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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.55.55 AM

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.


Hour of Code

The Hour of Code begins next Monday, December 8th!  The ‘Hour of Code’ is a nationwide initiative by CSEdWeek and to introduce computer programming to 10 million students around the globe.

Why the Hour of Code?  Well that is an easy answer, exposure.  This hour is meant to spark interested in computer science and programming for our young students.  From the 2010 – 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, across all industries there are 136,620 jobs per year be added to the computing field.  According the the National Science Foundation, there is just not enough students enrolling into Computer Science Undergraduate Programs.  Leaving approximately one million jobs available and not enough people qualified to fulfill them. *information taken from

Check out even more statistics in this infographic

There are many tools out there now that offer introductory courses to both children and adults.  To narrow down the process we have provided a list of tools we like best.  You can find them here!

Check back soon to see student projects that will be created next week.  Happy coding!

News at YOUR Reading Level

NewsELA is a fantastic Common Core aligned website that houses news articles to help students build reading comprehension with nonfiction text.  The best part is that each article is written in five different Lexile levels so it can be accessible for all students.  Lexile levels range from 550 to over 1200, which could cover students in third to twelfth grade.  When you open an article, on the right side you can choose the Lexile level and begin to see the articles change as you move between levels.  First thing I want you to do is look at how awesome my image is below, then you can look at how the title changes.  The link of this iTunes article is at the very bottom of this post.

*This image was created with PicCollage check out our post about it by Clicking Here.

Photo Mar 13, 9 04 25 AM

Here is a lesson I did with fourth graders as their first experience with their Google Drive accounts.  I found an article on NewsELA about NASA Finding an Ancient Lake on Mars, and had them answer a few questions about the article.

There are huge benefits to having kids enroll with NewsELA as your students.  They can take quizzes, teachers can tracking progress, and even assign different articles.  Since I was a celebrity teacher – yes that is what I call myself – in this fourth grade classroom I didn’t want to have students create accounts and link it to me as their teacher.  My workaround was to provided the NewsELA article as a PDF and then link it to a View Only Google Doc.  I turned the View Only Google Doc into a tinyurl: and had students follow the directions.  Look at this great response

Lake on Mars

And my favorite of all…

Lake on Mars2

Some articles to consider

Hour of Code Success in Cupertino

As the new year has started, we are getting more and more great stories of students engaged in Hour of Code in December.  In fact, many students are inspired to continue the lessons and create new ideas.  We thought we would share a few of the stories that we’ve heard that have made Hour of Code a success.

During Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-15), history was made when over 10 million people around the globe were recruited to join in and participate in the Hour of Code ( The Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to try computer science for one hour. Students would have the experience of writing code through a series of exercises.

At Montclair, Krissy Cabot teachers talked about her students:

I am sure this was happening at other school sites but I wanted to let you know about something cool that happened in several classrooms at Montclaire last week.  We partook in a program called “Hour of Code”. Several months ago a woman by the name of Hadi Partovi came up with a dream of having 10 million kids try one hour of computer science.  Her dream came true and over 10 million students participated.  Here is a link to a promotion video:

All of our fifth grade classes at Montclaire participated on laptops we had some lower grade classes working on iPads. Parents came in to the classrooms and helped, which was great for me because I had never learned to write code so we were all learning together.  The students loved it!  The students had to use the 4 C’s to work together in pairs to write the code for the tutorial they worked on. This led to so many great conversations in my class already about jobs for them and your dreams can come true, dare to dream big.  I know it will be a building block in many conversations for the rest of the year.

Also at Montclaire, Jen Auten worked with her first graders having them program, Daisy the Dinosaur.  They then progressed to programming with Tynker, Kodable and Hopscotch on the iPad.

Kathy Young at Blue Hills had students working through the  Several of the students were able to progress through the entire series of activities and earn a rewards card.  She reports:

We met in the computer lab to allow a 1-1 ratio of students to devices.  We watched the introductory video together and discussed the basic “howtos” of getting into the site.  We used our lab’s desktop computers.  Each student created and logged into their account.  Then they worked individually to complete as many activities as allowed in the ~30 minutes remaining.  It was probably the quietest and most-focused class we’ve ever had.  From that day, students have continued to ask to use an iPad during class time to continue their Hour of Code activities.  Many have spent many hours at home completing activities as well.

