Coding Unplugged – A number sorting computer

I learned an amazing coding activity at the #NCSTA17 conference in Greensboro, NC in October. The activity is from csunplugged.org. The mat works like a computer. It has rules and paths the information must follow. I was mind blown the first time we did it as adults at the conference and I immediately had the idea to use this as one of my comparing numbers introductions. #math1NBT3

The first time I did this, I taped the pattern out on the floor copying it from the photo I took at the conference. I didn’t want to spend the money making the cloth if it didn’t work. I was worried that my firsties wouldn’t get it since they would need to know right from left in order for the computer to be successful. I was so surprised! They did not want the computer to “break” and were very careful to chose the correct direction and help each other figure out where to go on the coding mat.

I bought this drop cloth at Lowes. I painted the pattern with tempra paint from my classroom. I copied it from the photo I took at the conference. It was pretty easy except I didn’t eyeball the paths correctly and ended up with 2 curved ones when they should all be straight. I also had a few cat prints from my dear sweet 15 year old torti cat, Calypso, being nosy and walking across the mat.

The kids DID NOT MIND! They love hearing all the crazy stories about my pets!

The first time we did this, I gave the kids single digit numbers 1-6 that I knew they would be able to compare and put in order easily. I had them line up out of order at the starting end of the mat. I asked the kids who were not on the computer to tell me what they noticed:

  • “They are 1 digit numbers.”
  • “They are out of order.”

So far so good! I explained the rules and paths on the computer and gave reminders for right and left so the knew which direction to move. At each step forward I had them stop and the observers to notice any changes (Nothing changed except the order of the numbers. And they were still out of order.) I slowed this WAY down. One step at a time asking them to compare and decide: right or left? By the time they go to the other end of the computer they were just as amazed as I was at the conference that this unplugged computer WORKED!!!

The next time we did this, I gave them teen numbers which I knew they were familiar with from kindergarten and had 1 or 2 numbers missing (i.e. 11, 13, 16, 17, 18 19). I kept it at a slow pace. Taking 1 step at a time and comparing and following paths and asking the observers to notice any changes. They were less surprised that the numbers ended up in order and more concerned that some numbers were missing in the order. This led to a great conversation about comparing numbers and the numbers that come between other numbers.

We moved on from there comparing more 2 digit numbers. I gave out another set of cards with 2 digit numbers specifically chosen so that it didn’t matter if they only compared 1 of the digits, it would still work out in order (i.e. 12, 23, 34, 45, 67, 89). I anticipated this would be a common misconception with comparing 2 digit numbers. We talked about always comparing with the tens number firs then the ones if the tens were equal.

The next set of cards had more random 2 digit numbers. I had them draw the base ten picture for this number so they could begin comparing both the number and a picture of that number and visualizing each 2 digit number. The last set of cards had just base ten pictures and they compared the images.

Each time I gave out a new set of cards, I called different students to be in the computer so that everyone could have a chance to observe and notice and participate. Each time we worked the computer, they were able to follow the rules and paths faster. Our observation skills even got keener as they noticed mistakes in the right/left stepping and corrected their friends so we didn’t “break” the computer.

Please share other unplugged computer science or coding activities or ideas you have for this activity in the comments!

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I used to think… but now I know… #IMMOOC

I’m a huge fan of routines. My favorite type of routine is one that can be used in any situation or subject. I think it’s really important for young children to learn to generalize what they are learning and doing at school into other areas of their lives. Some of my favorite routines came from the book Making Thinking Visible. All that to say the title of this post comes from a routine I picked up in that book!

I used to think…

Students needed homework to be successful at school.

But now I know…

There is no research proving a positive relationship between student achievement and homework for young children.

What’s the change?

I stopped giving homework. I now ask children to read daily because reading is power. But other than that, I want families to enjoy life together.

I used to think…

Young children need to be kept busy and worksheets we’re a great way for them to show their learning.

But now I know…

Young children are amazing! They are capable of more than we give them credit for. They are motivated learners and their curiosity drives them. Worksheets don’t build dendrites.

What’s the change?

I look for innovative ideas and practices I can use with them. I use the power of PBL and genius hour to allow children time to explore their curiosities. I don’t give worksheets.

I used to think…

Race had nothing to do with it. I thought being colorblind was a good thing.

