Archive | Classroom Suggestions RSS for this section

Using Wallwisher as a Center

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. If you want to search through some of them, you can check out my IKeepBookmarks site. Or, you can check back here each week for the Wednesday Website suggestion.

Have you ever used Wallwisher?  I have used it in multiple professional development activities, but I think lots of teachers overlook it’s uses in our computer center.  So, this week’s Wednesday Website suggestion is  This website is basically a wallwishervirtual interactive bulletin board, where different people can collaborate to join their ideas together by adding a “sticky note” to the wall.  You can also add pictures, and videos to your sticky notes.  It’s a great way to get kids collaborating, but it’s also an innovative way to collect information from your students and it makes an easy computer center.  Here are some ways you can use Wallwisher in your classroom:

1.)  Put a challenge up on your wall for students to complete when they come to the computer center.  For example:  Write a silly sentence using two or three of your spelling words.

2.)  Assign your students a video (by adding the link to your post on the wall).  After students have watched the video – they can answer a question about the video, tell you their favorite part, or even leave you a question about something they didn’t understand.

3.) Combine two great sites to make a dynamic listening center – Add the video links from to a post.  Let students listen to the story and then “summarize” the story in 160 characters or less (160 characters is the limit for each sticky note).

4.)  Make a virtual “add a sentence” story – post a picture into a sticky note and write the first sentence of a story about that picture.  Ask students to add one sentence to the story, by adding a sticky note and placing their sticky notes in order to make a story.  

5.)  Do Math Problem Solving in Reverse.  Post a number sentence (2×5=10) to your question.  Have students each add a sticky note with a self-created word problem that could use the number sentence.

 5-Star Blogger

BTW – I am taking the Organized Classroom Blog’s 5-Star Blogger Challenge.  Stop by her blog for details, and please feel free to leave me a comment telling me if I am a 5-Star Blogger.


Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wednesday’s Website suggestion and click HERE to view previous Website suggestions.



Raki's Rad Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers rakishop4222222323 tn422

What Are You Doing for Earth Day?

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Top 10 post, but with Earth Day coming on April 22nd, I thought it was time to get back into the tradition.  So, here are 10 ways you can celebrate Earth Day with your students:

1.)  Watch Magic School Bus – So many of the Magic School Bus movies focus on taking care of the earth, but there are two in particular that I love for Earth Day.  One is the Holiday Special and the other is In The Rainforest.  My son has them both on one DVD, which I will be borrowing for my students on Earth Day!  They give you a great, kid friendly way to look at Earth Day themes – including recycling and protecting the rainforest.

2.)  Take a Trip to the Trash – Our society today has a habit of “hiding” the trash, and so kids don’t generally know what happens after they put the trash into the can.  Take a field trip to a landfill or a recycling center so kids can learn first hand where the trash goes.  Seeing all of the trash together can be a good realization for kids who only see their one little bag as not a big deal.

3.) Get involved in a local Earth Day project – Most communities host activities on, or around Earth Day to “beautify” the earth.  Get your class involved in picking up trash or planting trees so that they can get their hands into Earth Day.

4.)  Connect with other schools online  – Get yoGetting Rid of Plastic Bags Collaborative Projectur class involved in an online project where they can work with other schools around the globe to recognize that protecting the Earth is everyone’s responsibility.   Global Teaching Connect is hosting a Getting Rid of Bags collaborative project that you might want to check out.


5.)  Read the Great Kapok Tree If you’ve never read this book – it’s great for talking about the interdependent web of life in the rainforest, and why it is so important to not cut down trees in the rainforest.  Mandy Neal of Cooperative Learning has a great freebie to go with this book, that you can read about HERE.

6.)  Make do this,not that posters – Talk about the things we should do Earth Day Posters for Kidsand the things we shouldn’t do, then let your students create Do This, Not That posters where your students promote good habits for taking care of the earth.  Have students hang their posters in the hallway to share what they have learned with others.

7.)  Persuade others to act green – Earth day is a great time to work on persuasive writing.  Choose a topic – carpooling, bringing cloth grocery bags, taking public transportation, recycling, even something as using reusable napkins could be a great topic for a persuasive writing piece.

