What's Happening in the iLab

December and January

Kindergarten

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1st grade

Kindergartner's really enjoyed their coding unit (yes--kindergartners can understand and write computer programs!) with the help of the friendly folks at Code.org.

We talked a lot about how we use code to help us tell the computer what we want it to do. We also talked about how the computer does exactly what we tell it to do, so each direction that we give it is important and all of it fits together to create a working program.

You are welcome to check out code.org and sign up your student for an account. They do have school accounts, and if email me, I'd be happy to send you the link and their "password" as well. At this level, I would recommend the Level 1 activities.


Following our study of computer programming, we moved into the study of weather. We've been keeping track of our weather almost daily and looking to see if we find any patterns. We've learned what the different weather icons are on a map, what kind of temperatures correspond to different kinds of weather, and how to be prepared for different kinds of weather, even severe weather. Right now, full day kindergartners are creating their own weather reports. You can check out an example at this link. Don't worry if you don't see your student's report yet. We're still working on them.


Weather games that are helping us build understanding (and sharpen our mouse skills) have included:


Snow Search

Sid's Weather Wheel

Cat in the Hat Weather Transformer

Sid's Weather Surprise

Young Meterologist Program

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First graders also explored coding/computer programming in December. Using Code.org's Level 1 guides, 1st graders explored how things work together in parts to create a bigger system. We realized that computers and other devices are actually just really complex systems and that each part has a purpose and tells the computer or program what to do. This is a great video we used to help with this idea.

You are welcome to check out code.org and sign up your student for an account. They do have school accounts, and if email me, I'd be happy to send you the link and their "password" as well. At this level, I would recommend the Level 1 activities.


Now that our coding unit is over, we have begun to look at how we can express ourselves in writing using digital tools. Using Discovery Education, students explored a number of stories that have been turned into short animations. We also really enjoyed hearing some favorite books read aloud on Storyline Online. Students examined how authors create meaning using interesting characters and a story structure (beginning, middle, end, conflict, resolution, etc.). We noticed that good authors use detailed words in interesting ways, and we explored the site PicLits, which helped us to think about how we could create sentences that really "hook" a reader.

Now, we are creating our own books using Storyjumper. We're excited to be able to share those out when we finish them, probably in the weeks right before Spring Break.

2nd and 3rd grade

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2nd and 3rd graders have really been diving deep into coding/computer program. We started off by asking "What is coding" and we discovered that most of us didn't know what it was at all. :) After checking out this Brainpop Movie and this video featuring some very famous coders, we began to understand that software programs and hardware devices are actually made up of lots of little systems working together.

We noticed that computer programming is actually a form of communication--it is how we "talk" to the computer in a language it understands. (Hard to believe that different combinations of 1s and 0s make up some pretty amazing programs!)

As we learned to code, we also have come to understand that there is a lot of problem solving and critical thinking involved. A lot of the time, the program didn't do what we thought it would do, and we had to figure out where we went wrong and how to fix it. We really developed our resiliency and persistence skills!

We practiced our coding skills using Code.org's Level 2 program, which you are more than welcome to check out at home. Most kids should know their login, but if they don't, feel free to email me at cebeck@dcsdk12.org and I'd be happy to share it with you. Or, they can create a home account. Either is fine.


After working through some of the lessons, we moved on to a "coding challenge". Students had the option of pursuing a variety of different learning challenges based on their interest and comfort level. They also had the option to work in teams. (This added a whole new dimension to our understanding...we discovered that collaboration has lots of benefits when coding!)

One of the Challenge Choices allowed students to use code blocks (Blockly) to program a dancing Yeti, and to develop their own GIF (a short animation). You can find those at Google's Made with Code site.

Another challenge was to code a Flappy Bird game and/or tell an interactive story. You can find those here.

Finally, third graders had the additional option to program something almost entirely from scratch--from a program aptly named "Scratch", which you can find here.


Depending on how many challenges students completed, they earned digital badges, which they loved! More information will be coming soon about how to view those badges at home.


More coding opportunities can be found on our Symbaloo page.




Link to image credit

Questions? Comments?

As always, I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Please feel free to contact me anytime. You can also check our website, which offers other ways to connect to the iLab.

cebeck@dcsdk12.org


Thanks!

Mrs. Beck