January 14, 2018

Teachers, Help MrOwl Help YOU!


Wouldn't it be awesome to find a free tech tool for creating  collections of online resources, photos, and documents all in one place? Look no further! Welcome to MrOwl, a new platform that makes it easy for teachers to search for online resources and save them, upload photos and documents, organize resources by topic, share them with others, and so much more!

I discovered MrOwl last year when the founders, Becky and Arvind Raichur, asked me to review MrOwl and share my feedback about how to make the platform more useful for educators. After reviewing the site, I was so impressed that I wrote a blog review and developed a webinar to introduce MrOwl to educators.

To be clear, MrOwl is a public platform, and it wasn’t specifically designed for educational use. However, it does have loads of unique features that make it especially appealing to teachers. Here are a few of the things you can do with MrOwl: 

  • Create topic-based collections of resources called "branches"
  • Make your branches public or private
  • Search for, save, and organize online resources
  • Upload photos and documents to your topic branches
  • Share collections of resources with others
  • Connect and collaborate with others who share your interests

Discover MrOwl Webinar - Next Live Presentation is January 30th
One of the best ways to explore the unique features of MrOwl is to attend my webinar for teachers, Discover MrOwl: A Free Tech Tool for Organizing, Sharing, and Collaborating. I'll be presenting this webinar live on January 30, 2018 at 8 pm ET. During the webinar, I'll explain how to set up your profile and how to use the basic features of the MrOwl platform. But the most important part of the webinar will be how to use MrOwl in your role as an educational professional and how to use it in your classroom with students. Webinar seating is limited, so register now while spots are available!



Teachers, Help MrOwl Help YOU!
One thing that has impressed me about Becky and Arvind is their sincere desire to make MrOwl even more useful for teachers and more appropriate for students. They're excited about MrOwl's potential for classroom use, and they're seeking feedback from educators about how to improve the platform so that it meets YOUR needs. They'd like to add a special MrOwl for Educators FAQ section to their Help menu, but they need help from teachers to make this happen. Here's how you can help:
  1. Register for the Discover MrOwl webinar which will take place on January 30th. Plan to attend the live webinar if possible, or make time to watch the replay later. Becky and Arvind will be joining us for the webinar, so you'll be able to share your feedback directly with them.

  2. Prior to the webinar, create a free account on MrOwl. When you register, keep in mind that your user name will be visible on the site, so choose one that you won't mind others seeing.

  3. Log on to the MrOwl from a computer and explore the platform. Create a few topic branches and subtopics within those branches. Search for online resources and save them. Upload photos or documents to one of your topic branches. Download the MrOwl smart phone app from Apple iTunes or Google Play, and test out the mobile version of the platform. Find Laura Candler on MrOwl and follow me!

  4. If you have questions or need help with MrOwl, click on the Help menu in the navigation bar to access the help pages. Were you able to find the answers there? If not, make a note of your questions so that you can ask them during the webinar.

  5. How do you envision using MrOwl both professionally and in the classroom with your students? What additional features would make MrOwl even better for educators? What information should be included in the MrOwl for Educators FAQ help menu?   
If this is the first you've heard about MrOwl, read my original blog review to learn a more about this new technology. Then sign up for the Discover MrOwl webinar and make plans to attend the live session on January 30th at 8 pm ET. Bring your questions and feedback to share with Becky and Arvind. They really do want to hear from you, because they need YOUR help to make MrOwl an even more amazing resource for educators!



January 4, 2018

Plickers Made Easy with Task Cards

Have you tapped into the power of Plickers yet? Plickers is a free, interactive tech tool that uses printable “paper clickers” instead of clicker devices. Each student is assigned a unique Plickers card that has a black and white image similar to a QR code. The letters A, B, C, and D are written in small print around the edge of the image, with one letter on each side of the card. During the lesson, the teacher displays a multiple-choice or true-false question. Then students hold up their Plickers cards and rotate them to indicate which answer they think is correct. The teacher scans all of the response cards at once, using the Plickers app installed on a mobile device. He or she can instantly see the student responses and assessment data for that question including who has the correct answer and who does not.