8.)  Look at Living Locally – If you haven’t read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – it’s completely worth the read (adult read, not a kid’s book!).  In this book, she talks about living locally – eating food and buying products from within a 50 – 100 mile radius of where you live.  This concept has not been explored fully with kids, but it’s a great seed to plant, as a way to reduce oil expenditure (trucks burn a lot of gas when they move those oranges from California to New York).  A trip to a local farmer’s market would be a great addition to this type of topic.

9.)  Watch Captain PlanetDo you remember Captain Planet?  It was a great cartoon series where superheros saved the earth.  Pull out this great series to get your kids involved in Earth Day.  I can’t find them on DVD – but Amazon has VHS and you can find them on YouTube.

10.)  Go Paperless – During Earth Day, it’s a great time to Ecology Paperless E Quizmodel paperless activities – such as using your blog to submit homework, creating digital presentations instead of making posters, sending E-mails over letters, and doing E-Quizzes instead of written tests.  Grab an E-Quiz for Ecology from my TPT store.


Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Raki's Rad Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers Raki's Shop - Quality Teaching Resources for Quality Teachers Raki's Rad Resources on Teacher's Notebook

Why Should We Be Creative?

In this current age of standardized testing, we often do not give students a chance to be creative.  Our focus is on having the right answer, and we – the teacher – know what that right answer is.  However, in real life, we rarely know what the real answer is, so why are we setting our students up for failure in this way?  I know what you’re saying – “Because they have to pass the test Heidi – or it could be my job.”  Well, I’m going to stay out of the politics of this, but I would like to address some ways we can build in creativity and critical thinking, while still teaching what is needed for students to “pass the test”.

1.  Let them illustrate. In the upper grades and sometimes even the lower grades, we often focus so hard on writing, that we leave illustrating out all together, because it’s “just” drawing.  Every once in awhile – reverse this thinking.  Let students illustrate first – and use it as a brainstorming tool.  Hand your students a blank piece of paper, give them a topic and an entire writing period (30 to 40 minutes) to draw a picture of that topic.  Tell students they have to keep working for the entire time, adding as many details as possible.  Then, when it comes time to write, use all these visual details they came up with to add depth and detail to their writing.

2. Let them be the teacher.  We know first hand hKids Make the Test Question Sheet Reading Comprehensionow much creativity and critical thinking it takes to be a teacher.  Why not give the kids a chance at this type of thinking?  Let students write their test questions for those awful reading passages – or whatever else they are reading.  (Grab a pre-made sheet for this from my TPT store.)  Have students write their own word problems, and challenge other students in the class to answer them.  Give them a chance to create the review game for centers.  By being the “teacher” they will look at their curriculum and their thinking in a whole new way.

3.  Challenge them to a puzzle.  Everything you teach can be Self Correcting Puzzle Templateput into a puzzle of some kind.  I use puzzles constantly in my room (to see how – check out my guest blog post on Mrs. Miner’s Monkey Business April 17th).  My students Multiplication Tiling Puzzle - Critical Thinkinguse jigsaw puzzles, self correcting puzzles and critical thinking puzzles.  (Grab a template for self correcting puzzles from my TPT store and a multiplication tiling puzzle for FREE.)


4.  Use projects.  Project based learning always give students the Black History Project Matrixfreedom to be more creative and think in new, critically different ways.  Cover all those science and social studies topics with project matrixes that allow students to choose their own way to express what they have learned.  Let’s face it, kids would rather create an “interview” of a famous person than write a report about that person – and how much more knowledge are they showing if they have to add personality and style to their project? (Grab a matrix for Black History Projects from my TPT store.)



Raki's Rad Resources Teachers Pay Teachers Store rakishop42222223212 tn4212

Schools Sparks is our Guest Today

Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce you to this week’s guest blogger: Renee Abramovitz of School Sparks.  She has some great tips for you on using journals with young children.  If you like what she has to say, please feel free to stop by her website and check our her cool worksheets.signature



Helping your child keep a journal

As early as the second day in my kindergarten classroom each year, I introduced my young students to their first journal. I explained that this was a special book in which they would put their own thoughts, ideas, and feelings. I emphasized that their entries could take many forms, including pictures, pictures with labels, descriptive sentences or stories. I always marveled at the creativity and growth that was evident in the journals as the year progressed and I always encourage parents to foster a love of journal writing in their children when they are young.

