May 20, 2018

Book Donation Bonanza: Free Professional Books for Schools!


May 21st Update: 

We received an overwhelming response to this offer, so the Book Donation Bonanza has been temporarily suspended while we process existing orders. If any books remain in inventory after those orders are filled, we'll open the offer again. If you want to be notified when that happens, read this post and fill out the Google Doc form to join the waitlist. 

The publishing world keeps changing, and sometimes those changes happen so fast we don't see them coming. That's exactly what happened to my publisher, and it's why we're going to be donating thousands of my books to schools over the next few weeks! Power Reading Workshop, Graphic Organizers for Reading, and Mastering Math Facts are each listed for $24.95 on Amazon, but we're going to give them away by the carton! If you aren't familiar with these books, click here and follow the preview links to learn more about them.

April 28, 2018

Google Classroom Management Tips

Using Google Classroom can streamline the tasks of assigning, collecting, grading, and returning student work, but learning to use the program can be overwhelming. Read these time-saving Google Classroom tips to learn simple strategies for managing this powerful program!

Guest Blog Post by Rhoda Toynbee 
Using Google Classroom can streamline the tasks of assigning, collecting, grading, and returning student work, but learning to use the program can be overwhelming. Read these time-saving Google Classroom tips to learn simple strategies for managing this powerful program!

Using Google Classroom can streamline the tasks of assigning, collecting, grading, and returning student work. It saves hours of time and eliminates those dreaded piles of papers that need grading (you know the ones that mock you from the corner of your desk). One major bonus is of digital work and management is that you only need access to the internet to work on assigning and grading. Your huge teacher bag full of papers and workbooks will start collecting dust.

You will need to establish a routine for assigning and grading digital work. It can be just as daunting and overwhelming as traditional grading if you don’t have a method for wading through it all. Google Classroom is a tool, just like your grade book or textbook. How you use it will determine your success with it.

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 
One of the best ways to explore the unique features of MrOwl is to watch my webinar for teachers, Discover MrOwl: A Free Tech Tool for Organizing, Sharing, and Collaborating. During the webinar, I explained 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 was demonstrating how to use MrOwl in your role as an educational professional and how to use it in your classroom with students.



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. Watch the replay of the Discover MrOwl webinar. Before you watch it, print out the Discover MrOwl webinar handouts so you'll have a place to take notes.

  2. 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 watch the Discover MrOwl webinar and share your feedback 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