Robotics Across the Curriculum for Younger Gradelevels

Why is robotics awesome?  Because it can fit ANYWHERE in the curriculum.  It’s problem solving, critical thinking, cooperative learning, collaboration, play, exploration, creativity, and grit… all in one.    It’s often thought of as an afterschool program or an enrichment.  But robotics should be part of the everyday classroom.  Why? Because it has so much to offer.

Please don’t think of it as “one more thing to add in.” It’s not another “subject.”

Some of my favorite robots for the youngest learners are definitely the BeeBot and Dot & Dash.   They provide entry-level fun, but can be made more challenging instantly, with a few tweaks to your course, objective, or mat.

Incorporate Literacy:  Kids are enjoying great books all the time, right?  Then use those stories to incorporate robotics.  Dash can be driven via the app Go, and once students have the hang of driving him, they can use additional apps to code his route.  Print pictures from the book, spread them out by attaching them to plastic cups and ask students to retell the story by driving Dash through the book.    I’ve also used Rosie’s Walk with BeeBots, and the Hungry Caterpillar.  We won’t stop there – books make the perfect subject for robotics and young children.  BeeBotCommands

Make it Mathematical:  Measure how far Dash can travel in 10 seconds. Measure how far he can go in 20.  Estimate how long it will take him to travel from your classroom door to the water fountain.  Have kids design a course for Dash – and they’ll have to use some measurement if they plan to use coding.  BeeBots are based on 15 cm squares, like the Hungry Caterpillar mat above that I created.  Older kids could do multiplication and advanced math by creating a mat like this.  How many trips around the board is a mile?  That would be fun to figure out.

Other possibilities, toss play money around on the floor.  Drive Dash to the coins or bills.  If he circles the money, students get to add the total to their “bank.” They could see how much money they can collect in five minutes.  For added practice, create a graph of money collected by Dash each day.

Diary of a Robot: Students will love writing stories about Dash. Dress him up in costumes and make him a center.  Take some fun photos of him around town.  Students can select a photo and write or tell a story about Dash.

dash_and_dot-9f97ec434039a9f6271b0ef2379f1e2fSocial Studies: Whether kids are learning about community workers or careers, ask them to create a course for Dash as a “doctor” or a “police man.”  They could draw pictures to place around the floor that show Dash working as that career.  Then, they can share their course with each other and drive Dash on his journey “working” through a day in the life of that career.

Additionally, North, South, East, and West are easily taught using code.  Place the compass rose on your mat and students can get more specific.  Have kids write directions for Dash to drive to the playground.  That’s a challenge!

Don’t have robots in your classroom yet?  Make some arrow cards for students to line up to tell another person how to move.  The cards could also be drawn on wooden blocks.  Students line up the code, then have a partner follow it.  Boards similar to the BeeBot mat above would be perfect for kids to practice on.  You can even download this book from Code.org and find arrow cards and cut and paste sheets inside.   Have students act out each other’s code will help them practice reading the code and writing it.  Plus, it’s fun to pretend to be a robot, right?  Of course it is, whether you’re five or thirty five.  Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Robotics Across the Curriculum For Your Youngest Learners

12568128_1761732980714566_943945061_nBee-Bot-1lmwotyWhy is robotics awesome?  Because it can fit ANYWHERE in the curriculum.  It’s problem solving, critical thinking, cooperative learning, collaboration, play, exploration, creativity, and grit… all in one.    It’s often thought of as an afterschool program or an enrichment.  But robotics should be part of the everyday classroom.  Why? Because it has so much to offer.

Please don’t think of it as “one more thing to add in.” It’s not another “subject.”

Some of my favorite robots for the youngest learners are definitely the BeeBot and Dot & Dash.   They provide entry-level fun, but can be made more challenging instantly, with a few tweaks to your course, objective, or mat.