But now I know…

Race has everything to do with everything. I take the time to notice differences around me. I understand there is a need for systemic change especially in education to make school equitable and accessible to every student.

What’s the change?

Every student in my room had the opportunity for challenge work. I understand that each of my students needs different access points to be successful in those challenges. I model, teach, and celebrate empathy. I want my students to how into good humans.

Please share your thought changes or favorite routines!

#Eclipse2017

Anyone out there still working on their plan for The Great American Eclipse? In my area we have the opportunity to see about 90% of the total eclipse and I am TOTALLY nerding out! North Carolina just rolled out a new science standard for first grade 1.E.1 – Recognize the features and patterns of the earth/moon/sun system as observed from earth. This means #Eclipse2017 fits in my standards!!!! I’m just now getting my details worked out and thought I would share them. Please share yours in the comments section!

Wonder

One of my goals this year is inquiry based instruction. I’m going to begin our day by collecting questions my firsties have about the eclipse. I’m sure they have heard people talking about it and I want to gather what they know and wonders. This may require some last minute scrambling to make sure I address misconceptions and questions I’m not prepared for.

Video

Discovery Education has gathered some great video and image  resources for the eclipse. I’ll start with the one titled “Solar Eclipse.” We’ll watch it once and then I’ll have my firsties write one thing they learned on a sheet of paper. We will use the DE Spotlight on Strategy (SOS) Snowball Fight to review our learning from the video. Students will crumple their paper into a ball, throw it in the middle of the circle and on my cue pull one sheet of paper out and read it. We’ll then watch the video again. After a second video, students will pull 2 snowballs from the circle and add an idea from the video to their friends’ snowballs. We’ll then have some share time to discuss what we noticed from the video. You will probably be able to find a few good videos on You Tube if you don’t have access to Discovery Education.

Article

Reading A-Z has some great science content on Science A-Z. Their July issue has a short 1 page article I’m going to have my firsties read in pairs. After reading, they will use Flipgrid to share a selfie video of the most interesting thing from the article. If you don’t have access to this great resource, they offer a free 2 week trial! Also, Front Row is free and they have a few different short, leveled articles about the eclipse you can share.

Model the eclipse

I have a handful of flashlights and quarters I’m bringing to school tomorrow. Students will use these materials to work in groups of 3-4 to make a video of what they think will happen during the eclipse. They will post this video on Seesaw.

Eclipse Observation

I have this amazing observation sheet from my EDU buddy Bill Ferriter. I have made 5 copies for each student. We will go outside to observe for about 30 seconds. Then we will come inside to work on our observation sheets. We will go out for observation 5 different times during the eclipse so my firsties can see the changes in the sky and environment. Each time we come inside to reflect on observations, we will discuss what we saw and make a prediction of what it will look like next. I’ll have a student share their drawing  and together we will draw our predictions on a portable dry erase board.

Extras!

I just bought a Google Cardboard and they have a Virtual Reality App for the eclipse. It costs $0.99 but I think that is worth it! I only have 1 cardboard so they will have to take turns. I’m doing this before the eclipse will help curb their desire to look at the eclipse outside.


Discovery Education also has a bunch of other videos I can use for my firsties to gather more information. They are also streaming the eclipse live on the Science Channel if it is cloudy or something happens that we can’t go outside. We can also view this when the eclipse is over as we reflect on the experience.

If we have time, we will make this to help us act out the movements of the earth and moon around the sun and try to make it show a solar eclipse.

Mystery Science also has a great activity with all the content you will need!

Reflect

I’m going to use another DE SOS for students to reflect on their experience. I’ll have them recreate the eclipse with art materials then tell about it with the “3 truths and a lie” SOS. I’m going to have them start with 1 truth and 1 lie and add to it time permitting. We’ll write the truths and lies flipbook style so we can hang them in the hall and others can guess which is the truth and which is the lie and flip it up to see.

I also have other reflection ideas so this may change or, better yet, I’ll give them a choice. It’ll depend on how everything goes tomorrow.

