Tuesday, January 24, 2017

...But I Don't Have Time to Teach Coding...

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.

Just give them a try! Coding really does work into the everyday content of your classroom and you will be teaching your students so much more than programming in the process!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Highlight Reel of 2016

I decided that this year I would actually make it a priority to blog.  Last year, I kept telling my self that I would and then... I wouldn't.  Something always came up; something always took priority.

I have seen some unbelievable things happening in classrooms over the last year, and I want nothing more than to share those.  So here are my top 5 things I loved doing last year and can't wait to do more of this year.  Oh, and I added one more because, well... I wanted to.

5. Connect with another country, another culture!

We have been lucky enough to connect with classrooms across the globe, but sometimes it is easy to explore Mystery Hangout after Mystery Hangout and teachers forget that hangouts can be used for so many content-specific collaborations.  This 6th grade class connected with a class is Brazil to each discuss natural wonders in their ecosystems and explain the effects if elements of their ecosystems were to change. It was powerful because they were digging deep into their content while connecting, engaging, and learning with students from a different culture and background.

4. Green Screen Something!

Using a green screen is a super easy and cheap way to engage students in content, creation, and creativity.  We've had high school PSA's on drug use and digital citizenship, and we've also had elementary students create weather reports or social studies projects.  All it takes is a painted green wall (or even a plastic tablecloth or piece of fabric) and a $5 Do Ink on iPads.  It's so easy that second graders are recording each other!

 3. Breakout!

At this point it seems like everyone has tried a Breakout box with their students, but if you haven't, it's a must! Students reviewed novels, digital citizenship, and content areas galore. Using the box, they even practiced teamwork, cooperation, and critical thinking.  Our staff even used it for teambuilding and professional development. From kindergartners to seniors in high school, a breakout box gets students engaged and active in their learning.

2. Plotting Points Battleship

This is one my favorite ideas we came up with last year.  I had a 6th grade math teacher that wanted to practice plotting coordinate pairs in all four quadrants, so we developed this game of Battleship. On a graph, students plotted the points of their ships before the hangout call was made.  A google doc was shared between a pair of students in one classroom and a pair in our classroom.  Just like Battleship, students had to guess their coordinate of their opponents' ships.  In the shared doc, students responded with hit or miss.  -15 to 15 was super tricky and took a long time, but they loved watching the reactions of the teams on the hangout as they played! We have also tried this with just quadrant one and it's just as fun! Prepare to sink those ships as students plot an unbelievable amount of points in a short period of time!

1. Integrate Coding into Your Content!

Whether studying main idea/supporting details in 2nd grade or translations and rotations in geometry, there are constant ways to integrate coding into your core content curriculum.  I hear all too often that there isn't time for things like coding, but when integrated into your content area, you are providing students core curriculum, basic coding, and critical thinking skills that will serve them well long from now.

+1 Print Something in 3D!

If your school has the capability, try to brainstorm ways for students in all grades and all contents to utilize the 3D printer.  Our second graders designed and printed wheels for a science experience in which they were learning about motion, friction, and gravity.  Our third graders created buildings that must be comprised of a variety of 3D shapes that they must identify and measure.  Our high school geometry class used old building records and live measurements to build a scale model replication of our downtown area including the original Indiana courthouse.  Students are capable of these types of creations and they are excited and actively involved in the learning process.