Tag Archives: Hour of Code

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.


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.


With this week’s Hour of Code very much in my mind,  an article in my Flipboard technology magazine this weekend immediately caught my attention.  TechCrunch described a new site called, “Bitsbox” that helps children to learn how to write code.

The site is one of the featured lessons in this year’s Hour of Code list of activities.  I took a little time last night to check out how Bitsbox might differ from other programming apps and games.

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The interface of Bitsbox is very simple, and simulates a tablet for which you are designing apps. (Bitsbox is browser-based, however – not an app.)  According to Scott Lininger, one of the company’s co-founders, he wanted to get away from some of the popular block-programming languages that are popular with children.  Although those (such as Scratch, Blockly, and Tynker) have value, Lininger was interested in showing children how to actually type code, not just drag and drop.

Bitsbox does teach simple text commands (so your child will need to be a good reader to work on it independently).  However, if you are lazy like me, you may find yourself doing a lot of copying and pasting. I’m not sure if that’s quite as informative as typing the text myself, but I’m not the only one who figures out that shortcut pretty quickly.

Bitsbox is free, and even provides a very helpful Teacher’s Guide. Here is the link to their Hour of Code site. Bitsbox is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a subscription program that will include a box delivered to your door each month with new programs to try out. You can visit their website for more information.

For more ideas on Programming for Kids, check out my Pinterest Board!

Creative Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break

Full disclosure: this first week of December is going to be my busiest week this year. Therefore, I decided to cheat a bit for a few days and recycle some posts from last year.  I’ve done a bit of editing to make sure they remain current but otherwise they are the same.  Hopefully you still find them useful!

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Screen Shot from Kelly Wine’s Rube Goldberg-esque Holiday Machine Video

Let’s face it.  This month is hard.  No one – including you – is feeling very focused on academics right now.  To save everyone’s sanity, and to put smiles on all of the faces in the room, try some of these creative ideas:

Here are a couple I have mentioned before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat.

Other posts in this series:

Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!
Physical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!
Telegenic Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!

Hour of Python from Trinket

I can’t even remember what circuitous route I followed on the internet the other day that landed me on the Trinket site. Two things piqued my interest about it: that it offers some Hour of Code tutorials, and that it works on any browser with no downloads required.

You can sign up for Trinket for free.  However, you don’t even need to do that to try out one of the Hour of Code tutorials.  You can just click on the Hour of Python link and get started.  I definitely think it’s a good option for my older students.  There is a lot of reading involved, so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone below 3rd grade – and really 4th grade and up is better, depending on the ability level of your students.  These tutorials might also be good for students who try other activities during the Hour of Code, and want to pursue coding independently. They also work well for teachers-who-know-practically-nothing-about-coding (or so I hear).

Hour of Python

If you aren’t sure what I mean by Hour of Code, here is the post I did about it last week.  If you’re looking for something that you can use with your younger students, check out yesterday’s post (and the Hour of Code site, which has ideas for all levels of age and experience – including activities that require no devices).  And, if you want to find other resources for Programming for Kids, here is my Pinterest Board with tons of links.