Plickers is a terrific formative assessment tool, but it can be used for much more than assessment. In fact, teachers are using it for everything from digital exit tickets to checking attendance or even taking the morning lunch count! The more I learn about the creative ways teachers are  using Plickers, the more I want to spread the word about this amazing free resource!

If you're new to Plickers, I have a suggestion that will save you time and might prevent some of the initial frustration that comes with learning a new program. First, visit the Plickers.com website and sign up for a free account. Take a peek around the site, but before you do anything else, watch my free webinar, Interactive Teaching with Plickers. During that webinar, I explained exactly how to set up your account and how to use Plickers to actively engage your students in the learning process. Teachers who attended the webinar really enjoyed it and said it helped them feel more confident about using the program with their students. Another way to learn about Plickers is to join my free Plickers K-5 Facebook group which is a place for teachers to share ideas, ask questions, and support each other.

Create Plickers Questions with Task Cards 
Plickers is an amazing tech tool for the classroom, but it does have one drawback. The program doesn’t have a database of prepared questions, so users have to enter their own. Most teachers type their questions and answer options manually, but fortunately there’s an easier method. Plickers allows users to import images, so you can upload images of questions instead of typing them. If you’re wondering why this would be helpful, think TASK CARDS! Multiple-choice task cards are like mini quizzes, each having a single question and several answer choices. If you create images from task cards and upload them to Plickers, you won’t have to type the questions OR the answers manually!

Where to Find Task Card Images 
Task cards have been popular for years, so there’s a good chance you already have a collection of them in your classroom. You can easily create images from those task cards using a screen capture tool, but there's another option that might interest you. I love creating resources that save teachers time, so I've started adding ready-to-use task card images to my multiple-choice task card products. I've also been creating brand-new task card sets with images for Plickers.

To test out the process of using task card images with Plickers, download the Basic Units of Customary Measurement Task Cards shown below. This freebie includes 10 printable task cards, 10  task card images, and my Plickers Made Easy with Task Cards tutorial.


If you like this freebie, be sure to check out my other measurement task cards, Customary Measurement Task Cards - Level 1 and Customary Measurement Task Cards - Level 2.     

Free Plickers Made Easy with Task Cards Tutorial
If you don't teach measurement, but you'd like to try using task cards with Plickers, download my free Plickers Made Easy with Task Cards tutorial from TpT and follow my step-by-step directions. This freebie includes 10 task card images to use with the tutorial, and if they're appropriate for your grade level, you can use them to test out the Plickers program with your students.


Plickers Webinar and Task Cards Bundle
After creating several task card products with images for Plickers, I decided to bundle all of them together with the professional development version of my Plickers webinar. Click here to check out the entire Plickers Webinar and Task Cards Growing Bundle on TpT. You can purchase each product in the bundle individually, but you save 30% when you buy the whole bundle. Click here to open a clickable PDF preview that displays all 12 products in the bundle.

By the way, the Plickers Webinar Bundle is a "growing bundle," because I'm still adding new task cards to it. Each time I add another product, the bundle price increases, but anyone who has already purchased it will get the new task cards for free! My next product is a set of Weathering, Erosion, and Deposition task cards that will have written descriptions and visual examples of these processes. I expect to finish them within the next few weeks.

Ready to get started? 
Plickers is a tech tool worth exploring, so jump in and give it a try! But don’t be discouraged if you find the program to be a little tricky at first. Yes, there's a bit of a learning curve when you get started, but after you get comfortable with Plickers, you and your students will love it!




September 23, 2017

MI Theory and Growth Mindset: Helping Kids Discover their Strengths and Overcome Challenges

Multiple Intelligence Theory and the research on Growth Mindset offer us insight into how the brain works, what it means to be intelligent, and how we respond to the challenges of life. Both frameworks have important implications for teaching and learning, and they’re even more powerful when implemented together. In this post, I’ll explain why I think it’s important to teach students about multiple intelligence theory and growth mindset, and I’ll wrap up by sharing a step-by-step process for teaching your students how to discover their own unique strengths and use them to develop strategies for overcoming challenges. I used three MI theory and growth mindset resources in that lesson, and you may want to download those freebies before you read the lesson.   