Kathy’s students feedback include:

Nimitz: Hour Of Code

Blue Hills Elementary School: Hour Of Code

Giulio: Today I will tell you why I think Hour of Code is helpful  I think Hour of Code is helpful because int he future there is probably going to be robots.  Well, you might say, if there is going to be robots, then why do we need to know how to function computers?  Well, because how do we make robots, movies, games, toys, and some machines?  We make all those by computer, and in the future, there will be eve more of those, so that means when my classmates and I grow up, all jobs will be with computers.  An Hour of Code gives you a good idea of how computers work, and you can see how they can be improved.  Well, I hope you liked my paragraph and good luck.
Amy:  Hour of Code is a very scientific game for children who like technology.  I like how the founders of Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Twitter use Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombie to teach how to program in such a fun, awesome, and fantastic way.  I would give this website 5 starts!  For the whole game, the main blocks are move forward, turn left, turn right, and the repeat block.  I learned how to make a game with a computer with just only a few lines of code.  I want to grow up to invent something electronic like a high-tech engineer as my interest from my dad as a computer science person.
Teja:  I think Code was a helpful site.  It just gave me a head start on computer coding.  Now, I can make codes, after codes, after codes!  Thnks to Code, I have a headstart on computer engineering.  Now let’s talk about what I Code.  Code’s full title is the Hour of Code.  There are mazes you have to figure out, but you have to use the blocks in the slot and you figure out the code.  Each maze gets harder and harder, but you get used to it.  I really hope you get on your computer and try the Hour of Code.  The funny trick is that you finish 20 mazes in an hour!
Keshav: Hour of Code is awesome.  It is computer science.  First, there are stages.  Each stage is different.  Whatyou need to do is that on the computer or on a laptop, you need to make the trace of the drawing or where you have to go.  Second, in Hour of Code, I learned that if you use the counter block 20-100 by 10 and inside you say that make a square and jump forward, it will create 8 squares.  My favorite part of Hour of Code was the last stage.  Now, I told what I learned from Hour of Code.

Rita Cole had her students work on the as well, and then one of her students took it a step further and created a math app for the iPad and publish it on iTunes. My-ath: Download it now – its free and fun!!

Rohini Tambe from Eaton shared out some of the activities at her school including ways to teach programming without using technology.

Stocklmeir Students Coding

Stocklmeir Students Coding

Over 400 Stocklmeir Elementary students, in 17 classrooms grades 1-5, were a part of this exciting movement whose numbers to date has reached 21 million participants. Students caught on fast and excelled at the activity. Not uncommon, they were able to go far beyond the expectations of the adults involved. Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air while learning a new side to technology. The activity is hopefully just the first step on a journey to learn more about how technology works and possibly find a real passion in programming.


Stocklmeir Students Coding

Best Day of School Ever!

Imagine you are back in 9th grade.  I know I know, some of you don’t want to think about it.  But do it, do it for two minutes…

Now imagine your teacher is telling you that in a week you will have the entire school day to do whatever you want!  WAIT WHAT?!

That is exactly what happened over in San Mateo at Hillsdale High School.  Teachers allowed students to create their own agenda for the whole school day.  Students had to submit a proposal and a detailed hour by hour agenda for the day.  Students had three objectives: 1) Produce a deliverable.  2) Address an audience beyond themselves.  3) Have an impact on that audience.  Here is the four day agenda that students used to create their proposal and agenda:

Day 1: Introduce passion, brainstorm (link)

Day 2: Creativity, what Innovation Day is (link)

Day 3: Deliverable ideas, brainstorm (link)

Day 4: Project proposal (link)

The question came up, what if a kid just wants to play Mindcraft all day?  Teachers went back to the student objectives and asked the kid who his audience was?  Since the student doesn’t have an answer beyond “just for himself” he needs to find something else.  Now if the student wanted to create a how-to video on certain aspects of the game and share with the Minecraft community then we are getting somewhere!

