Thursday, November 21, 2013

Making Time for Coding with Kids

Last year I completed a coding project with a 5th grade class. This was such a rewarding experience, for me, and I think the kids got something out of it too. Actually, I don't just think that, I know it.  One student in particular, whose coding project was voted most creative, emailed me at the beginning of this year about his lack of time to code.  At the end of the project last year he had asked about more challenging coding programs, so I sent him information about MIT's Scratch program and when school started this year he sent me this:

"I honestly forgot about scratch. But when I looked at it, it was amazing and I don't have time to spend on it because of the amount of homework in 6th grade and in the weekends my dad takes us off the computer  sometimes so i have little time to use scratch."

When I read this I told myself that I needed to do something to make time for kids to code, at home or at school, whenever.  My feelings were confirmed when I walked into a 6th grade classroom this year that had several of my coding kids from last year.  As I spoke to the teacher I heard whispering and comments like, "There she is!" "That's the lady we got to use Hopscotch with last year".  One student came up to me and asked if we could do the project again this year.  I talked with several of the students and asked them about heir experience. They talked about how fun the project was and that it was hard, especially at first, to learn but that they wanted to do it again.  There was a real sense of accomplishment in these students. 

You can read more about our 5th Grade Code In Project 2013 here

This year I am encouraging teachers in my school district to code with every student.  I believe programming and computer science courses should be a requirement, not an elective.  Anyone can AND SHOULD know how to code. It is the universal language of our digital future. 

I am using the Hour of Code as a kicking off point for coding in our schools.  During Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013, I am hoping all students will get the opportunity to participate in an hour of coding in their classrooms. Prior to the event I am sending out information and videos that teachers can share with their students to get them excited about the Hour of Code. Below is a 60 second teaser to get students and teachers interested.

This video with James Gwertzman from walks teachers through the Hour of Code event and shows them how to sign up and get their classes involved.

Most teachers are not coders, but this is not a reason to keep kids from coding.  The Hour of Code is an opportunity for everyone to get a little exposure to coding.  The tutorials being offered are fun and build self confidence.  Teachers can learn WITH their students and share that experience together.  I completed the tutorial: Write Your First Computer Program. It took me less than an hour and I had a blast programming my Angry Bird to get all the piggies!  I even earned this certificate.

There are a variety of tutorials to introduce you and your students to coding.  You can even learn to code with no computers using the "unplugged" activity, My Robotic friends.  You can check out all of the tutorials here. I encourage all teachers to take one hour and explore coding with their students.  Projects like these can inspire students to pursue STEM fields and allows all students to experience success in completing a critical thinking task.  

Take a look at the information I sent to teachers to support them in hosting an Hour of Code in their classrooms.

Click here to go to this Google Doc
As Dr. Kenneth Wesson pointed out at the STEM Symposium I attended earlier this week, "We were born to invent, innovate and improvise".  Coding allows our students to do all of this while creating meaningful work that can be used to improve learning. Most of the students in my 5th Grade Coding Project created math, science and word games to help teach their 1st grade buddies.  Dr. Wesson also stated that emotion drives attention and attention drives learning. My coding students learned more than I could have imagined because they were connected by emotion and the desire share their work and help others.

I would love to hear how others are coding in their classrooms and schools. If you have ideas please share in the comments.

  • “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer
    because it teaches you how to think.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Common Core Literacy Tool

I started using this tool with secondary alternative education students to help them read and understand informative texts and convey their ideas effectively.

Newsela - Common Core Literacy Tool

Newsela builds close reading and critical thinking skills while giving your students a new way to climb the staircase of nonfiction reading comprehension, from fourth grade to college-ready. Articles are written at multiple levels of text complexity. Teachers simply click a button and the reading level is automatically adjusted.

Newsela makes it easy to assign articles, review student quizzes and track Common Core mastery. Teachers can create classes, assign articles and assign quizzes to measure comprehension. The teacher dashboard lets you track assigned articles, review quizzes and monitor standards mastery. Students register for Newsela and create an account using the class code - no email necessary. Students are able to adjust the reading level of the assigned article which can encourage re-reading.  Teachers are able to see at what level the student read the article and how they scored on the quiz. Another feature is that articles are conneted to the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. You can see the standard by hovering over the anchor at the top of the article title. Progress on these standards can be monitored by individual student on the teacher dashboard.

Hold an interactive read aloud for the whole class.  Model fluent and engaged reading of informational text. Prompt students for questioning the text to push them to infer from the article and expand their comprehension. Take the quiz together as a class and then assign another article for students to complete on their own. After reading the second article have students blog about their opinion of the article. Students should ask a question at the end of their blog post to encourage commenting. Extension: Ask students to research a related news article and include a link to it on their blog post and explain why they chose it. SAMR LEVEL: Modification

Newsela is free