Category Archives: K-5

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week.  The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.

Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill.  This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots.  The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.

The week was interspersed with design and logic activities.  Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur.  I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.

One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview.  The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be!  I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place.  I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage.  I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).

The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!

During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant.  It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups!  The video embedded below is what we showed the parents.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!

I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!

Osmo Coding

It seems like just yesterday when our class was asked to beta test a new product from a company called Tangible Play.  It was a tangram game that integrated physical pieces with an app on your iPad using a special base and mirror.  Our students even got to teleconference with the developers to give feedback on their experience.

Since then, the un-named set we tested has become Osmo, and there have been many evolutions of the tangram game as well as new additions to the suite of games available.  It has been gratifying to see a company that is so interested in education to grow and continue to contribute to educational technology in such a positive way.

The latest Osmo set is, “Coding.”  My students have been trying it out this summer during our robot camp, and I have been watching their play with interest.  The set includes magnetics blocks that look similar to the coding blocks you might see in Scratch or Blockly.  You can move them around and snap them together.  My students particularly like the “play” block with an arrow button to press whenever they are ready to start the program.

On the iPad screen, players have a friendly looking creature named Awbie, who they can direct to move toward different objects in the app while using the physical blocks on the table.

One thing I love about all of the Osmo apps is that they include practically no instructions.  There are some on-screen gestures showing where to move blocks at the beginning, but that’s about it.  The students figure out on their own where Awbie needs to go, and quickly deduce which blocks to use as the game slowly becomes more challenging.

Students from 6-11 have enjoyed the Coding game from Osmo and there is often a crowd gathered around it as the students encourage players to try certain blocks.  It has been a great warm-up activity as kids arrive for our camp each day.

Like all Tangible Play apps for Osmo, Coding is free.  However, you do need to purchase the physical pieces and the set that includes the base and mirror piece if you don’t already have it.  Coding is another great resource to introduce programming to young students.

Osmo Coding
Osmo Coding

 

Austin’s Butterfly

My friend, Donna Lasher (@bdlasher), shared this video with me on Twitter earlier this week.  I was blown away by watching how constructive feedback from his peers was used to improve a student’s work dramatically.  In this video, you will see the power of a good critique as well as an excellent argument for giving students more time and options to do multiple drafts until they achieve mastery.  This is what Growth Mindset is all about.  (For more videos about Growth Mindset, click here.)

Screen Shot from Austin's Butterfly
Screen Shot from Austin’s Butterfly

She Wears Many Hats (cont.)

We were a week late finishing our 2nd grade GT Mother’s Day project due to a few scheduling conflicts.  However, we did get done with our “She Wears Many Hats” booklets, and I wanted to share some of the completed pages by my students.  We worked hard on brainstorming different types of hats and then trying to bridge from concrete to abstract thinking.  For example, for the construction worker hat, students were tempted to say, “because she helps me build with Legos.”  I gave them examples of how people can build, or make things stronger, in other ways, and they ran with it.  I almost forgot to take pictures, so I only have a few different student works that I caught before they took them home!

Photo May 16, 9 15 35 AM Photo May 16, 8 54 55 AM Photo May 16, 8 55 55 AM Photo May 16, 8 55 37 AM Photo May 16, 8 56 20 AM Photo May 16, 9 16 46 AM Photo May 16, 8 55 13 AM

Share Time

As a teacher in an elementary pull-out Gifted in Talented program, I meet with most of my students once a week.  Making connections with my students is really important to me, and it can be hard to keep track of what is going on in the lives of 50+ children who I don’t see every day.  Several years ago, I started implementing something called, “Share Time,” at the beginning of my classes.  It wasn’t anything novel – just sitting in a circle and giving everyone the opportunity to tell us one thing that they really want to share.  It could be about a birthday, an exciting adventure, an accomplishment – pretty much anything.

My classes are small, so this does not take a lot of time and I love getting glimpses of the lives of my students outside of school.  As an added benefit, it helps to reduce the number of off-topic interruptions later in the day, especially with my younger students.

One thing that frustrated me about Share Time, however, was that the only one interested in the person sharing was me.  The other students were so eager to speak that they rarely paid attention to their peers.  Or, they would hear something that someone said and interrupt to share a similar experience.

So, this year I started something new.  It’s probably one of those things that lots of teachers do, and it just took me 25 years to figure it out on my own.  Now, we go around the circle twice.  The second time gives students the opportunity to share something else, but there’s a hitch – it has to be based on something they heard from someone else in the circle.

For example, if one student says she is starting swim team this week, and 5 students start jumping up and down in their chairs to blurt out the same thing, they don’t.  Now, they wait for their second turn, and say, “When Erica said she was starting swim team this week, that reminded me that I’m starting swim team, too!  I’m on a different team, though – the Hammerheads.”

Implementing this simple addition to our Share Time has really brought it to another level.  The students are more attentive to each other and there are far less interruptions.  It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I thought it might be helpful for other teachers who have a similar routine in their classes.

image from Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr
image from Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr

An Open Letter to Moms

“An Open Letter to Moms” is a Kid President video that would be perfect to show your students right before they work on their Mother’s Day gifts.  In fact, you could even have your students make a video themselves:)

image from "An Open Letter to Moms"
image from “An Open Letter to Moms”

Don’t Gross Out the World

Creator of ClassTools.net, @RusselTarr, tweeted this site the other day.  My 1st graders have been studying countries around the world, and we have recently been discussing foods.  They really enjoyed “Don’t Gross Out the World,” from FunBrain because they thought many of the cultural traditions were unbelievable.  For example, how can it be true that some people think that it’s a compliment to burp loudly after a meal? Or, that asking for catsup could possibly be an insult in some countries?  I learned a few new things myself by playing this game with the class:)

Don't Gross Out the World game from FunBrain
Don’t Gross Out the World game from FunBrain