The value of journals

A personal journal can be a very empowering vehicle for a young child. It provides an opportunity to “talk” without having someone “talk back” immediately, so children are able to explore ideas and feelings without interruption, feedback, another person’s opinion or judgment.

It is personal work that allows children to experiment witimageh different avenues of written expression. Often pictures become the basis for self expression at first. Then words are added in a variety of ways. Some children report on what is happening in their lives at the moment. Others draw or write about what they hope for or what they expect to happen in the future.

Keeping a journal feels like “grown-up work” to children, and they value their efforts. They may have seen an adult write his or her thoughts down, or heard about a journal or diary through television or the movies. But it always seemed to me that children instinctively understood this was important work and they took their job as “journal writers” very seriously.

Journals provide opportunities for children to challenge their skills in many areas including writing, drawing, using inventive spelling, expressing feelings, reporting events accurately, and using their imaginations.

Tips for keeping journals at home

– Find a blank book or make one yourself by binding about 25 sheets of paper between two sheets of colored tag paper with a plastic comb.

– I recommend drawing a horizontal line across the middle of the blank page to create two sections. (This is how I created the journals for my kindergarten students.) In the top portion, I encouraged my kindergartners to begin their journal entry by drawing a picture that depicted their ideas. This gave children a chance to flush out their thoughts and become clear about what they wanted to put in their journal that day.

– Encourage inventive spelling. Ask your child to record his ideas in the bottom portion of the page using inventive spelling. (I instructed my student to “show” their word with letters, rather than “spell” their words, since young children are very aware that they cannot spell the grown-up way.) Direct your child to slowly say aloud the word he wants to record and to write the letter that makes each sound he hears. At first, your child may feel more comfortable if you slowly

and clearly say each sound in his word. Try to say the word deliberately without chopping it up by isolating each sound and distorting the word. Your child does not have to hear each sound in a word to represent it in writing in his journal. (For example, a child may show the word school at first with an S, then later with SL, then SKL and finally SKOOL.) Remember, journal writing skills grow and develop through time and practice.

– Ask your child to “read back” his words to help you decipher his inventive spelling. To enable you and your child to read this at a later time, it may be advisable for you to write the words underneath your child’s letters or on the back of the page after he has finished. I always asked my student’s if they wanted me to do this, and without exception, they agreed. But it is important to get permission from your child. This shows that you respect his efforts and reinforces that this journal is his creation.

– Write the date in the top corner of each journal entry your child completes. In this way, you can keep track of his growth and also remember at a later date how old your child was at the time of his entry.



Renee Abramovitz is a retired kindergarten and preschool teacher and she is passionate about helping children start school prepared to succeed. Visit her at for hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets to help children develop critical skills and begin school.

National Poetry Month

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  When I was teaching 3rdpoetrywritingjournal grade, I always used my Poetry Writing Journal during the month of April.  It’s a great way for students to get creative juices running during a month that is often filled with test preparation and/or long testing sessions.  Students will brainstorm and write 10 poems, and then choose their favorite to “publish”.  We always published our poems by typing them on the computer, adding clipart and putting them together into a book that was a great keepsake for the end of the year.  Grab a copy of the poetry journal from my TPT store for just $10.00. 

If you are looking for more poetry ideas, Laurah from ESOL Odyssey is having a linky party specifically for poetry products – stop by and check it out.


rakishop42242223222 tn4222

Sidewalk Chalk Learning

Last week, our top 10 was on activities to spice up recess. One of the fun things to do at recess, was use sidewalk chalk.  However, sidewalk chalk can be used in lots of educational ways too!  Here are 10 ways to use sidewalk chalk to get your kids out in the sunshine, but still learning, often in kinesthetic ways!

hopscotch words

1. Sight Word Jump – Before taking your students outside, write some of your sight words (spelling words or vocabulary words would work just as well for older students) on a large cement area.  Once you are outside, have students jump on the words and read them as they hop.  You can also call out a word and see who can find it.  (For older students you might call out a definition and let them find the word that matches.)


