elementary education

International Kids Day & #TweetADream, Part 2

Two evenings ago I posted about #TweetADream and the third grade students at SES. Today I worked with the 5th grade class on their own version of this project. Just like before, students were given the same instructions. However, they were told that their work would also be featured in a graduation video that I would put together after the project was finished. This time I took two pictures- one of the sign that could be posted online, and another that included the student’s face for the video.

The students settled down and thought hard. For this class, they focused on their own futures. Many listed the future career choice that they wished to have, or how they would make a difference in the world. As always, some students were very surprising in what they chose to write for their dreams. Every child worked carefully on their piece, wanting it to look great.

Because I wanted to create a graduation video with the photos, I also got the principal and their 5th grade teacher to create signs. For each of their dreams, they had to write what they wished for the students in the future. The students have no idea what either sign says, so it will be a surprise for them to read tonight!

In order to create the video, I set up a PowerPoint presentation and had each image on a slide. I also had a text box that restated the child’s sign in case it wasn’t easily readable, and then the child’s name below it. I set the timing for the slides, and then added in some royalty-free music. Kevin MacLeod’s site is always my go to for this purpose. I then savedit all as a video file. The result was fantastic.

Check out our images below!

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This one was my absolute favorite!

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What a noble dream!

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And here are the images from the principal and then the 5th grade teacher:

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International Kids Day & #TweetADream

It was by sheer luck on June 1 that I learned about the #TweetADream hashtag on Twitter. I saw one of my followers post about it and her dream for students. By the way, thanks @GrundlerArt for sharing it! Anyway, I thought it would be a very cool project to do with some students. We were down to two full days and 1 ½ day of school, and I thought that maybe some teachers would like another half hour activity to fill some space. I was able to book a third grade class on the 1st, and a 5th grade class for the 2nd. I’m actually hoping to incorporate 5th grade’s into their graduation tomorrow.

Before I go any further, here’s the idea behind it. A group on Twitter, @ourfutureworld, hosts the hashtag #TweetADream as part of International Kids Day. Kids around the world are to write their dream on a piece of paper and share via Twitter using the hashtag #TweetADream. What results is rather fantastic. Below, I’m going to share the results from the 3rd grade class that I worked with on 6/1. I’ll write another post to share the results of the 5th grade class for 6/2.

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This one was one of my favorite results! 🙂

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What a wonderful dream for our world!

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Another one of my favorites 🙂

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I love the way the student illustrated this one… then again I’m a Minecraft nerd myself!

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I’m so proud of this student’s work… he spent a long time coming up with this and it turned out fantastic!

Did you participate in #TweetADream? Let me know!

The 1st #MysterySkype Experience

When I last posted about #mysteryskype, the 5th grade class was just getting started on preparing for their very first session with a class in North Carolina. Our first trial run through was a rough one, though necessary, and allowed us to figure out the kinks in our process. I finished drawing up plans for the regular classroom teacher, and left location challenges for his class to solve to practice for the actual Skype session. I wouldn’t be back at the school until the Friday of our Skype date, so I was a bit worried that things might not actually work out as planned or go smoothly.

I checked in with the regular teacher on Friday morning, and he reported that things had improved greatly. I set up about putting together our setup while the students practiced one final time before the Skype session. Of course I would have issues with my computer running slowly, but the kids happily attributed that to the fact that it was Friday the 13th. I did get everything into place though and set up. The other class was ready before us, and we were able to get started about 15 minutes early. I had some issues getting the sound to work with the one system, so I had to switch over, but once that was taken care of, we were ready to begin.

Our class began with our introductions, and then we played “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who got to ask the first question. Unlike in our practice session, the students were armed with a first question in mind. We won the game, and got to ask the first question. From there, the session proceeded, with each class asking questions back and forth. Our setup allowed for two students in front to answer the questions asked/ask their classmates’
questions. Four students were message runners for areas of the room, and the rest of the students were using Google Maps and a laminated map of the United States to research and narrow down locations. Their teacher had helped them develop the “cut in half” strategy, and they had to work to cut the area left to work with in half with each question.

The North Carolina class figured out our location first by guessing our state. We had prepared our class to search as deep as a specific town, just in case. It only took about two more questions before our class figured out the state for the other class.

Then came the fun part- school, community, and state information! Without giving away the specific name of the school, each class talked about the makeup of their school, the type of day or special projects, the community around them, and then some state information. Our class had not had much time to research their information, but we really enjoyed what the other class did. They had a speaker for the school, the community, and the state, and broke their presentation down that way. It is something this class noted and may consider for future sessions. I made sure to record this part for documentation, and so that we could replay the video to the students in the future.

