Tag Archives: instructional approach

Design a Coding Unit for the Classroom

STEM learning objectives are being included in many school, district, and national curriculum standards. As a result, educators are challenged with creating engaging and challenging instructional materials to teach computer science skills. But most teachers don’t have a technology background, much less knowledge of programming. Here’s some help. Whether you’re using ScratchJr, Scratch, HTML and CSS, or Python and the Turtle Library, the activities will be similar. Following are some basic strategies to consider when you start to design a coding unit for the classroom.

Practice Sequencing Algorithms Offline

Design a coding unit to include offline exercises. This will develop computational thinking. A starting point for instruction is to build algorithms. An algortithm is a description of the program. It uses words and symbols to sequence the instructions.

The logical order of coded instructions is critical. To build this skill, instruct students to physically act out and order a list of directions in simple, everyday language first. For example, if a programmer had to write a program for the task of putting a piece of paper into the trash, it may have the steps:

design a coding unit

Have students act out the steps they listed to check them. Or, have a list of mixed up steps that students must unscramble to place them in the correct order.

Start Simple

When you design a coding unit, move from simple to more complex code slowly.

Don’t offer a complete set of instructions in code and have the students copy it and run it to see the result. This may intimidate young programmers and even make them think that coding is too difficult. Moreover, they won’t learn what each part of the code does.

Instead, write a few lines. Then test the result. The instant response will create a connection between the coding and its function.

coding for kids

In TechnoWhiz, primary students are introduced to ScratchJr by using one block at a time to move the character on the stage. They observe the resulting motion. Then they combine a series of blocks to create a script and see the effect. Next, they add more characters and move them, and learn to loop their actions. By the end of the project, they are able to make an interactive, one-of-a-kind racing game with a background, formatted text, and characters moving at different speeds, dancing, and talking!

Use Trial and Error

Invite students to experiment with values to figure out what works. Try a number or value. Does it need to be higher or lower? Test often to see what works.

Encourage exploration. For example, when using Python and the Turtle Library, circle(50) draws a circle with a specific size. Students can explore by changing the number to a higher value and a lower one. Or code left(90) to turn the turtle symbol. Then change the value to see what angles the turtle turns. The repeated experimentation will result in learning that can be applied in subsequent activities.

Teach Debugging

Don’t wait until mistakes are made. Early in the project, create errors with intention. Have students ‘break‘ the script, then fix it. As a result, they will recognize mistakes that may be made later in their own programming and be more likely to correct them independently.

design a coding unit

Apply Skills

Introduce a skill, repeat or review it, and then transfer it to another application using the program. Avoid teaching a concept in isolation. When students re-use skills in different contexts, they will accumulate their knowledge and be able to apply it in their own creative projects.

teaching coding to kids

For example, in TechnoTurtle students learn to use Python to control the movement of a turtle symbol. Then they apply their skills to write scripts to draw pictures and to move the turtle through a maze. In other parts of the project, they learn about variables. Then they use this concept to create Mad Libs and to produce an interactive carnival game.

Show Samples

Demonstrate how a completed project might look at the beginning of a lesson. This will serve multiple purposes: students will have a clear idea of what they’re making, they will be inspired to create their own unique version, and the sample can be a coding reference guide to use if trouble shooting is needed.

In TechnoHTML, a sample web page about skateboarding sparks student interest and demonstrates the skills they will learn using HTML and CSS:

design a coding unit

  • Formatting text
  • Adding images
  • Making lists
  • Linking to sites

Provide an Opportunity to Share

At the completion of the project, ensure that students have an authentic audience. This helps students to connect their work in the classroom to the real world and see a purpose for their efforts. Their peers are a perfect audience. Celebrate the finished projects and encourage interaction and feedback. The digital nature of programming projects makes it easier than ever to share work with classmates, family, and friends.

design a coding unit

For example, in TechnoCode, middle school students place their collection of completed animated scenes, stories, mazes, and games into an Activity Studio to share with others.

Then they invite feedback and recommendations for improvements.

Reflect on Learning

Finally, give students an opportunity to reflect on their experiences in learning to code. In either written form in a journal or as a class discussion, ask:

  1. What did you like about learning to program?
  2. Is there anything in your project that you would like to change?
  3. What do you wish you knew how to do?
  4. Have you learned anything about yourself?
  5. What advice would you give to a beginner programmer?

design a coding unit

In TechnoTales, students in grades 2 to 5 use five simple reflection responses to gain some insight into their learning.

The young programmers used Scratch to design a story with four scenes, multiple animated characters, a plot with a dilemma to solve, and a happy ending!