Multiple Intelligence Theory
Psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner proposed multiple intelligence theory over 40 years ago in response to the prevailing belief that intelligence was a one-dimensional trait, and that a persons’ IQ was fixed at birth. Dr. Gardner disagreed with this limiting view of intelligence and suggested a multi-dimensional approach. According to Dr. Gardner, “Human cognitive competence is better described in terms of a set of abilities, talents, or mental skills which we call ‘Intelligences.’ These multiple intelligences can be nurtured and strengthened, or ignored and weakened.”

MI theory was welcomed by most educators, especially those who recognized that children learn in different ways and that there that there are many paths to understanding. These teachers had already noticed that children learn best when they engage in activities that take advantage of their strengths, and MI theory made it possible to identify those strengths more easily.

Dr. Gardner identified at least eight types of intelligence, labeling with terms like visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, mathematical-logical, and verbal-linguistic. Because this terminology was confusing for elementary students, some educators adopted the kid-friendly “smart” labels shown on the free MI theory posters on the right. I'll tell you where to find these freebie in just a moment. :-)

The Impact of Mindset on Success
More recently, Dr. Carol Dweck contributed to this field with her research on the connections between mindset and success. In a nutshell, Dr. Dweck observed that most people respond in one of two ways when facing challenges. Those who display a “growth mindset” enjoy solving problems and trying new experiences, and they choose challenging tasks over easy ones. They don’t view mistakes as failures, but rather as opportunities to learn and grow. On the other hand, people with a “fixed mindset” choose easy tasks over challenging ones, and they don’t enjoy taking risks or attempting to do something they’ve never done before. They view mistakes as failures to be avoided at all costs, and they are easily frustrated when they encounter difficulties. As you might expect, people who approach life with a growth mindset are more successful and happier than those with fixed mindsets.

Fortunately, Dr. Dweck’s research shows that a person's mindset consists of learned behaviors that can be changed. People who have a fixed mindset can develop a growth mindset if they are willing to change the way they think about themselves and about their capacity to learn.

The Problem with the Word “Smart”
Obviously, we want to foster growth mindsets in our students, which means adopting practices that encourage positive, growth-oriented thinking. Dr. Dweck discovered that some types of praise are harmful and can lead to a fixed mindset, so it's important to use praise effectively. As it turns out, praising children for being smart may cause them to avoid tasks that include a risk of failure because they are afraid of making mistakes.

Dr. Dweck’s findings resulted in an unfortunate backlash against MI theory. Some educators expressed concern about using the kid-friendly "smart" terms that refer to the multiple intelligences as the "8 Kinds of Smart." Surely the practice of teaching kids about all the ways people are smart will lead to our students developing fixed mindsets, right?

Personally, I  don’t see this happening if we’re careful about how we use the word “smart.” There’s a difference between praising kids for being smart and teaching children that people are smart in many ways. Furthermore, the use of the word “smart” should not be a reason to discount MI theory; Dr. Gardner never even used the word “smart” when referring to the multiple intelligences! Those kid-friendly terms were adopted by teachers to simplify the concepts for their students! If teachers aren’t comfortable using the word “smart,” they can easily replace it with one of the other words Dr. Gardner used to describe these intelligences such as, “skills, talents, or abilities.”

Why We Need to Teach MI Theory and Growth Mindset
Learning about growth mindset is important because it helps children understand that our brains can become smarter if we are willing to work hard, try new experiences, and accept challenges. Learning about multiple intelligence theory is important because it empowers students with the knowledge that there are many ways we are smart. Furthermore, by helping students identify their strengths, MI theory gives them the tools to they need to overcome challenges and develop a growth mindset.
 
