I hear this; I'm sure everyone has heard some variation of this; I'm sure I said something like this when I was in the classroom about something at some point.
And, I get it. With the demands of state testing and performance evaluations, it is easy to focus in on those tested subjects, to spend the majority of our time with math and reading. And, I agree. Those are very important content areas because as we know students who struggle with math and reading will likely struggle with science and social studies because the core skills of comprehension and computation are necessities inside of those areas as well.
Then, computer science standards showed up in the state standards this year. However, having a kindergartner myself who loves to code on my computer and my tablet and with the robots in my room, I know that they are capable, truly enjoy it, and learn constantly while doing it.
So, my goal: find ways to embed coding into the core content areas. It really isn't that difficult to do, so hopefully with a couple of ideas you can add some coding, critical thinking, and collaboration into a classroom while still working in those reading and math skills.
Beebots: They're not just for the little ones.
The Basics: Set up a grid on lamination that each square is 4.5 in by 4.5 in to measure up to the Beebot's movement.
2nd graders were talking main idea, supporting detail, and doesn't belong. For 4 main ideas, the supporting details as well as the distractors that didn't belong were placed under the grid. Students selected a main idea and had to code the Beebot to get to the correct 4 supporting details all while being careful to not select the tricky detail that didn't quite belong or an entirely different detail for another main idea.
This activity challenged the students. Not only were they having to figure out main idea and supporting details, they were also having to program the Beebot in the correct sequence to get to the answer. Even more challenging for many, students had to work collaboratively to accomplish the tasks and had to work on cooperation and communication--essential 21st century skills!
Kindergartners are practicing Base Ten, so we set up a similar idea. We put 20 different numbers until the grid. Students drew a number set up in Base Ten and they had to code the Beebot to the correct numerical number.
It's easy to see the Beebots as just primary or lower elementary but totally not true! Our Algebra teacher used them as she provided an algebraic expression. Students had to simplify the expression and then code the Beebot to the simplified expression. Coding the Beebot in order to create a geometry proof would be another easy way to apply the same idea.
In middle or high school English, students can code to the details that BEST support a main idea, a common question on state tests or types of persuasive appeals. In chemistry, students can code from the element name to the element symbol or even the atomic number. The opportunities are endless.
With these easy activities students are practicing the content, but they are also learning so many other skills along the way. Yes, coding. But they are learning about critical thinking, cooperation, collaboration, communication, and content all rolled into one activity students have fun doing.
Dot and Dash: And yes, Kinders can code them too!
Same idea as the Beebots but the coding becomes more challenging. They are actually going to have to use Blockly to create their code this time around.
Dot and Dash are great for talking about angles and we've seen them used in 2nd grade all the way through geometry as they practice translation and rotation. My own kindergartner even codes with Dash, so the opportunities are endless.