Design a Coding Unit

TechnoKids has elementary and middle school programming projects for Scratch Jr, Scratch, Python and the Turtle Library, and HTML. Before starting to design a coding unit of your own, try one! Visit the TechnoKids online store.

design a coding unit

TechnoKids has programming projects to teach ScratchJr, Scratch, Python, and HTML and CSS

Differentiated Instruction and TechnoKids

differentiated instruction

Every time teachers step into their classrooms, they face the evidence of the need for differentiated instruction. Each student arrives at school at a different starting point: a certain attitude of readiness for learning, an individual style of acquiring knowledge, and a distinct level of mastery of concepts. Multiply these three factors by the number of students in the classroom. The resulting figure is daunting but makes it obvious that ‘one teaching method fits all’ isn’t a practical strategy.

Differentiated instruction recognizes and supports individual differences in learning by using a variety of teaching strategies. There are so many options and resources available today that we can adjust for the diverse abilities, needs, learning styles, and interests of our students. As teachers, our goal is to optimize student growth and success at all levels of ability, not simply to achieve or reach a standardized benchmark. Teach every student.

Brain based learning studies support a variety of instructional strategies. As students make connections between what they already know and their new learning, interconnections in neural pathways are formed. As a result, information is stored in multiple areas. Meaning and retention are both enhanced.

In teaching ICT, we have lots of ways of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. TechnoKids project-based computer lessons support differentiated instruction with student resources, teaching strategies, and assessment tools.

Process

Differentiated instruction requires that we provide a variety of learning opportunities. Students should be able to build a repertoire of tools. They can accommodate their own preferred styles of learning, as well as recognize and build skills in their individual areas of weakness.

TechnoKids project-based learning supports the process of learning using differentiated instruction:

  • Vary learning tools. Integrate technology and use the computer as an alternative and additional tool.
  • Target different senses with multiple instructional strategies. TechnoKids Student Workbooks engage students by reading written instructions, studying illustrations that support text, looking at infographics, and handling manipulatives such as TechnoKids tool flashcards. Sample files have students listen to audio and watch video. Brain based learning studies show that most of us learn best when the kinesthetic senses are used – doing, handling, building. Robotics projects prepare students to build STEM skills and support hands-on learning. TechnoKids Teacher Guides provide teaching strategies, technology integration ideas, and assessment tools.
  • Chunk material into manageable parts. TechnoKids projects are divided into smaller sessions or assignments. In this way, a complex task becomes doable.
  • Present learning tasks in graphic organizers. When students create a plan of their ideas for a an inquiry, TechnoKids projects often have them use a chart, brain storming web, or mind map to outline and develop their proposals.
  • Repeat to reinforce. Students build skills through practice, so Skill Reviews and Extension Activities allow for repetition.
  • Allow students to work at different paces. By using the pdf or print copies of TechnoKids workbooks, individual students can complete the activities on their own timeline.
  • Mix up individual and group collaboration. Individual, pair, small group, and whole class activities should all be part of classroom experiences. Flexible grouping allows students with similar learning styles to work together.

Content

Recognize that students have different levels of familiarity with concepts before a lesson is taught. Differentiate activities by designing assignments that cover various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from remembering (lowest level) to evaluating (highest level).

  • Give students the big picture. Most TechnoKids resource files include a number of samples of completed projects. Seeing and reviewing a finished project solution motivates students, builds interest, and provides a clear example of what is being assigned.
  • Provide a starting point. A number of TechnoKids projects, especially primary level projects, include templates. Students can focus on the technology and learning skills without getting bogged down in the less critical details of setting up a document.
  • Combine methods of instruction. Blend a mixture of teacher directed, print, video, and any other instructional techniques. This serves the purpose of both maintaining student engagement as well as appealing to diverse learning styles.

Product

The final creation or solution to an inquiry process should be interdisciplinary and open-ended. Allow students to build on their learning style strengths by offering choices. Self directed learning allows for students to work independently and develop critical skills such as organization, creativity, judgement, and persistence.

  • Build engagement by offering choices. Involve students by encouraging them to pitch their own ideas for projects. TechnoKids projects allow for creative thinking and open-ended learning experiences.
  • Offer a variety of outputs. When students are given options, they take more responsibility for their learning and become more engaged. TechnoKids projects may be a presentation, visual art, timeline, graphic story, newsletter, questionnaire, blog, interactive map, animation, and many more!
  • Provide opportunities for assorted types of assessment. TechnoKids grading tools include student, peer, and teacher checklists, rubrics, rating scales, marking sheets, and skill summaries.
  • Incorporate reflection. Summarize learning, process new learning, identify areas for improvement, and set goals. Many TechnoKids projects contain a reflection component in a final celebration of learning.