We then said our goodbyes and began our reflection on the activity. I was thoroughly impressed with the students’ work and behavior on camera, as was their teacher. The students commented on this as well, and how well they worked together. The only improvement we really had for the students was that they needed to be faster in getting their questions to the question runner and then deciding which question to ask.

The students had been promised that they could do at least one more Skype session before the school year ended if they did well on their first one. I’ve set about contacting the two classrooms that wanted to set up sessions with us if our first session went well. We are scheduled to do our 2nd Mystery Skype May 20 in the morning. This time, we’ll be working with a school from Missouri!

If you want to check out these teachers from our first session on Twitter, or get in touch with them for a Mystery Skype session of your own, contact @agcrilley or @MrsPageTurner. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you!

Playing Around with Bee-Bot

Playing Around With Bee-Bot

One of my posts last year focused on a neat little robot called Bee-Bot. I had originally seen him during the local library’s STEM night and knew I wanted him for unplugged coding activities. Bee-Bot is exactly what he sounds like: a robot that looks like a bee. Bee-Bot has buttons on his back to create his programming- forward, backward, turn right, turn left, clear, pause, and go. He’s best suited for younger students in K-4, though older students could participate by designing challenges. Bee-Bot was developed by Terrapin Software.

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Many options are available for purchasing Bee-Bot. Some are necessary, others, not so much. The basic order includes only Bee-Bot for $90. He includes a USB charger. Of course, there are options to purchase multiple Bee-Bot kits, and even an option to get a large charging base for multiple Bee-Bots. However, unless a lot of funding is available, this isn’t something to consider for quite some time.

A purchase that I consider to be necessary for Bee-Bot is the Problem-Solving with Bee-Bot curriculum. This is a great tool to utilize in addition to whatever curriculum is being
used to teach computer science basics. Young students get the hands-on experience necessary to complement their work on the computer. The curriculum includes a CD with PDF files. The PDF files are challenges for Bee-Bot users to complete. They range in difficulty levels, and each level has a variety of options to solve. This curriculum is $100, but worth the cost to the teacher, as it includes over 140 different challenges that can be printed and utilized.

Another purchase that I found necessary, though others may not, was the Bee-Bot Card Mat. It too can be pricey, and does cost another $70. One of the big reasons I recommend it is because it lays out the grid with the correct length that Bee-Bot must move forward. It’s also sturdy, and has a plastic film that any designed mats can be placed under to use.

The other options for purchase on the website I wouldn’t consider necessary, but they are useful to have. There are many different mat options already created for classroom use. There is also another curriculum created that is geared toward K-2 subject areas. Command cards were also designed for the teacher who decides that they need to utilize them. If one gets tired of Bee-Bot’s yellow and black bee design, there are Bee-signer Jackets available to purchase that can be decorated with markers or stickers.

I was lucky enough last fall to receive a small grant from a community foundation to purchase Bee-Bot, the Problem-Solving with Bee-Bot curriculum, and a card mat. I was unable to actually use Bee-Bot until this spring, however. I wanted to have my SES Coder Kids try something different, and for them to make connections between plugged and unplugged coding. I completed all of the activities with my K-4 students, as my 5th graders were wanting to continue working on their Code.org course. Some of them were close to finishing.

Our first meeting with Bee-Bot involving talking about what it was and what it could do. Students in each group were introduced to the robot, and we spent some time discussing the buttons on its back as well. I demonstrated how Bee-Bot worked, and then each Coder had a chance to program him as they wished to see what he would do. Once every Coder had had a chance, then it was time to complete some challenges on the fly. Basically, I would select a starting point for Bee-Bot, and then have two students select points- one to be an end point, and the other to be a point that Bee-Bot had to go through on the way. Coders in each group had to get him through both points, but the path they made Bee-Bot take didn’t matter. When some of the older groups got the hang of that, another through point was added to the challenge.

Our next meeting with Bee-Bot introduced the challenges from the Problem Solving with Bee-Bot curriculum. I printed off the range of Difficulty 1 challenges, and made extra copies. I then sat down with each group and we worked through the challenges. We always
completed one challenge together as a group before splitting off and working in smaller groups. Each group would work together to solve the challenge, and then report back to the mat to try out their solution. Every group was required to write their program on the challenge paper. Many times, the groups learned that their code wasn’t correct in some way, and had to return to the drawing board.

I still have one more meeting with each coding group this year before the school year ends. With the exception of my kindergarteners, the rest will most likely move on to Difficulty 2 challenges in their groups.

