Thursday, June 18, 2015

Coding in the Elementary Classroom

Our students are growing up in a completely different world than we did. Coding has become an integral part of all our lives.  Learning the language of computers should be a vital component of our curriculum. Technology is a huge part of our students' future. 

I try to incorporate computer science activities in my classroom weekly.  Over the course of the weeks not only do my students learn how to code, but they learn so many important life-skills.  Students participate in "Plugged" and Unplugged" activities.  Each year, with some guidance and little help, my students begin their journey into coding and programming.

What do my students learn?
Problem Solving
Logical Reasoning
Critical Thinking
Cause and Effect
Being Inquisitive
Communication Skills
Having Fun

They also learn about algorithms, debugging, variables, events, conditionals, and how to loop. Having persistence is one skill they develop very quickly.  Yes, my students learn how to create code to run programs, create games, animation, and interactive stories.  I have a lot of enthusiastic future computer scientists in my class each year.

What do we use to code?  My favorite site is Site for the basis of my lessons, but that didn't stop us from using several other programs and apps to code. With budget restraints over the years, we use all programs and apps that are free and there are plenty of great ones out there.

On day one, we create a Padlet Wall to share what we already know about coding or what we want to learn. Here is what some of my soon to be fifth graders had to say.
Computer Science Education Week:  December 4th-10th
Hour of Code Activities
Robots and Circuits

There are several new Hour of Code activities that have been added to the site.  Follow @teachcode on Twitter to keep updated on all the exciting new activities that are being added and updated.

Box Island: Hour of Code 2017
Now a new free app by Radiant Games has been added to the Hour of Code - Box Island: One Hour of Coding.
Post on Box Island 2015

Swift Playgrounds is one of my students new favorite coding apps. It was just released September 2016.  You can learn programming and the language of code while having fun using  Swift Playgrounds on the iPad. Your iPad does need to be updated to iOS 10 in order to download.

PBS Kids ScratchJr  MIT Media Lab PBS Kids ScratchJr  is based on ScratchJr programming language. Student select from over 150 PBS characters to create games and stories using coding concepts. Using colorful coding blocks students can get their characters to dance, sing, hop, run, and move in different directions. Students can create their own projects or select a Story Starter. Within the app there is an Interface Guide, Paint Editor Guide, and Blocks Guide to assist students in learning how to code. - Website 
We used the site each day.  It was the basis for the programing class. We completed both "Plugged" and "Unplugged" activities. 

Student select either Jack or Steve as their character. You will use blocks to code through the Minecraft world.

Students will create a galaxy with code. Two options are available; using drag-drop blocks,or drag-drop box using JavaScript.

Tynker and Hour of Code  Tynker will be participating in Hour of Code by offering programming some new coding activities for students from Kindergarten through the 8th grade. For students in third grade and older there is Hot Wheels and Monster High puzzle sets.  For older students they are offering Code Commander and Code Monster. I will be using the Tynker website with my students.

Free Apps and Sites for Programming and Coding

Scratch - Website 
Students will need to have an email account to use Scratch on the website.

ScratchJr - App 
ScratchJr was one of my 
students favorites for coding. Students were able to program their own games and interactive stories. They created characters that they were able to make move, dance, jump, and even sing.  They were extremely motivated as they were using language and math to design projects and solve problems.  ScratchJr was developed by MIT.

Lightbot -                            
One Hour Coding - App
Students can guide a robot to light up tiles in LIghtbot. They used procedures and commands to solve 50 different levels. As they work through the levels they collect challenge stars. Students use their programming skills with procedures, using loops and conditionals. It helped introduce my students to programming concepts.


Fix the Factory - App  There is a LEGO robot that students use code and commands to program.  You pick up multi-colored battery packs and put them where they belong.  Students program the robot to get through a maze to power up the factory.

The Foos - App  
Students had to program characters in The Foos to complete the different levels.  There are forty-two levels plus a toy box for students to use.  They can creatively create their own programs. 


Cargo-Bot    Students teach a robot to move crates by using code in Cargo-Bot. There are 36 puzzles and it uses the program Codea.

Kodable is a kid-friendly way to introduce programing concepts.  It is much better with the current updates. Students guide a character along a path and they use loops and commands. Students unlock levels and fuzzes as they work their way through the program. New functions have been added now there is even an underground. 

Codeacademy provides students an overview of basic concepts involved with coding games and software.. They are given step-by-step samples of code. Students complete projects broken into three different stages.

Tynker - App 
When using Tynker there are story puzzles where students can solve by dropping and dragging to create code blocks that are visual.  Students have to break down problems into small steps. They are able to create their own puzzles. The major disadvantage for my students was Tynker had only one free game available and the rest are in-app purchases that we were not able to get.
Tynker - Website
Tynker Hour of Code

Hopscotch - App
Hopscotch is similar to ScratchJr.  My students enjoyed it as they used building blocks to create animation, programs and games.  They had to drag and drop blocks for their protects   My students really liked the aspect that they can play each others projects.  

KineScriptLite - App
Students use visual programming language to create stories, games, and animation. My students really liked the movements and sound effects. What they created can be shared through email.

Pyonkee - App 
Pyonkee is based on Scratch.  Students create visual blocks to create animation, games and stories of their own.  It is  more challenging than ScratchJr and Tynker as they start programming right away without step-by-step guidance.  

Daisy the Dinosaur - App 
This was too easy for the students I was working with.  It is geared toward five and six year-olds. Students have to get Daisy the Dinsosaur to dance by using loops and commands. After students make it though the challenges they created their own games.

Inspirational Videos for Students to try Computer Science
Computer Science 

Students Top Six Favorite Coding Apps from Summer 2016

Fourth Graders Created a Video on Beyond the Hour of Code
Madison, Lainey, and Ava did an awesome job explaining what we used for programming and coding!

I would love to hear how you teach and use coding in your classroom.