  • SOS 6 Word Story
  • Another FlipGrid
  • Chatterpix
  • Seesaw

Note: It is NEVER safe to look directly at the sun! I have parent permission and NASA approved eclipse glasses for each of my firsties. We are going outside to view the eclipse. I will (obviously) be very strict about making sure they know the damage that can be done if they do not leave their glasses on their eyes. I’ve done my research and know that if they look with a naked eye they won’t feel pain because the retina doesn’t have pain receptors and they will have blurry or even lose their vision permanently. I’m going to be very up front and honest with my firsties and I trust them to follow my directions.

PS – I’ll take pictures tomorrow and edit this post after!

My Flexible Classroom Journey

About 2 years ago I moved from a traditional classroom set up to a flexible classroom. I’ve learned some things along the way and made some adjustments. I noticed that different groups access flexibility differently. I’m going to share with you my growth process for flexible seating. For reference, Year 1 and Year 2 are years that I taught kindergarten. Year 3 is the current school year and I am teaching first grade. Year 1 was the year I began BYOD as well. You can read about that here.

Year 1:

My school purchased hokki stools for each grade level. They were evenly split between the classrooms. If you’re not familiar with these, they have a rounded bottom and when you sit on them you have to use your core to balance. I got 3 hokki stools and spread them around the room for my kinders to sit in. At this point, all I had were 3 hokki stools and chairs. I made a plan for students to take turns sitting in the hokki stools. My kinders had assigned seats so I had to move the hokki stool to a different kinder’s assigned spot each day.

Once I saw the benefits of the hokki stools for some kinders, I was interested to try other things. Our school had a staff PD about flexible seating and we talked about ways we can add things to our rooms with out spending money and then we were challenged to write a grant for the PTA to fund more flexible seating options.

Free options: raise tables for students to stand at, lower tables so students have to sit on floors, old crates turned upside down are strong enough to hold littles. I had pillows and cushions in my room already so I moved them to the floor tables and put them on top of the crates so they were more comfortable. My kinders also asked if they could go under tables to work and… YES! why not?!

Things our PTA funded for us: scoop chairs, more crates, seat cushions, tall stools, and yoga balls. These were spread around the room at different tables.

I transitioned from assigned seats to home bases. My students had placemats with their name tags on them and every week, they would choose a new table spot for their home base.

I made my own basket seats with my husband with plywood, cushion, and fabric. I followed a DIY I found online. I used these instead of upside down crates with cushions. Cassidy helped! 😜

Year 2:

I had all the same furniture in my room. My big shift year 2 was to move to daily home bases. Kinders chose a new seat every day. This would be the spot they go back to for independent work time. It worked great until a kinder went home sad because he didn’t get to school early enough to have lots of choices in his seat. Mom emailed me to let me know and I developed a plan to make sure each kinder got a turn in each flexible seat type. I had a chart with each seat type across the top and all the students names listed under. Once kinders chose a spot for the day, they had to cross off their name. They couldn’t choose that seat type again until everyone had a turn. This worked fabulously!

Year 2 I also made the decision to explicitly teach each seat choice. I made an anchor chart with diagrams and labels to show how I expected my kinders to sit or stand. I also had kinders model the right way and the wrong way to use the flexible seats. This was great because the had the chance to play with the seat choices. I revisited the chart and modeling as I observed patterns of kinders using seats in unexpected ways.

Year 3:

This year I made my expectations chart with the class and had them act out the right and wrong ways to use the seat choices. I love how the anchor chart serves as a daily reminder. I no longer use name tags as home bases. I have moved to a completely flexible option. Firsties can choose a different spot each time they need to go to the tables to work. I find a lot of my firsties like to lay on a pillow with a clipboard. My centers don’t have assigned areas, firsties bring the materials they need to whichever table or seating area they want. This year I plan on using some of my morning meeting time to talk about why we have each type of seating and the type of learner it supports. “If you ___ the ___ would be a great choice for you!”

I have come to the realization that there is a difference between having flexible seating and having a flexible classroom. Flexible seating refers to the furniture in your classroom and students get to choose where they sit (daily or weekly). To me, a flexible classroom includes student choice in more than just their seat location. It includes, their choice in how to complete work (digitally or paper), what they are learning (interest driven or options), books they read (shout out to my PLN buddy Allie Bond for inspiring me to move away from leveled readers!), and more! What do you do that makes your classroom flexible ?