I’ve learned quite a few things about Bee-Bot and the students I have worked with on the challenges. There’s definitely a large developmental difference between kindergarten and the other groups. While this is an obvious thought, it’s interesting to see in action. With my kindergarteners, we did the challenges together as a group. It was very hard
for the students to distinguish left and right still, and there were some issues working out how to write down the program correctly. With some guidance, these students were able to complete the challenges set before them.

First and second grade students may still have trouble with left and right from time to time. However, they are capable of working together in small groups without the teacher providing 100% support. With these students, we would complete one of the challenges together after going over the programming code and how to write the code on the challenge paper. The students would then go off into small groups and write down how they thought the program should function. They would return to the mat when they felt their code was correct and we would test it out. If the challenge failed, then we would
discuss what went wrong, and the students would go off to their groups to see how to fix it. They would return to try again. Once a challenge was successfully completed, they would receive a new challenge to complete.

Third and fourth grade students typically did not have an issue with the beginning challenges. After reviewing similar directions with these groups, we simply went over one of the challenges pages I had kept from my kindergarten group’s meeting. We reviewed how it was solved, and how any challenge should be solved. Once finished, these students then received their challenge papers, split into groups, and off they went. Just like the first and second grade groups, they solved their challenge and then returned to the mat to try it out. If the program didn’t work correctly, then they returned to their group and redesigned the program so that it did.

Here are some ideas for using Bee-Bot:

Design a challenge: Students use the challenge layout to create their own challenges for other students. They must be able to correctly solve their own puzzle before letting other students use it. Students can trade challenges and complete.

Design a mat challenge: This is similar to the above, but slightly different. Students must design their own mat for use with Bee-Bot. It might be a mat that tells a story, or provides an obstacle course for Bee-Bot. Students must design the rules or challenges to be used with the mat.

Reverse challenge: Instead of writing the code for a design, as presented by the original challenges, students must write a program to create a particular design. Once they are certain that their program and finished design work, they give only the program code to another group. The group must input the code, and draw the resulting design.

Overall, Bee-Bot is a refreshing change of pace for students who have been working with coding on the computer. It gives them a chance to experience coding in a new way, and build problem-solving skills that will come in handy later on as they move through the grade.

Lesson Plan: Budgeting a Clothing Allowance

This was originally taught to a 5th grade class at the elementary school where I work. I wanted to incorporate real world skills into our Learning Excel section. I needed to introduce simple formulas to the students, as well as teach them how to format their spreadsheet. Since it is real world math skills, I tagged it as mathematics, even though very few standards match up to it. However, I feel that learning how to create a budget is very important, and that this was a good start for the students. This can certainly be adapted for older students as well.

Summary: Students will use the Excel app, Target.com, and Popplet to
create a budget for themselves with a specified clothing allowance.

Lesson plan link here

Preparing for 1st Mystery Skype

Recently I happened to be on Twitter when I saw a tweet pop up on #wvedchat. A teacher was requesting a Mystery Skype session with a K-5 class from West Virginia. I’ve never done Mystery Skype, and it’s something that I’ve only recently been hearing more about. Since I don’t have my own classroom, I sought out the first teacher I knew that might be up for letting me assist him with this project. He was more than happy to have his class participate after I explained the concept to him, and thought it would be fun for his 5th graders to do.

After explaining the concept with him, I contacted the teacher again to let her know I had a classroom for her, and we’ve settled on a potential day- May 13 in the morning. That gives me two afternoons next week to prep the class for this activity. I fear that it may not be enough, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, and this is part of the reason why I picked an older class to try it with.

So far I’ve done a little bit of research and found the Mystery Skype page on Skype’s website. I’ve gotten ahold of the OneNote Class Notebook, and now have to figure out a logical way to present things to the class to prepare them for their job ahead. I’m not worried about the connecting part itself. I’ve done Skype video calls through the school network myself, and will most likely have my computer set up for the activity. I have a great webcam with a built-in mic that I’ll use as well.

I figure if I can get together a teaching plan to prepare the class during the days I am at this school next week, and things for the teacher to do when I am not here, then it will go more smoothly. I know he will need specific directions to go along with the Class Notebook that I’ll share with him. Most of the students do have their Office 365 accounts, but there are also those who were not given permission to receive one yet this year. I’m going to attempt to tweak it so that we don’t need those.

I believe my biggest fear currently is that this will go terribly wrong in the end. I fear that even with enough planning, the students won’t be ready, or something will go awry. I know the only way to tackle said fear is to plan and hope for the best. We definitely won’t run super smoothly the first time, but we’ll do our best and reflect to figure out what could be done differently in the end.

