August 19, 2017

Wishlist It and Win: A TpT Gift Card Giveaway

Do you use TpT's wish list feature? I use it all the time and I love it! When I see a product I want to purchase later, I just add it to my wish list. It's right there waiting for me when I have time to take a closer look.

The TpT wish list feature is more important than ever now that you can no longer make purchases from the TpT mobile app. So if you're browsing for resources on your phone and you see something you like, you have to add it to your wish list to purchase later.

Wishlist it and Win Giveaway!


Just for fun, I'm hosting a "Wishlist It and Win" giveaway, and the prizes include one $25 TpT gift card and three $10 TpT gift cards. You do have to subscribe to Candler's Classroom Connections to be eligible to win, so if you're not a subscriber, use the newsletter link at the top of the blog to sign up.

How to Enter the Giveaway


1. Add Laura Candler's Products to Your Wishlist
First, click this link to hop over to my TpT store. Browse my products and use the preview links to take a closer look at them. Choose a product you'd love to own, and click the Add to Wish List link as shown by the purple arrow on the Order of Operations bundle TpT page shown below. Finally, copy the product's URL which can be found at the top of the page. To do that, click on the URL as shown by the blue arrow, right click, and copy it.


2. Enter the Giveaway on Facebook (Deadline: Sunday, August 20th, Midnight PT)
Visit my Teaching Resources Facebook page and click on the Wishlist It and Win post. To enter the giveaway, comment on that post and include the following information:
  • Name of the product 
  • A few sentences about why you'd like to own it and/or how you plan to use it
  • TpT product URL (Right click and paste the link into your post.)
Four winners will be chosen randomly from all eligible entries submitted on the giveaway Facebook post before the deadline. To be eligible, each entry must include the name of one product from Laura Candler's TpT store, why you like it, and the product URL. It's okay if you don't have the exact product name as long as you enter the correct URL.

3. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat (Enter as many times as you like) 
To increase your chances of winning, add another product to your wish list and enter the giveaway again! You can enter as many times as you like, but be sure to write a separate post for each product you want to enter.  Remember that all entries must be submitted before midnight PT on Sunday, August 20th.

4. Check Your Email at 6 pm ET on Monday
I'll choose the winners on Monday, August 21st, and I'll announce their names in an email that will go to all Candler's Classroom Connections subscribers. Look for that email around 6 pm ET, and if you're a lucky winner, be sure to claim your prize right away! The $25 TpT gift card will be given to the first winner to claim his or her prize, and the $10 gift cards will be given to the other winners if they claim them within 48 hours.

Now that you know what to do, it's time to get started! Head over to my TpT store and start wishlisting your favorite products! Good luck!



August 13, 2017

Discover MrOwl, a Free New Tech Tool Teachers Will Love!

Have you discovered MrOwl? It's a free, new tech tool you can use to create a personalized Internet experience based on the topics that are important to you. You can easily build, organize, and customize topic “branches” that you share with friends and family. It's completely free of advertising, too. These features make MrOwl the perfect tool for educators who can use it in the classroom with students and on their own for organizing lesson resources.  You can even use MrOwl to create a free class website!

Using the MrOwl Chrome extension, you can easily save your favorite website links so you know where to find them later. Furthermore, you can upload your own documents and photos to your branches, making it easy to create comprehensive collections of searchable information.

The best part is that MrOwl gets wiser as more people use it. The branches that you build help to shape the MrOwl community “tree,” an ever-growing, searchable collection of web links and resources. These branches are curated by real people in the MrOwl community, not a computer, so they're free of inappropriate content and organized in a way that makes sense. MrOwl is free of advertising, too, so you aren't distracted by annoying pop-ups or sidebar ads.

But MrOwl is more than a safe search engine or a handy bookmarking tool; it's also a unique social media platform that makes it easy to interact with others who share your interests. MrOwl community members can follow other users, message their own followers, and even invite people to collaborate with them on their branches. It truly couldn't be any simpler! Members can also grab, "heart," and share branches created by others.

Explore MrOwl on Your Own
To start exploring MrOwl on your own so you can see how it works, click over to my profile page, @laura_candler, and check out some of the branches I've created. If the page you see doesn't look exactly like the one below, it's probably because you're not logged in. It's easy to create a free MrOwl account, but be sure to choose a user name that you don't mind being public and visible to others. I recommend using your real name if it's available, which is why I signed up with @laura_candler. After you log in, return to my profile page and follow me! Then grab any branches that you like to save them for later and explore MrOwl to find new interests and get inspired!


