. These students do not look at newspapers or watch the news on t.v. 

Five strategies for teaching informational texts to students with little background knowledge. Suggestions from Raki's Rad Resources.

So when you start reading a book about glaciers with kids who live in the desert and have never seen more than 1/4 inch of snow or reading a book about flightless birds who have never been to a zoo or even a farm, the students have no background knowledge on the topic to connect with. Without these connections, students who read the words are not understanding the words. So how do we help these students to better understand informational text? Here are 5 strategies I use:

1.) Bring in background knowledge BEFORE you read. Most of the time we can read a book and know if your students will have background knowledge on a topic. If you are unsure, a simple K-W-L chart will help you know if your students will have the background knowledge to understand the book you're going to read. 
Once you know what your students are lacking, you can fill in those gaps with videos like the Magic School Bus, field trips, experiments or even real world experience like baking bread. (This blog post talks about how my class baked bread earlier this year to help my students understand what yeast does.)

2.) Pre-teach important vocabulary words. Especially with English Langage Learners or limited English learners (who often are native English speakers that have only had experience with a single non-standard English dialect), preteaching vocabulary is very important. Students can often sound out words in books and have no idea what that word means. Because they don't want to sound "stupid" and ask what that word means, they just won't ask and thereby won't understand what they read. To stop this phenomenom, I ALWAYS pre-teach vocabulary words. I choose key words from the text that will help students to understand what they are going to read. Then we brainstorm what the meaning of these words are using a variety of word strategies, including cognates, parts of speech, and context clues. Sometimes the students stumble on to the correct definition of the word. Other times, I have to give them the definition. Either way, students have thought about and discussed these words BEFORE they read. This primes their brains, builds additional background knowledge and gives them the vocabulary they need in order to understand the text they will be reading. 

word wall - vocabulary words from all the books we read as a class - pictures from Raki's Rad Resources

Once I have finished pre-teaching this vocabulary, I post all of the words onto my word wall for students to reference at any time while they are reading this book (or any other book).

***Product note: Suggested vocabulary for pre-teaching can be found in all of the Novel Studies available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. There is also a section in my Self Selected Informational Book Studies for pre-teaching vocabulary.

3.) Teach students to use informational text features. "Mrs. Raki, do I have to read this?" is something I often have to hear while students point to captions or charts provided in informational books we read. We need to teach students about these text features. They need to know that not only do they need to read them, but that each different kind of text feature will provide them with different information. My class recently went on a "scavenger hunt" for text features through a variety of old Science Weekly magazines I had. Students worked together to find different examples of each text feature and glued them onto chart paper to make text feature posters.

Now, every time we read an informational book, I ask them "What text feature is this?" If they don't remember, we refer back to our posters. Then we talk about what that feature will do for us as a reader. 

4.) Use informational text as read alouds. It's easy to get into our favorite novels and picture books for read alouds. However, informational texts can be just as successful as a read aloud. This is particularly true if you use the book as a "think a loud". "Oh I see the caption for this picture says..." or "This diagram shows us more details about how..." Use informational read a louds as a way to model for your students how to read and understand informational books. Additionally, informational texts as read alouds build background knowledge, vocabulary and pull in students who are not interested in "storybook reading". Of course this isn't to say we never use novels or picture books for read aloud. Instead, it would be great to read a fiction and a non-fiction back to back. For example read Mr. Popper's Penguins and then read a National Geographic book about Penguins.

5.) Find topics that students do have background knowledge about. Even students will limited background knowledge have interests in non-fiction topics. Find out what topics intrigue your students and find books on them. Often students love books on weird, icky topics like "Why do people burp?" or "What are boogers made of?" Students might also love to hear a read aloud on a book about the making of their favorite t.v. show or video game cheats. The point is to draw in their attention and stretch their background knowledge and vocabulary.

Whatever strategies you use, it's evident that teaching informational text is important for our students. Reading informational text is the type of text that we read 75% of the time "in real life" so it needs to be a larger part of what we read in the classroom too.