How to Teach Kids to Use Their Strengths to Overcome Challenges
When you’re ready to introduce MI theory and Growth Mindset to your students, use this lesson sequence as a guide to help you get started. Click here to request all 3 freebies used in the lesson sequence, including the Getting to Know You Survey, the MI theory mini posters, and the Overcoming Challenges graphic organizers.

  1. Start by administering the kid-friendly “Getting to Know You” multiple intelligence survey, but don’t score it immediately or discuss the results with your students. Before you use the survey, please watch How to Use a Multiple Intelligence Survey to Foster a Growth Mindset. In this video, I explained how to administer the survey, how to score it, and how to discuss the results with your students from a growth mindset perspective. 

  2. Discuss the characteristics of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset with your students. Draw a T-chart with the words “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset” above the two columns. Under each column, list several belief statements that represent each type of mindset, and discuss these beliefs with your students.

  3. Introduce the basics of multiple intelligence theory using Dr. Gardner’s original terminology or the kid-friendly terms. You can use the MI theory posters included with the free resources that go with this blog post. 

  4. Return the Getting to Know You MI Theory Survey to your students and show them how to score it. Discuss the survey results from a growth mindset perspective. Remind students that the results are only based on their answers to a few statements and they’re not permanent. This survey only provides a snapshot of their current strengths and growth areas. Avoid praising students for being “smart” in any of the multiple intelligence areas. Ask students to keep a copy of their survey results in a safe place such as a student portfolio or 3-ring binder.

  5. Teach students how to rely on their strengths to overcome challenges and problems. Growth mindset has been criticized for setting kids up for failure by teaching them that you can succeed at anything if you’re willing to try hard and never give up. I understand this concern, and I agree that trying harder won’t help a child who lacks the skills needed to accomplish a task and who has no idea where to turn for help.

    That’s why it’s important to teach students what to do when they get stuck. One method is to teach them how to brainstorm strategies for overcoming challenges that are based on their MI survey results. The Overcoming Challenges graphic organizer on the right can be used to guide your students through this process. There are two variations of the graphic organizer included in the free resources for his lesson; chose the one that best meets the needs of your students. Display a copy of the graphic organizer where everyone can see it. At the top of the page, write one challenge or difficulty that many of your student face, for example, “Learning multiplication facts quickly and accurately.” Next, circle one of the multiple intelligences listed at the bottom of the page (for example, "Visual-Spatial)") and write that term in the upper left corner of the chart under “Strengths.” Then ask your students to discuss how someone who is visual-spatial could use that strength to learn the multiplication facts. List those strategies next in the top row under the “Strategies” heading. One strategy would be to draw arrays for the multiplication facts the student is having trouble learning. Another one would be to draw intersecting horizontal and vertical lines for the factors and to count the intersections. After you've guided your students through this process several times, they may be able to complete the graphic organizer on their own or with a partner when facing a challenge.    

Do you see why it's important to implement MI theory and Growth Mindset together? These two frameworks will empower your students and will give them the tools to take ownership of their learning. With the right encouragement and support, your students will begin to believe in themselves and succeed in situations where they might have given up in the past.

I also believe that it’s important to have a full understanding of both concepts to implement them effectively in the classroom. If you’d like to learn more, check out my MI Theory and Mindset Bundle. This resource includes my MI Theory, Mindset, and Motivation professional development webinar and Multiple Intelligence Theory for Kids, a collection of lessons, activities, and printables. You can preview both items and purchase them separately or together in this bundle.

I hope you found these insights, resources, and strategies for implementing MI theory and Growth Mindset to be helpful. Remember that you can request all 3 freebies mentioned in this article by clicking here.

My blog post is just one of over a dozen articles in the Growth Mindset Roundup blog hop. Be sure to click on the links below to check out the other articles from some of your favorite teacher bloggers!

~ Laura Candler
Teaching Resources






September 15, 2017

How to Turn a Word Problem into a Rich Math Task (Part Two)

How to Turn a Word Problem Into a Rich Math Task
Part Two: Crafting the Process

When students struggle in math, it's often due to their beliefs about what it takes to be successful in mathematics. They believe that some people were born with a gift for math, and anyone who wasn't born with that gift will never excel in math.

