Coding with Kindergarten

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Jenna Clarke a kindergarten teacher at Stocklmeir Elementary.

Why yes, you can have fun coding, even a kindergartener can code. Even I can teach kindergarteners to code, with help of course.  When I first heard about the “Hour of Code” I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.  After all, what is coding?  How does it work?  I asked our tech team for a volunteer to teach my class for the worldwide hour of code phenomenon that I had read about, and waited.  I was fortunate and Audrey Prouse – our Assistant Principal – offered to teach my class.  She came into our classroom and explained very well what coding was, it’s part of technology, and how it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One step, or one piece at a time.

In kindergarten, the first part of the technology piece is learning to use the mouse. We used the mouse to learn directions, left, right, up, and down. Then we used the mouse to navigate the internet browser to find the website  We were using technology to code by putting the puzzle pieces together and we were now part of the “hour of code” participants.

I was motivated to learn more, so when I received an email from a colleague about the hour of code seminar presented by Embark Labs, I signed up. I attended the seminar, dreamt of coding, and the next day took what I learned and presented it to my class. This is what coding beyond the hour of code looks like in a learner focused kindergarten classroom.

After presenting the 3×3 grid on our carpet, I explained the directions and the “one step at a time” concept.  After we defined the words position and orientation, I shared that the goal was to move the box to each X on the carpet to “light it up” with the least amount of steps. Students were called up to hold the box to determine if the directions called out were a change in position (moving forward out of the cell) or orientation (moving left or right within the cell.) The students were fully engaged and ready to code on their own.

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We used the arrows as symbols when recording the codes on white boards

After the students were clear on the position and orientation concepts of coding they were assigned to groups to write out their own codes to “light up the X.” In small groups they were given a whiteboard, marker, and small dice to help with determining the movement on grids they drew on the whiteboard. Working together the students used the arrow symbols to record each step of the code. Once they had written down the code, they checked their work on the main grid on the carpet.

This was a great learning tool in the classroom to help the students really understand the basics of coding. They were having fun and fully engaged the entire time.

On our next visit to the computer lab, the students were ready to go beyond the hour of code and try some more advanced coding.  At we used our mouse to navigate to find the Lightbot application. Working together and independently the students moved the robot using the arrows that indicated right, left, move forward, and jump. When they had completed the steps they were able to self check to see if their robot was able to light up the cubes. When they completed the task successfully, they were really excited. “We are coding!”

Coding in Kindergarten, why yes, they can!  Watching my students go from learning how to use a mouse, start the computer, navigate google, finding the website, use the applications to code, and properly log out of the computer, was a wonderful experience.


Choice in a Learner Focused Classroom

 Welcome to our first Guest Blog Post!  Our first post comes from Jen Auten a second grade teacher at Montclaire Elementary.  You can follow her and on Twitter at @gr2ipadteacher.

With technology it’s easy to provide students with choice in their learning.  In October my second grade students completed a brief research project about bats.  The sequence of activities could be applied to other content areas.  For example, we went through a similar series of activities in November related to Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians.

As a hook we started the unit with a short video about bats in Zaption.  Zaption allows questions and polls to be embedded within a video to capture content understanding and student feedback as the students watch.

Next, students read articles written at several different reading levels from ReadWorks.  I embedded the articles in Actively Learn so that as the students read they had to answer questions and find specific evidence for their answers before they progressed to the next block of reading.  Students also read about bats from non-fiction books from the school library and from a free app called Epic.  Students were provided a variety of book options at different reading levels.  As they read students took notes on paper or on the iPad.

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Bats – Popplet

Finally it was time to create a presentation.  I provided students with basic guidelines.  They had to create a presentation with 3 images related to bats and at least 3 facts about bats from their in class learning.  Prior to this project we have used many apps in class that allow students to draw, type, search and import images in a safe environment, and record their voices.  As you can see from the samples, students chose a variety of methods to share their learning.

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Bats – PicCollage

AirPlay provided an easy way to share projects with each other.

Even more student samples!

Force “Make A Copy”

Force Copy is one of my favorite Google Tricks!

You use this with any Doc, Sheet, Drawing, or Presentation.  Start by creating the document (or sheet, or drawing, etc.) you want to share.  Set the sharing privileges so that anyone with the link can view.  Then head to the omnibox and change /edit to /copy.  Turn that url with the /copy into a tinyurl so it is easily accessible.  I recommend adding this extension to your chrome browser to quickly create tiny urls.

Happy copying.

Google Expeditions Come to CUSD

Imagine you could take your students on a virtual field-trip to almost anywhere in the world.  Now imagine themstudent's view being able to explore that virtual location on their own rather than watching what someone else is deciding they should see.  This is the new Google Expeditions that Montclaire Elementary piloted last Friday.

With Google Expeditions, students view a cell phone through special googles.  The image is a 360 degree image so that when the student turns his/ her head the image will change as well – its as if they are in the location.  What’s special about the Google Expeditions is that in Teacher viewaddition the teacher can direct the students to look in a particular direction and teacher notes are available for the teacher to describe what the students are looking at.

Students visited the moon, rainforests, the ocean, US National parks, California parks, and many more locations.  It was amazing watching the student engage in the learning, reflecting on what i would be like to be at the location and also the freedom they had to explore that location.  students view

Share That Calendar

Google Classroom and Google Calendar are finally friends!  Any assignments with a due date that you create in Classroom will automatically feed into Google Calendars.  You can now share this assignment calendar with parents, administration, or with other teachers at your site.  Reality is, you can share it with anyone!

Where is this calendar?  Go to your Classroom and select “About” then Select “Open in Google Calendar.”

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Google Calendar will open up in a new tab.  Find the calendar on the left side under “My Calendars” then select “Share this Calendar.”

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From there make sure you have the following boxes checked “Share this calendar with others” and “Make this calendar public.”

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Once the calendar is public you have a few choices about how to share the calendar.  You can grab a link and email it to your parent community.  Or you can use my favorite option and embed the calendar into your classroom Google Site.  Read more about how to share your public calendar here.

Happy sharing!

Padlet and Thinglink

Check out this great example of combining Thinglink and Padlet to share student work!  Angie McCulloch is a sixth grade teacher at Cupertino Middle and had her students curate articles, pictures, videos, and information about Endangered Panthers.  Once students had enough information they worked in pairs to create their Thinglink.  Their final step is to embed their Thinglink onto a class Padlet wall.  Click the image below to see these great projects!

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Angie and her students also use Padlet with the stories they are reading in class.  Students are asked to post claims and examples/evidence of their opinion on the authors message.  This way students can see what their classmates are thinking and frame their class discussion based on various claims they read from the Padlet wall.

Talk about #eduawesome!

The New Bookmark

Take a look at your omnibox right now, do you notice the lock icon on the far left?

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If you click and drag this icon onto your desktop you can save this website for later use.  It is the same idea as bookmarking a page, except now you have a quick link on your desktop.  Sometimes websites have an icon that looks like a piece of paper instead of the lock, you can do this with those website too.


Within each lesson of our newly adopted Elementary math curriculum “Go Math” there is a “Think Smarter” question.  This question asks students to apply a skill from that lesson, and is matched with a “Math on the Spot” video available with our online subscription.  Cupertino Teachers will gain access to the online subscription during our next learning day.  This video is meant to model problem solving strategies students can use to solve the Think Smarter question.  The videos live on Go Math’s online platform, and it does take a few clicks to get to.  Before students enter your class for the day, spent a minute or two getting to the video.  Then drag the paper icon to the desktop you will be able to quickly get to that video when you and your students are ready to watch it!