5 Lessons Learned from BYOD with Littles

3 years ago my principal, Dr. Sandy Chambers challenged our staff to participate in a district pilot program in which students would bring devices to school from home (Bring Your Own Device – BYOD). This included a lot of push back, a lot of challenges, and a lot of awesomeness! I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t think it would work in kindergarten! They couldn’t keep track of their jacket! How would they keep track of a device!? It took a few years but I think I have learned some lessons that might help others get going on BYOD with littles!

Lesson #1

Set Expectations 

My school has a contract for each family participating in BYOD. If students don’t follow the guidelines they can lose the privilege of BYOD.  You will need to teach, model, and repeat these expectations with both parents and students frequently. Expectations include:

  • Use the device for learning.
  • Carry it with 2 hands.
  • Only the owner can use it.
  • Devices come to school charged.
  • How often the kid should bring their device.
  • Apps or settings kids need.
  • Digital Citizenship

Lesson #2

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!

Procedures are what keeps your classroom running smoothly. Teachers have procedures for everything from going to the bathroom to solving student disagreements. BYOD needs its own set of specific procedures. You will need to teach, model, and repeat these procedures frequently. My procedures include:

  • Sign in devices daily so you know what is in your classroom. The sign in let’s me know what I have available each day.
  • Our devices are to stay in student bookbags until we need them.
  • I have a call out to check what students are doing. When I say, “device check!” Students immediately hold their device above their head facing in my direction. If they take a long time or you can see them tapping their devices they are most likely off task.
  • When instructing or giving directions I ask kids to put their devices in “listening mode.” This means they are upside down on their lap.
  • Kindness matters! When responding to other’s work digitally, be kind.

Lesson #3

Allow for students to become experts!

Pick a few apps you want students to have on their BYOD and use them frequently! Let the kids become experts. These apps should become second nature and a “go to” for responses and reflection. Try to pick open ended apps that can be used for creation. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Seesaw
  • Chatterpix,
  • Do ink green screen,
  • Felt board

I use and teach other apps too but these are the ones we use the most. I also use raz-kids/kids a-z daily, but it isn’t a creation app.

I also like to keep a running list of things I want to try. Here is my list of creative apps I want to try:

  • aurasma
  • book creator
  • sock puppet
  • coma coma

Lesson #4

Create!

Devices can add to your lessons in meaningful ways. A true blended classroom integrates technology seamlessly. Think creation and not just playing on apps. Use apps that are open ended and allow students to create: draw, photo, video, and write. Playing games and doing rote practice is not a sustainable way to integrate technology. Creation can be used for students to share their learning, respond to questions, or reflect on their learning. Allow students choice in how they share, respond, and reflect. Remember those favorite apps… They are all choices! Students choose them for different reasons depending on what they are trying to communicate.

Lesson #5

Try!

You will find things that work and things that don’t. Be flexible and take a chance. You’ll be surprised what littles can do with devices, they are digital natives after all! Modeling and involving them in the problem solving process is key to success in BYOD for littles.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about BYOD and littles!

First blog post… Eek!

Hi! I’m a kindergarten teacher always looking for something new to jump into. I’m starting this blog to share with the world my journey  as an educator. I’m passionate about play based learning. I also love technology. It’s a challenging balancing act in my classroom but I love it!

I was inspired by the wonderful folks at #wonderwake Fall Convergence at NC state, a Wake County technology conference. George Couros presented 3 amazing sessions and a life changing keynote. I’m convinced that I need to have a positive digital footprint and what better way than through a blog? I’ve been meaning to start this for a week now and never got around to it. I try to keep myself as busy as possible! Today, checking out at the grocery store, the young man told me he wants to be a writer but he hasn’t started yet. My advice- just try. Don’t expect perfection. Just write and put it out there. So here I am. Taking my advice. Just writing and putting it out there.

I also keep hearing this amazing song in my head as I type – “Failure is an option. Failure to deliver is not.” – Kevin Brookhouser. Wish I could find it on YouTube!

Full disclosure – this is way outside of my comfort zone and is absolutely nerve wracking to put myself out there. But as George Couros said, “it’s not about you. It’s about the kids. Go backward from there.” So here I am starting today. Some of my blog posts will be about my background and others about the present or my hopes and dreams. All of them are for the kids. My purpose is to become a better educator than I was yesterday always for my students.

I welcome any and all feedback – it’s the best way to grow!