The MrOwl Backstory
MrOwl is the brainchild of Becky and Arvind Raichur, and their vision dates back almost 20 years to 1999, a time before Google and Pinterest when it was nearly impossible to search the web. Becky and Arvind envisioned making the Internet a better experience for everyone, where it's easy to organize and curate collections of searchable links, documents and more in one convenient place. Their ultimate goal was to create a connected community curated by real people like you, not a computer. The word "crowdsourcing" wasn't coined until 2005, but the concept describes their early vision perfectly!

It wasn't until 2013 that they were able to put together a team to bring MrOwl to life, and it's taken the team several years to build and test the site. During that time, they've added new features that make MrOwl more interactive and easier to personalize. MrOwl began as a web-based platform, but a convenient mobile app was just released so that you can access MrOwl right from your phone or tablet.

Reaching Out to Educators
Now that MrOwl is available to the public, Becky and Arvind are eager to spread the word so that others can benefit from this free tool. They're especially excited about MrOwl's potential for classroom use, which is why they reached out to me. They initially just asked me to review the site and offer feedback about how to make it even more useful for teachers. After I spent time on MrOwl, I realized that it's far more powerful than it appears at first glance, and I knew that I had to share it with others! I was also impressed with Becky and Arvind's sincere desire to make MrOwl even more useful for teachers and more approriate for students. They've already started working on some new features, such as templates teachers can use to create free class websites, and they're open to your feedback and suggestions as well.

Free Webinar: Educators' Guide to MrOwl
To help teachers get started with MrOwl, I recently presented a webinar called Educators' Guide to MrOwl: Intro for Early Adopters. The live webinar is over, but you can register here to watch the free replay. MrOwl is brand new, so if you like exploring new tech tools, you'll love this webinar! MrOwl is a really powerful tool with a lot of cool features for teachers and even more on the way. During the webinar, I'll explain exactly how to get started setting up a profile, creating topic branches, organizing your content, and collaborating with others. I'll even explain how to use it to set up a free class website!  You'll get a sneak peek at new features that will be added soon, and you'll also meet Becky and Arvind Raichur, the founders of MrOwl! Click HERE to register.


Join the MrOwl Educators Facebook Group
I've also created a Facebook group called MrOwl Educators where teachers can learn about new features and get early access to them. Group members can also ask questions and share their ideas for using MrOwl in the classroom. A third function of the Facebook group will be to seek feedback about how to make MrOwl even better for educators, and this information will be shared with Becky and Arvind. If you'd like to join the MrOwl Educators Facebook group, fill out this Google Doc form and follow the directions on that page to request access.

Can't Wait to Get Started?
If you can't wait to get started with MrOwl, jump in right now and register for your free account. It's easy! Remember that your user name will be public and visible on your profile, so you may want to choose your real name to make it easier for others to find you. Set up your profile by uploading a photo, writing a short bio, and adding links to your social media platforms. Then have fun exploring the site and starting to create your own branches.

Be sure to sign up for my upcoming webinar, Educators' Guide to MrOwl: Intro for Early Adopters. Becky, Arvind, and I look forward to connecting with you and sharing ways to use MrOwl in the classroom!




August 6, 2017

Totality Awesome Solar Eclipse: Are you ready?

Are you ready for the upcoming solar eclipse? If not, take a few minutes now to learn about this "totality" awesome event so you can prepare for it properly and enjoy it safely.

On Monday, August 21st, the moon's shadow will pass over the US in a sweeping arc, from Oregon to SC, and if you're lucky enough to be directly in that path, you'll see a total solar eclipse. As the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun's light, the sky will darken and temperatures will drop, right in the middle of the day. Eventually, the moon will completely block the sun for 2 or 3 minutes, and all you'll see is the sun's corona, which appears as a faint glow around the edges of the moon.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the path of totality will only be about 70 miles wide, so very few viewers will experience the solar eclipse as dramatically as the picture on the right. Everyone else in the US will see a partial eclipse, even those who are just a few miles away from the path of totality. The farther away you are from that path, the less the moon will block the sun, and the less dramatic the event will be.  From what I've learned, if you're even a few miles outside of that path, the eclipse won't be nearly as spectacular as if you were directly in the path.

