Tag Archives: Hour of Code

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Rover Control

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.

giftsforthegifted

Rover Control is a part of a series of three coding games released by Thinkfun this year.  Like the other two games, Rover Control is “unplugged,” which means that no digital devices are required.  My students enjoy all three games, but they seem particularly drawn to Rover Control – possibly because it is the only one that involves using dry-erase markers 😉

The purpose of Rover Control is to color paths on the included Terrain Maps so that the Mars Rovers can find their way.  According to the storyline, the original paths were covered by a giant dust storm, and it is the player’s job to re-discover those paths.  The 40 challenges are in a booklet, and increase in difficulty as you turn each page.

All three of the coding games in this series have extensive instructions that include explanations of numerous rules and symbols.  We learned that it is easier to start playing and look new symbols or rules up as we encounter them than it is to read all of the instructions before beginning to play.  We also learned that kids are much better at deciphering instructions than Mrs. Eichholz…

As with many Thinkfun products, Rover Control is designed so that it can be played independently or collaboratively.  I have found that it works perfectly in my classroom with groups of three students.  They each get a dry-erase marker, and seem to benefit from group discussions as they plan their solutions. It’s important to remind players to stick with the sequence of the challenge booklet.  Though beginning challenges may seem too easy, the puzzles are scaffolded in a way that slowly introduces new difficulties; skipping straight to the back of the book will only result in frustration.Photo Oct 19, 11 15 16 AM

With this year’s Hour of Code just around the corner (Dec. 4-10, 2017), you may want to consider adding “Rover Control” to your classroom as a center or to your home as a fun family night activity.  For my students in 3rd-5th grades, the game seems to have just right amount of challenge and entertainment. If you are buying this game to be played at home, I recommend that parents play along with the children.  It is a good opportunity to model problem-solving and perseverance, since adults can find the puzzles difficult as well.

You can find Rover Control and its two siblings at Target. For more great thinking games, check out my Pinterest Board.rovercontrol.jpg

Disclaimer: Every once in awhile, Thinkfun will send a product or two for me to review. These products are used in my classroom, but it is my decision whether or not to post a review on this blog.  All opinions in these reviews are based on my honest observations.

 

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#CodeinClass

The value of social networking never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday, I tweeted the blog post I had shared about the Hopscotch Snowflake tutorial.  I received a reply from an educator in Maryland, @mrdulberger, inviting anyone interested to attend a webinar today called “Coding in the Class.”

The webinar will be hosted by the students in Mr. Dulberger’s 5th grade class and Liza Conrad from Hopscotch.  It will be at 1:30 EST today, December 10th.  If you are unable to tune in, the recording will be archived.  Here is the link to more information.

At the very least, you should show your students the trailers for the webinar.  Created by Mr. Dulberger’s students, the short commercials display a multitude of ways that Hopscotch can be used to enhance core curriculum.  Here are the links to Commercial #1 and Commercial #2.

Hopscotch Angles
A student demonstrates how she used Hopscotch to make a game about measuring angles.

 

 

More #HourofCode Resources 2015

As you prepare for next week’s global Hour of Code, I wanted to offer a few more resources for those of you who might still be trying to decide whether or not to participate.

  • Ashley Cronin has written a nice article for Edutopia that summarizes resources for the Hour of Code and beyond.  One of the many helpful tools you will find is the slide show of “Best Practices for Educators.”
  • Brian Aspinall explains the benefits of using coding to teach numeracy and literacy in “Unplugging the Hour of Code.”
  • In his iPad Monthly – Coding Edition, Paul Hamilton offers several step-by-step programming lessons for the iPad using various apps.  (Tickle app, which is currently unavailable in the iTunes store is one of the apps, but there are a few others as well.)
  • Totally overwhelmed by all of these suggestions?  Try this Hour of Code Tutorial Picker from TEALS.

Tips

  1. I’ve found that parents are more than willing to volunteer.  Even if they don’t have programming experience, the parents can help students navigate to tutorials, read instructions, or troubleshoot computer issues.  Local businesses are often interested in helping out, too.
  2. Putting students into pairs helps to reduce the number of devices needed as well as reducing the number of calls for help.  You can also ask older students to be “buddies” with younger ones.
  3. One of my colleagues and I have “The Rule of Threes.” The students must try to problem-solve on their own for at least three minutes, then ask three other students before the teacher.  If one student is asked for advice three times, he or she is “frozen,” meaning no one else can keep that student from accomplishing the task by asking for advice.  This helps them to become more self-reliant and collaborate with others instead of asking us – who actually don’t know the answers either.  I’m thinking of adding, “Three for free and then you lose the key,” so they can’t ask for help more than three times.  And it rhymes, which is cool.  But that might be carrying the “threes” theme a bit too far…  Maybe.
Love this Hour of Code snapshot of success from Pasco Schools
Love this Hour of Code snapshot of success from Pasco Schools

 

 

Box Island App

If you’re looking for a new mobile app to try for Hour of Code, Box Island might be the one for you. The full version is not available yet, but there is an Hour of Code version that you can get for free in the iTunes or Google Play app store.  There are 20 levels in this free version, and the difficulty increases slightly with each one.  I must admit that even with my somewhat varied experience with coding apps there were a couple of levels that I had try a few times before reaching the goal.