10 Reasons to Use E-Cards in the Classroom

Is there educational merit in having your students send e-Cards to each other? Yes! For both skill building purposes and for engaging digital savvy young people, e-Cards can be used in an educational setting with a variety of benefits.
e-cards

Meaningful language arts activity

Inspire creative writing by assigning an e-Card activity. Students can browse through an electronic card site for suitable suggestions. Alternatively, teachers can assign a specific topic, such as a celebration, an ‘end of project’ congratulations, or encouragement notes. Require students to write a brief but expressive and original personal message with the card.

Advocate for a cause

There are e-Card sites hosted by organizations that support important issues. For example, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund both have web pages that allow students to send free cards. By choosing a card and adding a personal message, students express their support of environmental issues. Integrate this activity with a unit of study about conservation and stewardship to help students promote awareness.

Learn letter writing skills

Instead of a traditional letter writing activity, use digital cards to teach the lost yet valuable art of writing friendly letters. E-Cards have many conventions of basic letters: salutation and closing, address, date (some sites let the user set a future date for sending), letter body with the personal message, and preview feature for editing.

Suitable for primary students

Young children who have limited reading, writing, and keyboarding skills can use e-Cards with their appealing graphic displays and simple text. They can easily choose a card, write a brief message, and send it.

Creates a team environment

Sending and receiving cards supports a feeling of mutual support and kindness. As students write e-Cards to each other, they build a common mood of thoughtfulness, concern, and empathy.

Extends home-school connection

Students can send cards home to their parents, promoting communication about their classroom activities, demonstrating their technology skills, and cultivating a strong connection between home and school.

Celebrate successes

E-Cards can be sent for an infinite number of occasions: recognize school or class accomplishments, observe important events, and celebrate individual dates such as birthdays or graduations.

Go green

No trees are harmed in sending e-Cards! The ecofriendly aspect of digital greetings and letters supports environmental school goals.

Teach manners and courtesy

Young people should be aware of the formal language conventions of letter writing. Often online social interaction involves a much more informal use of spelling, grammar, and word choice. Sending e-Cards with a personal message is an opportunity to teach netiquette and mastery of conventional language skills.

It’s fun!

The appeal of online social communication for young people is certain. We can tap into this attraction using e-Cards and, at the same time, build essential and valuable curriculum and life skills.

In my next post, I’ll list some great sites with free e-Cards that are suitable for classroom use. Then I’ll list some tips for both students and teachers when searching for, sending, and receiving e-Cards.

Digital Collage in the Classroom

Why Make a Collage?

Collage

Collage about Amelia Earhart created with Windows Photo Gallery

Art assignment, end of project celebration, technology integration activity, communicating learning visually – these are just a few reasons to create a collage in the classroom.

The traditional way of making a collage is to cut out pictures and glue them into place on a background. But using the computer to create a digital collage from photos or images offers a different option that has lots of ‘WOW’ factor to capture students’ interest while building technology as well as creative arts skills. Do you have a classroom project in which students have already gathered a collection of themed digital pictures? Making a collage is an alternate or additional way to display the work. No existing folder of pictures? Make one: students can search for a series of images about a subject online and then create a unique display using the collage technique.

Generating a collage using technology is easy and fun, enhances design and layout skills, encourages creative expression, and will actively engage your students to bring out their ‘inner artist’.

Use Windows Photo Gallery

If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can download a free program called Photo Gallery to organize, edit, and share photos. But it can be used to make a collage as well. Here’s how in 5 easy steps:

  1. Open Photo Gallery.
  2. Add your collected folder of images.
  3. Select a minimum of 7 images.
  4. From the Create tab, click Auto Collage.
  5. Name the collage file and select a location to save it.

Use a Free Online Collage Maker

There are many free programs online that you can use to create a picture collage. They offer a variety of options for editing and creating distinctive collages. Some offer additional features with a paid subscription or membership. Here are a few along with some of their distinguishing features:

AmeliaHeart

Fotor Photo Collage

  • Choose from a variety of collage layouts, including funky shapes
  • Photo stitching options include spacing, corner design, colors, and background

The World’s Best Collage Maker

  • Add text, labels, clip art and more
  • Save to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, or the desktop

Collage.com

  • Shuffle feature easily changes layout of pictures randomly
  • Apply photo filters such as ‘Black & White’ and ‘Sepia’
  • Signing up for an account is free

PicMonkey

PiZap.com

  • Basic options available without creating a free account or log in
  • Add stickers and speech callouts
  • Cut out tool allows user to select specific areas of photos

Photovisi Photo Collage Maker

  • Choose and edit a background design from a fun and extensive variety of choices, including ‘Magic’, ‘Girly’, ‘Scrapbook’, ‘Words’, and ‘Sports’
  • Add photos from a saved folder or from a webcam
  • Free collage has a watermark

Collage of Amelia Earhart

Canva’s Collage Maker

  • Many free images, photos, shapes, clip art, and backgrounds
  • Upload your own photos
  • Easy drag and drop format
  • Export and publish as a png or pdf