But what if you learned that you're less than an hour's drive from the path of totality? Would you make plans to go experience the real deal, or would you be content to see a partial eclipse? How far would you travel to see a total eclipse?

Locate the Closest Place to View a Total Eclipse
Before you answer,  take a minute to find out how far you live from totality. It's really easy when you download the free Totality app from Big Kids Science.

After you open the app and enter your location, you can see the closest place to view a total eclipse, and you'll even be able to get directions to it! You can also learn what the partial eclipse will look like at its peak in your location, how to get to the closest place to see the total eclipse, when the eclipse will begin and end, and much more. The app also includes links to lesson ideas and activities for teaching about the solar eclipse.

Order Your Protective Eye Wear Now 
No matter where you live in the US, if the sky is clear on August 21st,  you'll be able to see a partial eclipse, if not a complete, total eclipse. It's never safe to look at the sun, except for the 2 or 3 minutes of totality when the sun's rays are completely blocked, and only for those who are in the path of the total eclipse. So if you plan to watch the eclipse at all, you'll need protective sunglasses. They are readily available and not very expensive right now, but I guarantee they are going to be much harder to find and more expensive if you wait until the last minute to get them.

I ordered mine from Big Kids Science, the creator of the free Totality app, because I like to support organizations that offer free educational resources like the app. I purchased mine from within the app, but you can also purchase them directly from the Big Kids Science website.

Solar Eclipse 2017 or Bust!
The last total solar eclipse that was visible in the United States happened back in 1970, and it passed right over North Carolina where I live now. Unfortunately, I didn't move to NC until 1973 so I missed it! :-( I lived in New Hampshire at the time and I remember seeing a partial eclipse, but the experience wasn't all that memorable.

That's why I was excited to discover that the path of the 2017 solar eclipse will go through South Carolina which is just a few hours south of where I live now. I learned from the Totality app that even if I stay right where I am, I'll see a very distinct partial eclipse with 96% coverage of the sun. I guess I could be satisfied with 96% totality, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this will be my last chance to see a total eclipse, so driving a few hours to see it will be "totally" worth it! I've heard the traffic that day will be insane anywhere within the path of totality, so I booked a hotel room in Orangeburg, SC, which is in the direct path of the moon's shadow. Now my only concern is the weather, and I'm praying for clear skies on August 21st.

How close are you to the line of totality for the 2017 solar eclipse? Are you planning to travel to see it? If so, take plenty of food and water with you, and be sure to start your trip with a full tank of gas. Scope out your viewing location in advance and arrive well before the partial eclipse begins. Finally, remember to bring your totality awesome protective sunglasses!


July 21, 2017

Teaching Tricky Trapezoids: Inclusive vs. Exclusive Definitions


Why Your Students Might Not Be
Classifying Trapezoids Correctly 


Do you teach quadrilateral classification? If so, did you know there are THREE ways to define a trapezoid?

Americans use either the inclusive or the exclusive definition depending on their curriculum. To complicate matters even more, teachers who live outside the United States define trapezoids in a completely different way! Believe it or not, the British English definition is the exact opposite of the two American definitions!

Which definition are you supposed to be teaching? If you're not sure, it's entirely possible that you're teaching the wrong definition! But don't feel bad if you discover this to be true because you are not alone. In fact, until recently, I didn't even know which definition was used by the Common Core State Standards!

Before we dig into this topic, you need to know which definition you're currently teaching. To find out, answer the trapezoid question below before you read the rest of this post. Then read the information under the 3 polygons that explains what your answer means.

What Your Answer Reveals

Because there are three ways to define a trapezoid, there are three correct answers to the question. Your response will reveal the definition you use to classify trapezoids.
  • If you only chose polygon 3, you use the exclusive definition which states that a trapezoid has EXACTLY one pair of parallel sides. This is the definition that I learned, and it's the one I thought the Common Core used (but I was wrong).  
  • If you chose polygons 1 AND 3, you use the inclusive definition which states a trapezoid has AT LEAST one pair of parallel sides. Many educators favor this definition because the other quadrilateral definitions are inclusive. For example, a parallelogram is a 4-sided figure with both pairs of opposite sides parallel, which means that squares and rectangles are also parallelograms. 
  • If you only chose polygon 2, you're using the British English classification system which states that a trapezoid is a quadrilateral with NO parallel sides. You teach your students that a quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides is a trapezium, not a trapezoid


Which definition SHOULD you be teaching?

