Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Online Safety

Wow! I feel like I open a can of worms when I start teaching my kindergarten through 4th students about online safety. It's such a hard balance between informing students of how to be safe and exposing students of how to be safe.

With my kindergarten through second grade, we watched this video. It's ehh -- I just couldn't find one that I loved ya know? I think it drove home my point that some information we just don't share with people we don't know online (or online strangers as I had to call them with some classes).

With 3rd and 4th grade, we watched this video from Common Sense Media. We talked about how important it is to for the "3 Be's" like they talked about in the video. While I'm not sure this is true, I told them that if they aren't careful, future bosses might look at what they did online even when they are this young!

I did an informal poll with my classes and was just shocked with how many students in my 3rd and 4th grade classes have some sort of social media (Facebook, instagram, snapchat, kik, etc.) Even though I'm not a parent, it just scares me with how much freedom some of these students were being given to just surf as they please. Make me think I need to do a class for the parents about online safety...

I do have to give one of my classes some major props. A student was worried about the talking angela app that is supposedly takes your picture while you were playing on it. Now, I had never heard of it, so I explained that while they were working, I would see what I could find. Lo and behold, it was a hoax. I was so proud of these students though because they did exactly what I wanted them to do and they didn't even know it!

As a post assessment for my students, I have them complete this sort of safe and unsafe things to share with students. In a classroom that uses technology 95% of the time, having a paper to actually grade is nice sometimes!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Break the Code --- Code.Org

This post starts my first in my series of "What the Code?" -- a review of different learn to code apps & websites. Today I am going to start with the big daddy of them all -- Code.org.

Code.org began in 2013 as way to get ALL students interested in coding. Students can choose to participate in just an "hour of code" during their yearly "Hour of Code Week" or can participate year round with Code Studio. Depending on you location, Code.Org offers free trainings for teachers on how to implement into your classroom!

Classroom Uses - Kindergarten & 1st 
For K&1 I start them on Course 1 (non-readers) Stage 3 where they learn to drag and drop the piece. Students could skip this level, but for me, I think it builds a great foundation of how to manipulate the blocks. Before I let them begin, I work whole group with the students through stage 3 and a couple of levels on stage 4. Because it's usually one of the first class periods and our "coding stamina" isn't built up yet. I usually let them work for around 30 minutes beginning with Stage 3. Rarely do I have someone make it to the end of Stage 5. The next class, I skip ahead to Stage 13 to loops. Wow. Loops are hard! As long as they are trying to use the new repeat piece then I am happy!

Code.Org - Course 2

Classroom Uses - 2nd, 3rd, and 4th
For 2-4, I have the start on Course 2 (readers) Stage 3. I model levels 1 - 4 mainly to get show them an example of a turn & a move. Because these are older students, I usually have them work the whole class period. I also usually have a handful of students who get to the artist levels which I think is much harder because it has them use degrees which hasn't been taught yet. Those kids who get there though are usually able to do it pretty well with a little bit of support.  The next class period the students work through Stage 6. My brain always hurts after this level! I try to explain to the students to look for patterns!

Code.Org - Course 1

1. I love the connection of the current game characters! Students are willing to work harder on something because it has Elsa on it than if it was a no name princess!
2. Recently, they have added hints! Game changer! To me, this totally connects with real life problem solving. If I don't know something, I go and ask someone or "get a hint".
3. It's a great work at your own pace program! You don't have to sign in to use the program either. Yay for no passwords!
4. Code.Org is always coming out with new themes. This past year they added a Minecraft AND Star Wars theme.

1. I know they want you do also be able to do unplugged activities without the computer, but I wish there was a way to skip those.
2. I hate the bee levels on the Course 1. Even to me, it's so confusing with the nectar and the flowers. I intentionally skip those levels because we just don't get it! No more bees please Code.Org!

I think code.org is a great way to get kids of all ages started learning to code. I mean, who doesn't love coding with Angry Birds, Star Wars,  Frozen, and so many more current characters! I do wish it had more "create your own", but I think there are other programs *cough* Scratch *cough* that do a great job of that.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Morning Message

Two years ago, I taught 3rd Grade with a very high number of English Language (EL) students. One thing that I dreaded was Morning Meeting or Community Gathering as we called it. I hated writing the notes. I hated the activity. I hated the greeting. I hated everything

Since moving to the computer lab, I have started loving Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting in related arts? What?! Now, my Morning Meeting looks a little bit different, but still involves the component of message and sharing which for a Morning Meeting hater, I will take 2 out of the 4.

When students enter the classroom, I have a message already written for them projected on the screen. 

Students have learned from day 1 that you do not ask me what we are doing in class or if we are going to get on the computers. (We are a computer class -- of course we are!) Uf they do ask, I tell them to go read the message. While they are reading the message, it gives me a quick minute to check in with the teacher or grab what I need for my lesson. So even though I have no time buffer between classes, I've built in some with a structured read.

Now I know you are thinking, but what about Kindergartners? They can't read! Well no, most of mine can't even this far into the school year. But they do know their letters and some sight words. I still let them "read it", but they know they need to be looking for something they do know how to read. Before I read it aloud, I let students come up and point to a sight word or a letter that they know. 

What classroom management do you have in place for when your students enter?

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Promise

*sigh* The obligatory first post on a new blog. The first post that tells the reader every little detail about you that quickly gets hidden by (hopefully) other posts. I get it, I don't like reading that either. Take a gander at my about me page if that's what you want to know. I won't bore you with the details here.

However, I will bore you with my promises. On that first day of school with a new class, we always create a class promise that we reflect on throughout the year. This is no different.

1. I promise to give you quality ideas. 

I LOVE what I do. I think everyone should learn a little bit of coding because as a wise 1st grader told me, "...coding makes me feel like a genius!" And let's be real, who doesn't love the feeling of being a genius.

2. I promise to not flood your RSS feed with products. 
I have a TPT... so what. But I refuse to use this as an outlet to sell my products. Yes, I use my products in my classroom, but I'm not going to flood your feed with advertisements. I want to show you good ideas to incorporate coding.

3. I promise to be respectful of my school.

Ouch -- this one is hard. There will be days I want to blast my school, principal, colleague, etc. But here is not the place. I love the quote, "Positives go out, negatives go up". I'm trying to do a better job this school year of being someone who actually tries to solve the negative things with people who can fix them.

4. I promise to proofread.

I'm a horrible writer -- I'm fully aware -- but that won't stop me from telling you what really happened in my day. I just may include a couple of extras errors here and there :)

And last,
5. I promise to connect with you.

Please, leave me comments if you have questions or comments. It's a lonely world being an elementary programming teacher!