I am eager to see how this will all turn out in the end. It’s an exciting endeavor and one I hope the kids will find engaging. If anyone has any tips or tricks for our first time, please tweet them my way: @tisinaction.

Getting Started with Coding and Code.org

Coding is one of the popular buzzwords these days in education. I got started with it last year in April. I’m slowly starting to find other teachers interested in coding in my current district. Some of them have found articles in newspapers or online, and they ask me about what I do with my coding clubs. I explain each club, and what the groups do. The biggest
question I get is “What is the easiest way to get started?”

For the majority of teachers, coding is a brand new concept, and a bit scary to think about. Very few have any kind of background knowledge in the field, and yet, they are discovering that it’s starting to become integrated into education, and in some cases, even becoming law. Terms, languages, programs, where to begin?

My goal is to get teachers started without scaring them, and so my recommendation is for them to begin with Code.org, especially if they are an elementary or middle school teacher. Of course, Code.org isn’t the only program out there, but it has been the easiest for teachers use with students, and it’s free. It also has the capability to set up multiple classrooms. The big seller is the self-guided course. Teachers don’t have to come up with the curriculum, and they don’t have to know anything about coding when starting students on the self-guided course. In addition, the self-guided course also tracks all student data, and provides an answer key in case students and teachers are stumped. The courses are geared at students from kindergarten on up, so even the youngest of students can get started without having to be ableto read.

Before we get too deep into the subject, let’s look at what Code.org offers teachers. There are many Hour of Code activities. Theseactivities are meant to jump start students’ passion with coding, and can be completed in an hour or less. Code.org is even so kind as to link to other websites for Hour of Code. There are 20 hour courses to be completed, from
kindergarten on up. If you’re looking for stats on computer science and the field of computer science, you’ll find that there as well.

To get started, I do highly recommend that teachers see if a Code.org training is available in their area soon. This training gives teachers experience with both the course work and the unplugged activities that students will complete while using Code.org. The all-day training is hands-on and interactive. At the very end, you’ll go home with a bag of goodies, including a paper copy of the curriculum. Within the coming weeks, you’ll also receive a box of supplies to help with one of the courses in the program. Check here to see if there is a program available in your area!

If a training session isn’t available, teachers will need to rely on the information provided by the website. The first step then is to create an account. The sign-up process is relatively simple, and once the teacher has signed up, they have access to all of the course work and the ability to create classes and student accounts. The teacher can also work through each of the courses on their own, which I recommend, as it helps teachers help students problem solve when they are stuck.

Let’s start with what is available. For students in K-5, there are Courses 1-4, plus an Accelerated Course option. Course 1 is meant for students ages 4-6 years old, and requires very little reading experience. Courses 2-4 are meant for all other elementary students. Students begin with Course 2 and progress through to the next courses. The Accelerated Course is a combination of all of the courses, and actually the one I begin my middle school students with. Each course is estimated to take about 20 hours a piece, but this also depends on the student. I’ve had some students fly through their coursework, and others struggle.

Middle school students can complete the Accelerated Course, but their teachers have the option to use the Computer Science in Algebra or the Computer Science in Science courses. In order to do so, however, teachers are required to attend professional development first. This is where it’s tricky because if your district is not partnered with Code.org, you’ll have to have your district apply. Applications are not available year round, and applications for the 2016-2017 year are already full. CS in Algebra is made possible by Code.org and Bootstrap. Students learn algebraic and geometric concepts during the program, and work on some basic video game design in the process. Computer Science in Science is made possible by Code.org and Project GUTS. During this program, students learn about computer science with a focus on modeling and simulation. Even if your district is not yet partnered, Code.org allows anyone to check out the coursework once an account is created.

For high school teachers, two more course options are available. Once again, however, a district must be partnered with Code.org in order for teachers to attend professional development training. As with the middle school courses, teachers can explore the course work once they have an account on the website. The two courses are Exploring Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles. Each of these courses are meant to last the entire year. Both courses do require intensive training in order to get started. If your district is wanting to implement either of these courses, then begin planning the steps to become partnered with Code.org first. Once that’s done, then you can figure out your next course of action.

Code.org certainly isn’t the end all when it comes to coding in the classroom. However, if you’re an elementary or middle school teacher looking to get started quickly, have ways to track student data, and have solutions to every lesson at your fingertips, then it’s a great place to start. Once teachers are comfortable, and they feel students are ready for more
challenges, it’s very easy to branch out and seek other options. With so many being available online these days, teachers are certain to not run out of options any time soon!