2. Fast Fact Hop – Before taking your students outside, write the answers to some of your basic math facts (any operation that you are hopscotchmathworking on will work) on a large cement area.  Once you are outside, call out fast fact problems.  Have students hop to the correct answer.  (If you require them to hop rather than run, you will have less collisions!)


3. Coordinate Grid Kids – Before taking your students outsidecoordinate grid, create a coordinate grid on a large cement area.  Once you are outside, call out a student’s name and a point on the coordinate grid.  Let that student find their spot and become the “point”.  Once all of the students are points, challenge them to find the fastest route to get from their point to a neighbor’s point.


4. Really, Really Big Graphic Organizers – What a better venndiagramway to introduce simple graphic organizers, than outside on a large scale.  My favorite graphic organizer to do with sidewalk chalk is a Venn Diagram.  Before going outside, draw a large Venn Diagram on a large cement area.  Once you are outside, give the two categories.  If you are wearing white come in this circle.  If you are wearing red, come in this circle.  If you are wearing both, you get to stand where the two circles come together.


5. Visualizing the Story– Give the students a chance to draw with the sidewalk chalk!  Gather them outside for story time – preferably under a shady tree – but do not show them the pictures.  Instead, have students draw a picture of what happened in the story and practice their visualization strategy.


6. Jump the Number Line – Before you take your numberlinestudents outside, draw a number line in a large cement area.  When you go outside, call out a number on the number line and have one of your students stand on it.  Then have that student hop to the end of the number line – talking about which direction numbers move.  You can also use this type of number line to work on addition or subtraction!


7. Verb Ring – Before taking your class outside, write a list of vverbcircleerbs in a large circle on the ground in a large cement area.  Be sure to write one verb for each of your students.  When you go outside, have students walk around the circle until you say stop (you could also play music – musical chairs style).  When they stop, they must read the verb and then be the verb.  ie. If they stop on the word run, they must run in place; if they stop on the word sit, they must sit down.

8. Human Body Labels – Kids love to trace one another with sidewalk chalk, but have you ever labeled those chalk bodies?  Have students work in pairs.  One student lays down and another student traces their outside of their body, then they switch.  Then, have students work together to label as many parts of the body as they can, with extra points for internal organs (heart, lungs, veins, kidneys etc.)  This would be a great health lesson!


9. Sentence Strings – Have students work in groups of 4-6.  Give each membsentencestringer of the group a different color chalk.  Students should create sentences WITHOUT talking to one another.  The first student will write the first word, and each other student will add a word to the sentence in a different color until the sentence is complete.


10. Graph your students – No matter the topic, no matter the type of graph, kids love to “be the graph”.  Before going outside, draw the axis for your graph on a large cement area.  Once you are outside, give the students the criteria and use them as the points, bars, or pictures on your graph.  For more advanced students, see if the students can put themselves into a graph in a small group without your guidance.

Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.signature_thumb1_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[2]

rakishop622222222 tn

Chutes and Ladders in Literacy

I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom. In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills. So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom. Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:

Chutes and Ladders – Part 2

Who doesn’t like Chutes and Ladders (also called Snakes and Ladders)? It’s a classic game that is a part of most primary classroom and home game collections. It’s also a great way to work on both math and literacy skills. Last week, I talked about how to use Chutes and Ladders to work on math skills.  This week, I have a list of ideas for using this game to work on literacy skills. Next week, we’ll take a look at how to use Yahtzee in different classrooms, but for now, how can we use Chutes and Ladders in the classroom?

1. Cause and Effect –   On the game board for Chutes and Ladders, there is a picture story going on.  For example, at the top of one of the “chutes” there is a little boy who has broken a mirror and at the bottom, there is the same boy pouring out the money from his piggy bank.  These pictures cues would be a great way to talk about how one part of a story (the cause) makes another part of the story (the effect) to happen. 


2. Write the Story – Another way to use the picture stories that are all over the Chutes and Ladders game board is to let the students create the stories that go with the pictures.  What really happened?  How did the mirror get broken?  This entire board could work as a variety of story starters!


3. Spelling Words – Place sight words or spelling words on index cards.  Have students draw a word and read or spell it before taking their turn in Chutes and Ladders.  Then, the students can move how ever many letters there are in the word.  Easy, simple review, with a game built in, and very little to create or manage!


