Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 11: Coding

Last year, I tried coding out with one of my 6th grade classes as filler, in-between units. They loved it and it was probably the most engaged I had seen them the whole year (and we do some pretty fun projects in 6th grade-if I do say so myself). So this year, when I saw coding on the Cool Tools list again, with time to plan for participation in The Hour of Code, I knew what I wanted to do for my Cool tools activity!

I decided to go all in and devote all our library classes, for grades 1st-5th, to coding lessons for the month of December. First, I spent some time exploring the The Hour of Code website and looking for ideas and potential lessons. (Side note: does anyone else find The Hour of Code site difficult to navigate? I was constantly finding something interesting only to struggle to locate it later when I’d go back to the site. I also kept forgetting how to get to the lessons for elementary school students…) I played around with some of the lessons available for elementary students on Code Studio and selected the ones I wanted my 3rd, 4th & 5th grade classes to tackle each week. Then, I created a special section of the library website for Hour of Code. In that section, I had a spot for each of those grade levels and each week, I’d add the link to the coding lesson they were going to try during class. For my 1st and 2nd grade classes, I made sure the class library iPads all had the app Daisy the Dinosaur installed on them.

The first week of the month, I introduced the kids to the idea of computer coding, what it is, how we use it and, we talked about how it might be useful in their futures. We watched some of the videos available on The Hour of Code website and I would show them how to find their class’s lesson of the week on the library website. Then, I sent them off to the library computers to try lesson one. With my 1st and 2nd grade classes, I used the mirroring feature on the library’s Apple TV to show them the Daisy the Dinosaur app. I went over the layout of the screen and we went through all of the challenge levels together with them instructing me on what to do and explaining why we needed to do it that way (“Why does Daisy need to move before she jumps to get to the star? Why can’t she just jump?”).

During week two and three of the month with my 3rd-5th grade classes, we meet at my SmartBoard tables and would start the class with a brief discussion of what we learned or noticed the week before. Then, I would walk them through a few examples of that week’s lesson before releasing them to try it for themselves. For week two with my 1st and 2nd grade classes, I gave each student a library iPad and let them play with the Daisy the Dinosaur app independently. (Week 3 was our last full week of school before December break so I read them my favorite holiday stories.)

Any class I had the fourth week (our last two days before break), was allowed to explore any lesson or activity they liked on the Code Studio site.

Overall, I would call my first dabble with The Hour of Code a huge success! December is one of the worst months of the school year to actually try to teach kids something but with coding, my students were eager, excited, on task and focused. It was awesome to walk around and see them working through problems, helping each other problem solve and carefully planning something out. Behavior problems were practically nil because they knew misbehavior would cost them computer time and no one wanted to lose time on the computers! I had sent an email to all the teachers inviting them to stop and check out what we were doing and personally dropped by the principal’s office with the same invitation at the beginning of the month. While none of my teachers opted to stay and check out a full coding class, several came back early to see what their students were up to and many asked about the coding lessons when picking their classes up. Unfortunately, the day my principal was going to pop in, she ended up being sidetracked by a discipline problem so she never got to see the coding in action either. But really, the only downside to trying the Hour of Code was that there wasn’t more time to play with it! I’ve already added a link to the Code Studio page to the library website’s “Just for Fun” page and I will absolutely be writing this into my plans for next year!

One response to “Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 11: Coding”

  1. Wow! What a great project. Love that the kids were so engaged and the teachers took such an interest too. Proof that this stuff does work for the younger students. Well done! And thanks for such a detailed post. So useful for others who want to do the same.

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