Fortunately, brain research tells us that this belief is nothing more than a myth, and it's not supported by fact. All students can experience success in math if they are taught in ways that foster the development of a mathematical mindset. This means setting high expectations for all students, engaging them in challenging and interesting math tasks, and providing the right kind of support and encouragement.

One way to foster mathematical mindsets is to replace simple word problems with "rich math tasks." Rich math tasks provide opportunities for students to work together as they explore a concept or solve a problem. In my webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, I give examples of rich math tasks and share several strategies for using them with students.

If you're wondering how to get started with rich math tasks, it's easier than you might think. The first step is choosing a suitable math problem, and the second step is guiding your students through the problem-solving process. Both steps are equally important, so I've decided to tackle them in two separate blog posts.

In my first post, Part One: Crafting the Problem, I explained the difference between word problems and rich math tasks, and I shared 6 tips for creating a rich math task from a simple word problem. In this post, Part Two: Crafting the Process, I'll share strategies you can use to actively engage ALL of your students in the problem-solving experience.

September 7, 2017

How to Turn a Word Problem into a Rich Math Task (Part One)

How to Turn a Word Problem into a Rich Math Task
Part One - Crafting the Problem

Growth mindset is much more than a buzzword, and nowhere is this more apparent than in mathematics. Research findings in this field are transforming our perceptions about best practices in math instruction. As it turns out, developing a mathematical mindset is more highly correlated with future success in math than scores on standardized tests!

One way to begin fostering a math mindset in your students is to turn traditional word problems into "rich math tasks."

I tackled the topic of rich math tasks in my recent webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, but I want to dig into rich math tasks a bit more here on Corkboard Connections.

Rich math tasks have two critical components, the WHAT (the problem) and the HOW (the process).

In this post, we'll take a look at how to transform a boring word problem into a rich math task. In my next post, I'll share active engagement strategies you can use to help your kids rock the problem solving process! Click here for Part Two.

How a Word Problem Differs from a Rich Math Task


Basic Word Problems
Word problems at the elementary level tend to be simple problems with a single correct answer. Children are often taught to solve them by learning to identify key words and numbers in the problem and then applying the necessary mathematical operation. For example, a basic word problem might read like this: "There are 10 apples, and it takes 2 minutes to peel each apple. How many minutes in all are needed to peel the apples?"
A typical method of solving this problem involves underlining the key words "each" and "in all" and circling the numbers 10 and 2. The key words tell students that they need to multiply the numbers to find the answer, so they multiply 10 and 2 and record the number 20 as the answer. If you ask these students to draw or model the solutions visually, they are at a loss. If you ask them to label the answer with the unit, they are as likely to write "20 apples" as they are to write "20 minutes." 

Word problems don't inspire deep thinking, analysis, or discussion because the solutions are fairly straight forward. Sure, you can encourage your students to talk with a partner about how they solved the problem, but their explanations will sound like this: "First I underlined the key words, and then I circled all the numbers. Next, I multiplied the numbers to get my answer." An explanation like that hardly qualifies as "math talk"!

Rich Math Tasks
Rich math tasks, on the other hand, are usually more open-ended and can be solved in many ways. Some math tasks are inquiry-based questions that have more than one correct answer or problems that require students to use hands-on materials to discover the solutions. Other math tasks look like regular word problems at first glance, but when you attempt to solve them, you realize there are many ways to arrive at the answer. Rich math tasks don't have key words that you can underline, and circling the numbers won't help because you might not even need all the numbers to solve the problem! These types of math tasks stimulate discussion, questioning, and critical thinking as students struggle to choose the best strategy to solve the problem.


6 Tips for Crafting an Awesome Math Task

Finding or creating the right math problem is the first step in developing a rich math task. Here are some tips that will make the process of crafting your problem much easier.