Incorporate Literacy:  Kids are enjoying great books all the time, right?  Then use those stories to incorporate robotics.  Dash can be driven via the app Go, and once students have the hang of driving him, they can use additional apps to code his route.  Print pictures from the book, spread them out by attaching them to plastic cups and ask students to retell the story by driving Dash through the book.    I’ve also used Rosie’s Walk with BeeBots, and the Hungry Caterpillar.  We won’t stop there – books make the perfect subject for robotics and young children.  BeeBotCommands

Make it Mathematical:  Measure how far Dash can travel in 10 seconds. Measure how far he can go in 20.  Estimate how long it will take him to travel from your classroom door to the water fountain.  Have kids design a course for Dash – and they’ll have to use some measurement if they plan to use coding.  BeeBots are based on 15 cm squares, like the Hungry Caterpillar mat above that I created.  Older kids could do multiplication and advanced math by creating a mat like this.  How many trips around the board is a mile?  That would be fun to figure out.

Other possibilities, toss play money around on the floor.  Drive Dash to the coins or bills.  If he circles the money, students get to add the total to their “bank.” They could see how much money they can collect in five minutes.  For added practice, create a graph of money collected by Dash each day.

Diary of a Robot: Students will love writing stories about Dash. Dress him up in costumes and make him a center.  Take some fun photos of him around town.  Students can select a photo and write or tell a story about Dash.

dash_and_dot-9f97ec434039a9f6271b0ef2379f1e2fSocial Studies: Whether kids are learning about community workers or careers, ask them to create a course for Dash as a “doctor” or a “police man.”  They could draw pictures to place around the floor that show Dash working as that career.  Then, they can share their course with each other and drive Dash on his journey “working” through a day in the life of that career.

Additionally, North, South, East, and West are easily taught using code.  Place the compass rose on your mat and students can get more specific.  Have kids write directions for Dash to drive to the playground.  That’s a challenge!

Don’t have robots in your classroom yet?  Make some arrow cards for students to line up to tell another person how to move.  The cards could also be drawn on wooden blocks.  Students line up the code, then have a partner follow it.  Boards similar to the BeeBot mat above would be perfect for kids to practice on.  You can even download this book from Code.org and find arrow cards and cut and paste sheets inside.   Have students act out each other’s code will help them practice reading the code and writing it.  Plus, it’s fun to pretend to be a robot, right?  Of course it is, whether you’re five or thirty five.  Or maybe that’s just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Totally Have Time for #HourOfCode

It’s here!  This coming week is the big Hour of Code.  You might be thinking, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that?’ Or, maybe you’re like me, thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is my superbowl!”   Either way, whether you have an entire coding curriculum in your classroom, or have never even understood what the heck the coding revolution is all about, there is something out there for you to encourage your kiddos to try… no planning, no purchasing. Just an activity that will get it started.  There is likely a kid or ten in your classroom that thinks in the visually goodness way that coding speaks to. Trust me, often kids that are struggling in some areas, find success in coding.  Doesn’t that make it worth trying in the classroom?

Here are five ways to incorporate Hour of Code THIS week…. or the week after, whether you have one device or a class set.

1.)  Paper Coding.

On index cards, create arrows of Turn Right, Turn Left, Forward, Backward.  On the floor, use the floor tiles or use masking tape to create a grid.  Depending on what you are learning about in class, create a game board with the grid.  For example, Oregon Trail?  Add obstacles on the grid like a river, a rock, a moutain– all things students will have to navigate around.  Students write the program by laying the cards out, and another student follows the program by moving through the sequence on the floor. Young students could practice letter recognition, find numbers by rolling a dice, or even sight words.  Older students could create their own board with a historical topic, make cards to draw a task like, “Navigate from the mountain, across the river, and stop at the bridge.”    Oh, there’s no device even involved.  Just teamwork, creativity, collaboration… and fun.  This could also work on a small scale using grid paper and moving objects.

Fractus Learning offer these FREE PDF printables for coding games and some great suggestions for other paper coding!

