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Writing Journal Updates

Thanks to my proofreaders, I have been doing some massive updates on many of the products I have available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  One of the updates I have up to this week is my Intermediate Writing Journals.  I have updated the Narrative Journal and the Persuasive Journal.  Tonight, I am going to try to get the Informational Journal done, and then I am hoping to get the Response to Literature Journal completely updated for the Writing Journal Organizing Your Thinkingbig giveaway event that’s coming this Thursday (be sure to check back on Thursday for the details!) 

In addition to sprucing the appearance of these journals up, I have added Student Reference Sheets and I have made them into official E-Books with clickable links on the Table of Contents, so that you no longer have to scroll through to find the page you want.  Grab a free preview each of the two completed journals by downloading the free prompts – a week’s worth of writing on both the Narrative and Persuasive writing genres – from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Narrative Writing Prompt - Writing Proccess - Free                  Persuasive Writing Prompt - Writing Proccess - Free



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Looking Through a Kid’s Eyes

I have been using the addition fact quizzes and subtraction fact quizzes with my students for months now.  Most of my students are doing fine, but I have a few who are having trouble, and I couldn’t figure out why.  Then, I gave the quizzes to my son and his first was was, “Mom, why is 2.5 + 2 ?”  I explained to him that the first 2 was the question number, and not part of the problem.  Then, I looked at the quiz harder and realized it did look like 2.5, hmmmmm…..

So, of I went back to my computer to make it more clear.  I fixed the Addition Fact Quizzesquizzes with a simple ) and some spaces, and then gave the new versions to my students – what do you know my struggling students can see the questions better now!  Some are still struggling, but there were definitely some who were getting tripped up on that dot!  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we look at our resources through the eyes of our students? 

By the way – if you purchased any of my fact quizzes (addition, subtraction or multiplication), from my TPT store, they have all been updated with the clearer problem numbers.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

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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.)



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Addition & Subtraction Success

My students have been so hard at work on those addition and subtracaddingeasy1tion fast facts!  We have made a bucket full of flash cards to use in addition to our addition self correcting puzzles and our subtraction self correcting puzzles, and it’s really paid off.  We take our one minute quizzes every day and the kids get so excited when they pass a new level and get to color a new shape.  My door is now becoming very full of stars (for addition) and moons (for subtraction).  I have one student who has mastered them all and is bugging me to finish the multiplication quizzes so she can start earning clouds.  Hopefully I’ll get them done this week!  Here’s some pictures of what we’ve been doing with addition and subtraction.  Grab a FREE copy of the reward system from TPT or Raki’s Shop.

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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.


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Solids, Liquids & Gasses

My class has just about finished up our unit on Solids, Liquids & Gasses. statesofmatterbook After our experiments a few weeks ago (click here for details), I made the students a little booklet as way to see how much they actually retained.  They had to draw 6 picture examples of each state of matter.  I was impressed with the examples they came up with.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Solid – house, car, paper, money, banana

Liquid – tears, blood, tea, soup, ocean

Gas – fire, smoke from a train, steam, seeing your breath when it’s cold

Here are a few pages from the books they made:






Grab a FREE copy of the book at my TPT store.


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St. Patrick’s Day Centers Giveaway

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I have recently created the newest of my holiday center packets for St. Patrick’s Day. My kids are super excited to get to work on them! You can grab a copy on TPT for $3.00, or you can sign up for this Friday’s Raki’s Rad Resources News Release clicking HERE, and find out when they will be available completely FREE. I will be making them completely FREE for two days to celebrate my two son’s birthdays, which happen to be back to back. In this week’s News Release, I’ll be letting my readers know when to get them free. There are also a ton of other freebies in this week’s News Release, so be sure to sign up!



Read the Word Wall Center

How do you use your Word Wall?  One of my students’ favorite things to do is to read our word wall.  Our word wall is HUGE –  200 sight wordreadtherooms and about 150 word family words, plus shape words, color words, number words and the kids’ names, so we’re talking about close to 500 words.  My kids are challenging each other right now to see who 100_6170can read more of it.  (Mainly because I’m offering a lollipop to any student who can read the whole thing at the end of the year.)  When we started reading the word wall, I used this sheet to help them record a few of the words that they could read.  At the end of centers, I choose one or two students (always randomly) to read their sheet to me.  It’s a great way to monitor a Read the Room type of center!  I uploaded the sheet into Google Docs, so feel free to grab a copy for FREE.



Science Galore!!!

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 used 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.


What science topic are you covering right now? I’m starting States of Matter next week, sciencekids[4]and I’m going to be using Science Kids, because it has tons of stuff for my kids! There are games, experiments, factoids, videos and even images! What’s really great is that there are 30 different topics covered on Science Kids, so you can use it for just about any science topic you have coming up.



sciencejournal1[5]sciencejournal2[10]I am going to use this website as a way for my students to do “research” in their Science Discovery Journals for the various experiments we will do. The videos are an especially good way for my non-readers to get some good information! We will also use the website for preview and follow up information as a whole class.


Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wednesday’s Website suggestion. Also, feel free to check out previous Wednesday Website suggestions including: Find the Dog’s Bone, Storybird, Counting Money, Presidential Biographies and Math Magician.



Fast Fact Superstars

100_6331Well, we’ve finished our unit on addition & subtraction, but of course my kids haven’t mastered their facts with automaticity.  So, I’m implementing this simple and easy fast fact quiz system.  My kids take a addition quiz every day , and they have exactly one minute to answer 20 questions.  They start with the O’s and 1’s test and once they have accomplished this, they move on and one until they hit the 10’s test.  (Then, they start over with subtraction!)

I created this cute little way to chart their results, which hangs on 100_6329my door and helps me to decorate too!!  (I’m not great at creating those cute room decorations!)  I didn’t want anything where I had to cut out a bunch of stuff – as I’m cutting out self correcting puzzles and word wall cards on a regular basis.  So – I had the kids decorate and cut out their own name tags, and then when they get 100% on their test, they get to color and cut out their star, and all I have to do is tape it to the door!  How easy is that?  Grab a copy of this Basic Fact Reward System on TPT for FREE.  There are also moons (which I’m going to use for subtraction facts, since I have one student who will be done with all of her stars before some of my other students get one star!), clouds, and suns in the packet.  You could easily use this same system with multiplication and division facts if you teach higher grades.

Leave me a comment and tell me how YOU practice those basic facts with your students!




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