Scratching the Surface

Back in December, I embarked on a journey to try the Hour of Code with all of my students.  While this may not seem like a huge deal, let's put some perspective on this.

When I was in school to become a teacher, computers had 5" floppy disks. The Instructional Technology of the day was an overhead projector~ and if lucky, a see-through calculator. Our first home computer was a Commodore 64, and I remember the Christmas my husband gave me Word Perfect  so that I could type my handouts instead of writing them. I felt accomplished as a teacher.

My Masters degree helped me embrace tech: I went to school virtually through ECU. Something that wasn't even possible at the time I got my undergrad!  So, approaching using tech with students is something I do when I feel like taking a risk. I'm never quite sure how it will turn out... and that's where I resume the story.

Imagine 24 Kindergarten students. Imagine coding. Put those 2 together. I wasn't sure where to start~ so I turned to an app called Scratch Jr.  .  I found the website extremely helpful with lesson plan pages that had step-by-step picture prompts for the kids. I thought we'd give it a go.

Armed with 12 iPads I'd set up with the free app,and copies of the prompt pages, I was set to go. I tried modeling and following steps- then having them replicate. No joy. Management this way wasn't working.  So we tried I'd do a step- they'd do a step- I'd do a step- they'd do a step. Much better, as I also included directions for when to trade the iPad. The initial challenge was to just move a car from one side of the screen to another.

Phase 2: I created a storyboard of a desert with 3 characters: butterfly, cat and penguin. I asked kids which animal would win a race in the desert? They explained that the penguin wasn't in the right environment- he needed cold. They explained the cat had to much fur and he would get tired first, and that the butterfly would win of the 3. Luckily, I programmed my board just that way!  We watched the race, then I challenged them to create their own.

So much fun! Kids were collaborating~ problem solving together what characters belonged in which setting, and then exploring how to move them from one side to the other- just how many steps would it take? You see, they had to place tiles that stated direction and distance- complete with a start/stop sequence to run the program.

It was then that I saw the beauty of coding with kids. They think they're playing. They're having fun. They're creating. But what's really going on?

  • communicating and expressing ideas
  • negotiating what to use and what should happen next
  • figuring out a sequence and order of events (so critical for reading development!)
  • storytelling (I had them narrate their race the next time in the library)
And the beauty for me: I  figured out that it's way ok to not know everything before you try and teach a lesson. Learning together is way more fun! It was a way to model exploration, failure, and perseverance.


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