Space Paper Coding Example

2.) Websites

Code.org has three amazing ready to use tutorials that kids can partner up and try out for some collaborative fun, or dive in on their own.  Minecraft, Star Wars, and Frozen make the tasks fun and interactive, but the idea is to introduce kids to the basics of coding.  Do it along with your students and you’ll be surprised at how much fun coding is.  It’s certainly not just a boring bunch of numbers and letters like I once thought.  No experience necessary.

Scratch.  Scratch has to be one of the most underused and overly awesome things online.  I know why – it’s a bit confusing to a teacher that doesn’t have a lot of spare time to take a look at coding sites.  But have no fear!  Scratch has you covered– they offer FREE Scratch Cards for you to download and print.  And guess what, with NO experience on your part, you can hand these to your kids, and ask them to figure it out. And you will learn right along with them.  Once they start discovering what Scratch can do, they’ll be hooked.   Scratch also has an amazing little set of easy tutorials to help kiddos begin to understand coding.  Be sure to check out last years “Create a Holiday Card” tutorial… it’s a fun one, too.   So how can Scratch fit into your overpacked curriculum?  The skills it reinforces, among them creativity, collaboration, problem solving, also include tons of math skills (number sense, time, measurement, angles, shapes), could easily be used to reinforce understanding in a science or social studies topic, or could be a springboard to a creative writing project because of the interactivity. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!   NOTE: Scratch Jr. is also available as an app, and definitely one to check out for the younger crowd.

3.) Apps

Hopscotch:  A great app to begin coding with. Similar to Scratch.
BeeBot:  Now you can code with BeeBots on an iPad, whether you own the BeeBot robots or not.

Daisy the Dinosaur: Created by Hopscotch, another fun one. Daisy is cute, too.

And to look for a few more, check out Common Sense Media Coding Apps.  This is a must use site for vetting apps and websites for the classroom or even your own kiddos at home.  Excellent rating systems and they keep it up to date.

4.) Videos

What is coding?   Great little intro for primary and elementary ages.

What is coding?  Good intro for Upper Elementary.

Should Everyone Learn to Code?   Very cool way to show kids the possibilities of the cool careers that coding involves.  Would be excellent for upper elementary and middle school.

 

code

 

 

Unless You Want School to Be Boring

I hated math when I was a kid.  Not just disliked it, I couldn’t stand it.  Why? Because I hated doing 800 problems of the same thing.  The repetition and practice was so boring and the unimaginative word problems about apples and cats were even worse.  I honestly think it’s why I still despise textbooks.  I see them as soul-draining devices that suck the fun and joy from learning.

Today I learned more about using Turtle Art.   I realized one thing, I totally shouldn’t have hated math when I was a kid.  Math is all about creativity and problem solving.  Math is art, patterns, shapes, designs, and so much more.  So why was I only exposed to 800 problems on a page?  Because we standardize everything and run kids through the motions. And we bore them.

I’m not a math teacher, and I won’t pretend to be a math expert.  I’m a learner and today when I was learning about coding in Turtle Art, I was amazed at the math skills involved in creating art using this program.

Angles.  Distance.  Greater or Less. Range.  Geometry. Addition. Subtraction. Directions. Problem solving. Patterns. Fractions. Symmetry. Rotational Symmetry. Reflection.

I could go on.  All of these skills, practiced in an authentic way, would have made me fall in love with math.  And you know what?  It would have made those 800 problems bearable. Sure there are skills we need, but if I never get the chance to use those skills in an authentic way?  I really don’t care about them.  Except I wanted my gold star.

Today?  I wanted to know what numbers to put in to make a colorful flower.  I wanted to try things and figure it out.  I needed help, but not too much, because I wanted to figure it out on my own.  Because the way my brain was stretching?  It felt good.  Real thinking, the kind that ends with satisfaction and pride.  The kind that is so much better than an A or a gold star.  The kind that’s real.

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