4. Describe It! – Isn’t it funny how one person see something that can be so differently than another?  To illustrate this for students, and to help them work on adjectives and writing descriptively, assign each child one of the “stories” on the Chutes and Ladders board.  Have students write a description of their assigned story, using picture words, but no numbers.  Then, have students read their descriptions aloud (or with other students let them read each others’ descriptions) and see if the others can guess which story they were assigned.


I hope some of these suggestions will allow you to use Chutes and Ladders in a new, interesting way in your classrooms. Keep playing games and watch your kids learn!


Introducing: Friday Game Night

I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom.  In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills.  So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom.  Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:

Chutes and Ladders – Part 1

Who doesn’t like Chutes and Ladders (also called Snakes and Ladders)?  It’s a classic game that is a part of most primary classroom and home game collections.  It’s also a great way to work on both math and literacy skills.  This week, I have a list of ideas for using this game to work on math skills.  Next week, I’ll continue my list with literacy skills.  So, how can we use Chutes and Ladders in the classroom?

1.  Standard Play – By simply playing Chutes and Ladders in it’s original format, you work on math number sense.  Although the game looks like a hundred’s chart, it does not start each ten over at the beginning of the row.  So, while children are playing, they must always be aware of what number is larger, in order to know which way to go.  This leads you into a great discussion of which number is larger and which number is smaller.


2.  Hundred’s Chart – While or after playing, compare the game board to a hundred’s chart.  See if students can figure out the difference between the two boards.  Then, have students rearrange the Chutes and Ladders board using post it notes, until they have a hundred’s chart.  Can they see the pattern they have now?


3.  Addition & Subtraction Facts – Not only can kids create an addition fact for each move (I’m on space 23 and I spun a 5, so 23 + 5  = 28.),  but they can create addition facts that go with each of the ladders and subtraction facts that go with each of the chutes.  Or, you can make these addition/subtraction facts ahead of them, write them on index cards and let the kids figure out which chute/ladder each fact goes with!


4.  Problem Solving – I love to have students write their own problem solving questions, and Chutes and Ladders is an easy way to facilitate this.  Have students write out their own word problem for one of the chutes or ladders.  Then, allow students to trade their word problem with a neighbor and solve!


I hope some of these suggestions will allow you to use Chutes and Ladders in a new, interesting way in your classrooms.  Keep playing games and watch your kids learn!


Let the Kids Make the Problem

My students were having a bit of trouble understanding the difference between addition and subtraction.  We did a variety of activities to help them understand, including using manipulatives, pictures, and putting two equations with the same numbers, but different signs right next to each other (5+3=8  5-3=2).  However, the thing that worked the very best was to let them come up with their own word problems.  At first, they were just excited to be able to use each other’s names, but as they got to drawing, they really understood all of a sudden that in addition you have two separate groups, where as in subtraction you have one group and you are giving some away.  It’s also made my problem solving center run so much smoother!  Here’s what we did:

1st – We wrote an addition word problem using the names of our friends.  We also drew a picture to represent our word problem.



2nd – On the back, we wrote the addition fact that would solve the word problem we created.



3rd – We had each student’s page bound into a book and placed it on the “warm shelf” to be read over and over.


4th – Repeat Steps 1-3, with a subtraction fact.

sub1     sub2


5th – Had a whole class discussion about the difference between addition and subtraction.


Want to try this with your class – click on any of the pictures and get the pages for FREE from my Google Docs.


Fast Fact Practice

It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!!

This week’s Wednesday Website suggestion is from Oswego Math Games (whichmathmagician could be a Wednesday Website suggestion all in itself!)  It’s called Math Magician, and it’s one of the best ways I’ve found for kids to practice their facts.  It has addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, so it works for grades 1-5.  Plus, each operation has 14 different levels, so it’s a great way for kids to progress through fast fact learning.  It’s also timed, which is great for my one computer computer station!  I’m using the addition section right now, in coordination with my addition quizzes, and it’s helping my kids a lot!

Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wedensday’s Website suggestion.  Also, feel free to check out previous Wednesday Website suggestions including: Find the Dog’s Bone.


%d bloggers like this: