Just a quick post today to give a shout-out to 5th graders for doing a fantastic job persisting. They have been working hard on skill-building in Code.org on variables. We are looking forward to the second half of the school year where we will be applying a variety of concepts in some final products.
Coding variables supports math concepts in finding patterns and utilizing changing values in their work. As students begin to work on algebra concepts this is a great introduction to understanding those concepts. It is also important that students collaborate with each other to solve difficult problems and understand the thinking process. We spent a good bit of time doing "I do, We do" activities to go along with this so students could hear what good thinking sounds like.
WOW! What a week! We received a new Flash Forge 3-D Printer courtesy of a generous donor from DonorsChoose.org. My students were so excited to see and experience this new piece of technology in our classroom. As we started to explore and experience we took some time this week in class to do A LOT of Notice and Wondering. Check out our video below!
We began discussing how we can design objects of our own. We noticed that now we can manufacture them in a rough draft form called a "prototype". We wondered why would an engineer do something like this? We made connections to how the design, engineering and manufacturing process is just like the writing process. We assessed our models to see how we could make them better for next time. This definitely began the seeds of some engaging activities to come.
I am very excited to continue to grow our STEM and Coding Encore class around activities that interest and engage our students. Stay tuned!
Pre-Schoolers and Kindergarten is a great age to begin the concept of following algorithms and coding. You are truly giving students an opportunity to find new ways of thinking and allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them forcing them to think another way. However, some might say this is quite a challenge when there is a lot of research to show that screen time for children is not necessarily a good thing. That is where "unplugged" activities and games come into play. "Robot Races" by ALEX toys is an easy, engaging and fun way to introduce this concept.. Now this game can be easily created but I figured the $12 price tag that I paid was light enough on the wallet, although I believe the price has gone up more since I bought it. Made for ages 4+, the kids create a path from start to finish and place activity blocks down. The idea is to use the included timer and see who can create the faster path. However, with Pre-K and Kindergarten we did not use the timer. They were just excited to get up and move!
It was very interesting to see the different ways each child took to complete the path from start to finish. Some students made paths that went from start to finish with no actions, while others purposefully made paths that went through each of the actions so they could do jumping jacks and spin in circles.
I would highly recommend activities like this. I used this in my Pre-K classes, Kindergarten and Life Skills classes. All of them wanted to play and create paths and then make a challenge for someone else. Once we learned this activity, it became a station the kids could play, however it did require a good bit of continued guidance from myself. As a follow-up activity to take things to the next level, I introduced students to Botley Coding robots and Fischer Price Code-a-pillar. I'll follow up with those activities in one of my next posts.
December is Computer Science education month. The first week of December is the kickoff with Computer Science education week December 3-9. The emphasis on Computational Thinking is becoming more prevalent in education today. Coding is a great way to foster those skills. Over the last 5 years I have been using the website Code.org with my 5th and 4th grade students to teach them the concepts of coding. However, just 3 years ago, at my school, we began an initiative to give all students access to these skills by creating a class that students visit approximately 1 time a week for 50 minutes just like they would go to PE, art, music, or media, that focuses on Computational Thinking and specifically, Coding. The elementary age is the perfect time to begin building the foundation for these skills just like any other academic subject. Once a solid foundation is laid than when they go on to middle school, high school and beyond, they will have a leg-up on those future careers.
Mitch Resnick, creator of the Scratch software, in his TED talk shares about the importance of why kids should learn to code. It’s a way for students to create and use their imagination. They continue to have a sense of accomplishment and it supports multiple standards in math and science. The importance of the process of design and taking an idea and creating something functional out of that idea.
Elementary age students need a lot of exploration and hands-on time when learning to code. With so many resources and materials out there, here a few of my favorites for elementary age.
Thanks for joining me! My goal is to further share some of the solid activities, resources, and know-how that I have been working on for the past 2+ years now. I am also hoping to make some connections and learn a few things as well. I teach at a rural school of 750+ students in Washington County, Maryland. With my 15 years of experience teaching middle school technology, 5th and 4th grades, and now my most recently created venture of teaching elementary coding and STEM skills, it’s time to share out what we do.
Computational Thinking is a concept that has really come to the forefront of education. Coding skills and resources have become the driving force behind reinforcing and teaching this concept. Fortunately, many schools are now putting this practice into action. Unfortunately, at a lot of schools, it is getting put into an already packed area of Library and Media. While I am glad to see it happening, I believe that Coding and STEM skills deserve their own class. While yes, “digital and coding” literacy is important and considered an essential nowadays, “literature and research” literacy should not be put aside. The two content areas can co-exist but “digital and coding” literacy needs its own place to shine.
Now going on our third year, our school has successfully implemented this strategy. Our students participate daily in the arts and literacy by attending a Wellness / PE class, music class, art class, library and media class and a Coding and STEM class. The following Edutopia article states, “kids who code in the classroom have the same neuroplasticity as those who learn a second language when they are young.”
Coding in the Classroom: A Long-Overdue Inclusion
It is important our students develop a solid foundation in computational thinking. It is not an option to just dabble in this content here and there, it is imperative that students are immersed in it regularly.
When I trained as a teacher, the position that I hold now did not exist at that time. However, the experiences that I immersed myself in brought me to where I am today. Our students need this immersion today to have the skills they need for their future.
"Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter." — Izaak Walton