Concerns about staff, admin and parents also came up.  You are losing an entire day of instruction!  My response would be, how is that any different than going on a field trip?  Well, kids are not going to learn anything.  They will learn time management , critical thinking, troubleshooting, problem solving, perseverance, collaboration, I can keep going… Are kids unsupervised?  Kids had to choose their location in their proposal and teachers were in all locations.  Kids had name tags and a Google Doc was used to identify where students should be.

Then we had questions about facilities.  What about technology?  Hillsdale relied on BYOD, their computer lab, and other technology available on site.  Students attended both brunch and lunch.  Kids need breaks, we all do!  What about kids who needed a lot of space?  Kids had to be specific about their location in the proposal and anticipate what type of space they needed.

I cannot thank Karl (@LS_Karl) and Sarah (@MsPressHHSenough for sharing their experience with Innovation Day.  I will admit that this was the best presentation I attended  while up in Napa for the GAFE Summit!  I walked away with all my questions answers and an amazing activity to launch.

When you have 3 minutes and 45 seconds to spare, or more if your bandwidth is awful.  Check out this Ok Go video they showed their students to get their creative juices going!

Google in Napa Day 2

I spent my second day of GAFE learning from Jason Markey @JasonMMarkey, Will Kimbley @willkimbley, and Trevor Mattea @tsmattea – follow all of them right now on Twitter!

Jason Markey, AKA National Digital Principal Award Winner – huge congratulations!  Shared how his school – East Leyden High in Farklin Park, IL – has implemented a student run tech support.  These students fix all tech related issues, if they cannot they send it off to IT.  They have a digital tracking system and have seen about 9,500 tickets come through the door in the past 18 months.  Students have been able to solve 91% of them and the other 9% were sent to IT.  Of those 91% issues the students were able to solve 97% of them.  AMAZING!  Kids did a 2 day boot camp to learn about how to fix the problems that kids and staff might have.  We did a Google Hangout with their students – nice touch buddy, nice touch – and they talked about how majority of the issues they see are students who have forgotten their password, need a new charging port, or have a cracked screen.  Kids know how to input new charging chips into the chromebooks motherboard and just charge the student the fee for the new part which is $2.50.

Tech Support

Who doesn’t want Tech Support from Harry Styles?

Trevor did a great presentation on digital portfolios with Google Sites and his 3rd grade students.  It is so great to see the amazing things his kids are doing with their own personal portfolio!  Wish I had made one when I was in third grade that I could look back on.

Will shared some of his tricks for Google Forms and I am very excited to try them out!  Check out this PDF on how to make an instant feedback quiz: Google Forms – Instant Feedback QuizzesGoogle Forms

Google in Napa Day 1

I was lucky enough to attend the GAFE Summit in Napa last week and walked away with some amazing tips, tricks, tools and some new Twitter friends.

First session I went to shared how it can be overwhelming to attend these conferences, and I couldn’t agree more!  You take frantic notes and step by step guides of what to do when you get home.  Then you get home and realize that you have stuff to grade, staff meetings to attend and the normal events of everyday life ahead.  When you finally have time to look at some of the things you have learned, everything has changed!

If you aren’t using YouTube as a learning device you need to start, and you need to start today.  If you search “google sites tutorial” the videos with the most hits will come up first.  Since Google changes all the time, that tutorial is probably out of date and the buttons won’t be in the same location as what you are seeing now.  After you search, filter out your results to the most recent.


During the Google Slam I was introduced to the following

  • – watch Google Demo Slams whenever you want and vote for your favorites
  • Lucid Chart – Note taking and mind mapping website that links to your GAFE – Google Apps for Education or your account.
  • Livebinders – Middle School Science teacher has a livebinder for each class and every tab corresponds to that day’s activity.  One location where you students need to go, and no excuse for being absent and not knowing what to do.
  • Power Searching with Google – Check out this online class you can take to learn how to become a Power Searcher!
  • Google Maps Engine Lite – You can import data from a Google Spreadsheet and organize locations.  Learn more about how you can play with Google Maps here
  • WeVideo – Very powerful video editing tool

Then my favorite was the Stink Eye!  If you have students working on a Google Doc and have all those docs in one folder, you select the Docs you would like to look at and you will see the “eye” button appear.  If you select that it will let you preview all the Docs you have selected.  So you can quickly check in and see how much students have completed without fully opening the Doc.

Stink Eye