The app is designed for ages 6+.  Your basic mission is to program  Hiro (an animated blue box) to collect a stopwatch through paths and obstacles that get harder as the player learns more skills. Although there is a bit of reading involved, I think that pre-readers would still be able to enjoy this game with little guidance, as the arrows are pretty self-explanatory.

Box Island’s Hour of Code page offers solutions, lesson plans, and a detailed curriculum that explains the computer science involved in playing the game.There are 3 sections in the game: Sequences (levels 1-6), Loops (levels 7-13) and Conditionals (levels 14-20).  You can also print out a certificate of completion for the students once they finish all of the levels.

Box Island isn’t ground-breaking as programming apps go, but it’s a good app for introducing the skills that are needed in many programming languages.

boxisland

Hour of Code 2015

I feel that this post is probably superfluous.  Code.org has done a wonderful job already of promoting this year’s Hour of Code, scheduled for 12/7-12/13.    However, it doesn’t hurt to give this great event more publicity (with the hope that Code.org’s servers can handle all of the extra traffic).

The concept is simple – make sure every student at every level gets to experience an hour of coding next week.  If you’ve never participated in Hour of Code, this may seem to be a daunting task.   Code.org makes it super simple, though.  The Hour of Code site provides step-by-step tutorials for all age levels, many of them with high-interest themes, such as Minecraft, Star Wars, and Frozen, and most of them can be done on any device.  No devices?  No problem. There are “unplugged” activities that can be used for Hour of Code as well.

Why should educators give all students – even elementary students – this experience?  The videos on this page can explain the importance of computer science for our future.  You may have potential Mark Zuckerbergs in your room – or not.  But you definitely have future problem-solvers, collaborators, and innovators.  Coding develops all of these skills, with the added bonus that students have fun while they learn them.

I urge you to give it a try.  I hesitantly took the risk a few years ago, and I’ve been glad I did ever since.  If you still feel reluctant – primarily because you may not feel like you have enough experience – then you might want to look at my Code Dread post from a few weeks ago.  I promise that you don’t have to be Bill Gates to guide students through the Hour of Code.  In fact, inexperienced people have an advantage in this situation because they will avoid the pitfall of helping too much!

Need more Hour of Code ideas?  Check this out.

For some more programming resources for kids, here is a Pinterest Board of links to websites and products that will help children learn to code.

Hour of Code 2015

Shopping and Coding – Practically the Same Thing

Since I have different grade levels each day, I have been doing Hour of Code all week.  With my students I’ve done Hopscotch, Kodable, Robot Turtles, and several of the lessons on Code Studio.  It has been an absolute blast!  Yesterday, I asked my 4th graders to describe their feelings about their programming experience using figurative language, which we have been studying.  Here are some of my favorite comments:

“Hour of Code was a football game with teammates patting you on the back when you worked your way to success.”

“When we did Hour of Code, I felt like a genius.”

“Hopscotch is a spark, ready to ignite with creativity, dreams, imagination, and fun!”

“Programming is as fun as playing with a bottlenose dolphin.”

And one that I can really relate to from one of my female students –

Black Friday

 

Many people think of boring strings of commands or structured logic when they hear “computer science” or “programming.”  But I have witnessed incredible examples of creativity throughout the week.  I know I already shared a Hopscotch video earlier this week, but I have to share this one, too:

If you haven’t tried Hour of Code with your students, please consider it! You and your students will find it to be a rewarding experience.

Here is a link to more Programming Resources if you are interested.

Getting Schooled by Hopscotch

Yesterday was the beginning of Hour of Code week.  Despite the fact that all of my students will be doing an activity with their classroom teachers this week, I wanted to incorporate it into GT as well.  Feeling a bit adventurous, I decided to see how my 2nd graders would do on a Hopscotch tutorial that I did with my 5th graders last week.

I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the Food Fight Dodgeball tutorial if you’ve never used Hopscotch before.  (The Paddleball tutorial is a good introduction.)  However, I knew my 2nd graders would be doing the Paddleball one with their classroom teachers, and I wanted them to get some additional Hopscotch experience so they could help their classmates this week.

Two girls work on the Hopscotch app in my classroom
Two girls work on the Hopscotch app in my classroom

As we went through the tutorial, I was so excited by the enthusiasm of my students – most of them.  One girl, who was working on her own because we have an odd number of students, was clearly getting frustrated and angry at the difficulties she was having.  Even though other students and I helped her, she kept falling more and more behind.  I was pretty confident she would be going home and letting her parents know in no uncertain terms that I had helped to foster in her a strong dislike of programming.

To calm her down, I reminded her that it was okay if her program didn’t do everything that was on the tutorial, and that she might want to take a break for a few minutes until I could help her.

We talk a lot about Growth Mindset in my class, and she apparently felt like “take a break” meant “give up.” Instead of heeding my advice, she doggedly worked through the lines of program.  When I was about to go help her, she exclaimed, “I figured it out!”  Then she excitedly described how she had added her own rules to make something even more fun happen at the end.

On the way back to class, this same girl who made it quite clear for the majority of the class that she would be more than happy to lob a few pizzas and hamburgers at me, declared, “I LOVED Hour of Code!” as she skipped down the hall.

Every day that I teach, I learn way more from my students than they do from me.

One day someone is going to figure this out and ask for a refund of my salary…

In the meantime, check out some video I took of some of the games the students made below.  And, if you want more ideas for teaching students how to code, here is a link to my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board.