1. Start with a Visual Problem
Select a word problem that's easy to visualize, and try to solve it in several different ways. Make sure the answer can be represented visually by drawing it or by using physical models. If you realize that there's only one way to solve it or that it would be difficult to represent the solutions visually, rewrite the problem or find a new one. I'll use the Apple Peeling Word Problem above to demonstrate how to turn a simple word problem into something much more challenging and interesting.

2. Remove Key Words 
After you've selected a problem, look for key words such as, "in all," "each," "per," and "total." If possible, rewrite the problem without using the key words, making sure that the meaning doesn't change. Removing key words forces students to THINK about which operation is needed instead of just underlining words and mindlessly choosing an operation based on those words.

3. Add Extra Details and Information
Next, add details that aren't really needed to find the solution. If students have been trained to underline key words and circle numbers, these extra details will confuse them. They will have to think about the task and decide which words and numbers are actually important.

Let's use the first 3 tips to rework the Apple Peeling Word Problem and turn it into Apple Peeling Challenge #1. While the problem is still quite easy, the lack of key words and the extra numbers make it a bit more challenging. Students have to think about what is being asked and decide the best way to solve it. This is a good starter problem for introducing students to rich math tasks because it can be solved in more than one way using visual models. Students could draw circles for the apples, use round objects like pennies or bingo chips, or they could even use real apples!


Ready to take Apple Peeling Challenge #1 to another level? Applying the next 3 tips to that problem will make it even more challenging and interesting!   

4.  Personalize It and Make It Real
To make the problem more interesting, personalize it by adding a real person's name, maybe even the name of one of your students! Add enough details to make it come to life or turn it into a story. In Apple Peeling Challenge #2, including the detail that Sam is peeling the apples for a pie makes the problem more meaningful. A teacher in the Math Mindset Connections Facebook group took this problem and turned it into a story about making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner!

5. Turn It into a Multi-step Problem
Rewrite single-step word problems to ensure that multiple steps are needed to solve it. The information in the basic word problem stated that it takes 2 minutes to peel each apple. The easiest way to add another step is to replace that detail with enough information for students to calculate how long it takes to peel each apple. Each problem will be a bit different, but there's always a way to modify the problem and turn it into a multi-step math task.

6. Change the Numbers
You can often make a word problem more challenging by changing the number values. For example, instead of Sam peeling 10 apples, he might need to peel 100 apples because he's baking 10 pies for a banquet. You can also use numbers that result in fractional answers. For example, in Apple Peeling Challenge #2 above, Sam can peel 4 apples in 6 minutes so kids should be able to figure out how long it takes to peel one apple. But 6 is not divisible by 4, so the number of minutes it takes to peel one apple is not a whole number. Do you see how tweaking the numbers a little can instantly make the problem much more challenging? Now you have a problem that's perfect for a math task!

Why not try creating your own Apple Peeling Challenge? In the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter Webinar, I shared 2 more apple peeling problems that are quite different from the problems in this post. I'll bet you can come up with your own apple peeling problems, too!


Where to Find Editable Word Problems for Rich Math Tasks


If you don't want to craft your own multi-step word problems, or you don't have time to hunt for them, check out my newest product, Math Mindset Challenges. It's a growing collection of editable word problems in several different formats. The problems themselves are in an editable PowerPoint document so you can change the wording and customize them if needed. All of the problems have been field-tested by upper elementary teachers, and they work well as is, but if you use a different measurement system or want to tweak the problems using the tips above, you can easily do that. If you'd like to take a closer look, head over to my TpT store and click on the preview link on the product page.


The Math Mindset Challenges product shown above is included in my Math Mindset Challenges Webinar Bundle and my Math Problem Solving Bundle. Both bundles include the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter professional development webinar, too.


Next Up - Part Two: Crafting the Process

Remember that rich math tasks have two essential components, the WHAT and the HOW.  In this post, I've tackled the WHAT, the math problem itself.  However, it's not enough to create a great word problem; it's what you do with that problem that counts! Click here to read Part Two, Crafting the Process, where I dove into HOW to facilitate the problem solving experience. I shared loads of active engagement strategies that will take problem solving to a whole new level in your math classroom!