Now you know which definition you use to classify trapezoids, but is that the definition you're supposed to be teaching? If you aren't 100% sure, make a note to check on it. Until recently, I thought the Common Core used the exclusive definition, but I discovered that the CCSS actually uses the inclusive definition! I posted a question on my Facebook page to find out which trapezoid definition most teachers were using, and over 180 people responded. I was surprised to learn that most teachers who follow the CCSS teach the inclusive definition.

How to Teach Kids to Classify Tricky Trapezoids

If this is the first you've heard that there are three ways to define a trapezoid, you might be wondering how much to share with  your students. I mean, quadrilateral classification is challenging enough to teach without having to explain that there are three different correct ways to define a trapezoid!

I recommend that you find out which trapezoid definition you are expected to teach, and only teach that ONE definition. You could tell your students that they might learn a slightly different definition at some point in the future, but if you go into too much detail, your students will end up more confused than ever.

After you know which definition you're supposed to be teaching, how do you introduce it to your students and help them learn to classify trapezoids correctly?

I've found that the best way to help your kids tackle the tricky trapezoids is with a simple, hands-on sorting activity. The directions below are for a teacher-guided partner lesson, and you'll need a copy of the two printables shown on the right for each pair. Before you get started, be sure to download that freebie, Identifying Tricky Trapezoids.

Trapezoid Sorting Partner Directions:
  1. Begin the activity by introducing the characteristics of a trapezoid according to the definition you are expected to teach (inclusive or exclusive). 
  2. Next, pair each student with a partner and give each pair one copy of the printable with 8 quadrilaterals. Ask them to work together to cut out the polygons and stack them in a pile. 
  3. Explain that they will take turns sorting the quadrilaterals into one of two categories using the T-chart titled "Which Quadrilaterals are Trapezoids? Give each pair one copy of the T-chart or have one person in each pair draw the T-chart on a dry erase board. 
  4. Before guiding them through the sorting activity, assign the roles of Partner A and Partner B in each pair. Then ask Partner A to select the first quadrilateral and place on the T-chart in one of the two columns, "IS a Trapezoid" or "Is NOT a Trapezoid." Partner A then justifies the quadrilateral's placement to Partner B who gives a thumbs up if he or she agrees. If Partner B does not agree, the two students should discuss the proper placement of the quadrilateral and move it to the other column if needed. 
  5. Partner B then chooses one of the remaining quadrilaterals, places it on the chart, and explains its placement to Partner A. Partner A must approve the placement, or the two students discuss the definition and placement before continuing. 
  6. Students continue to switch roles throughout the activity. If they aren't able to agree on the placement of one of the quadrilaterals, they should set it aside for the time being. 
  7. As students are working, walk around and observe them to see if they are classifying the trapezoids correctly. Stop to help students who are confused or who can't agree on the placement of one or more quadrilaterals. 

Hands-on Activities for Classifying Quadrilaterals

This simple sorting activity is actually one of the most effective ways to teach kids to classify any type of quadrilateral. In fact, it's so effective that I developed a complete lesson for classifying quadrilaterals based on this strategy. Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals includes several introductory activities as well as a challenging game and two assessments.


One reason I wanted to bring the tricky trapezoid situation to your attention is that I've recently updated Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals to include all three definitions. There are now THREE versions of the lesson materials within the product file.

No matter which definition you're supposed to be teaching, Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals has you covered. You'll find lessons, printables, task cards, answer keys, and assessments that are aligned with the quadrilateral classification system used by your curriculum. Not only are these activities engaging and fun for kids, the lessons will help them nail those quadrilateral classifications every time! If you don't believe me, head over to see this product on TpT where you can read feedback from 400 teachers who have used Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals with their students.


By the way if you already own Classify It, you can download the updated version for free by clicking over to the Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals page on TpT. If you're logged in, you'll see a link at the top that says "Download Now! You own it!"

If you teach quadrilaterals and haven't purchased it yet, take a few minutes to preview it on TpT. If you use it with your students, I think you'll agree that Classify It is the most effective and FUN way to foster a deep understanding of quadrilateral classification!


July 8, 2017

How to Teach Addition of Fractions Using LEGO Bricks


Guest blog post by Dr. Shirley Disseler

We know that current math standards require students to learn through modeling using manipulatives. I have been using LEGO bricks for many years to teach students math concepts throughout the elementary and middle school curriculum. It’s a perfect math manipulative, and students love using the bricks, since many students are very familiar with them. I’ve developed specific strategies for teaching math using LEGO bricks for modeling and have been thrilled over the years to watch students’ test scores improve after they learn math using these strategies.

In recent years, I’ve taught many graduate students at High Point University how to teach with these methods, and they also report great success for their students when they use the techniques as new math teachers. I’ve recently published a series of books that show how to utilize LEGO bricks to teach all the major math topics in elementary school: Counting and Cardinality, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Fractions.

Free LEGO Fractions Book
I’d like to share an example of how to teach using LEGO bricks. This is a strategy for teaching how to add fractions that have like denominators. It's one of the lessons in my book, Teaching Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks, which is a part of my Brick Math Series. If you'd like to see more fraction lessons, you can download the entire PDF of this book as a sample of the series! Click here to request your free copy.

Adding Fractions with Like Denominators
Teaching students to add fractions can be a challenge. Students must first understand that a fraction shows part of a whole. This method of modeling fractions with bricks helps students see clearly what the parts of the fractions mean, and how only the numerators are added, since the two fractions are part of the same whole.

Let’s add the fractions 1/6 and 2/6 together to show how the process works.
  1. First, build models of the two fractions on a baseplate using LEGO bricks. The baseplate is an important component of Brick Math, because it keeps all the bricks in place. 
  2. Start to model the two fractions, denominators first. Use a 2x3 brick (6 studs) to model the denominator of 6. Use two 2x3 bricks that are the same color, to help students understand that the denominators are the same. Leave a little space between the two 2x3 bricks.
  3. Model the numerator of the fraction 1/6 by placing a 1x1 brick above the first 2x3 brick. Model the numerator of the fraction 2/6 by placing a 1x2 brick above the second 2x3 brick. Using different color bricks for the numerators helps to show they are not the same.


  4. Now it’s time to model the action of adding the two fractions. Take another 2x3 brick and place it at the bottom of a baseplate. Place the 1x1 brick above this 2x3 brick. Then place the 1x2 brick above the 1x1 brick. Your model now shows 3 studs over 6 studs. Take three 1x1 bricks and stack them on each stud of the combined numerator bricks. Have students touch each stud to count 3 as the numerator of the solution fraction of 3/6 .
  5. If your students are ready for it, you can demonstrate how 3/6  = 1/2 . Place a 1x3 brick on top of the three 1x1 bricks in the model and show students that the 1x3 brick (modeling the numerator) is 1/2 the 2x3 brick (modeling the denominator).


  6. The final step in the process is to have students draw their brick models on baseplate paper. Drawing the models they have built helps students reinforce the visual depiction of the mathematical concepts. Baseplate paper is included in my book, Teaching Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks, which is a free sample of my Brick Math Series books.
When you take students through the modeling process, you give them a powerful way to visualize the action of the math. For both visual and tactile learners, this method helps student understand how to add fractions that are part of the same whole.


See Two Fraction Lessons in Action on YouTube
Watch the YouTube video below to see two fraction lessons demonstrated step by step.


Learn More 
If you want to learn more about how to teach using LEGO bricks, check the Brick Math program website. The books in the series are available as both printed books and as PDFs, and can be purchased on the website, on Amazon and Kindle, and on TpT. Brick sets that have been designed for the program are available from that site as well. You can also purchase individual LEGO bricks from LEGO Pick a Brick, or from online resellers of LEGO bricks such as www.bricklink.com or www.brickowl.com.

Dr. Shirley Disseler is an associate professor at High Point University and chair of the Department of Elementary and Middle Grades Education, and the STEM coordinator for the BA to MEd program. She is a LEGO® Education Academy Trainer and has been instrumental in developing and testing several LEGO® Education products. Disseler serves on the LEGO® Education Ambassadors Panel and is the trainer for the High Point University Teacher Academy for LEGO® Education. She has over 25 years of educational experience from elementary school teaching through higher education, including gifted education and exceptional children. She has recently started a new business called BrickEd on the Move that offers camps, field trips, and events based on learning with LEGO bricks.