Programming Club

“Are we going to get to build robots and design video games?”

“I think this club is going to be so much fun!”

“Wow! This is so cool!”

“I did it!”

My second and third grade students were so excited to start Programming Club yesterday, and honestly, their teacher (me!) was too! I love more than anything seeing the excitement in students when they are learning new things and trying something novel. It is amazing to watch them try to figure it out and then when they do, that moment of celebration.

Yesterday began our first official meeting of Programming Club. I am co-chairing the group with the Focus Teacher at Fairview STEM Elementary, Mr. Stalter, and we are so excited to get started. The club is open to 2nd and 3rd grade students and we will meet once a week throughout the school year. We are using the free curriculum from Code.org for our club, but will also be implementing some lessons from SPRK Education to program our Sphero.

We started our session talking about what programming is and what computer programmers do. Students had a lot of really good ideas about what types of things people in the computer science industry do. Then we talked about whether we thought computers and iPads were really smart. Most students said yes; look at all the things they can do! That led us into a discussion about how computers don’t know what to do until someone tells it what to do. I love that we can make connections between following directions at school and a computer following directions!

Then, students programmed each of the teachers using the tile squares on the floor to give us directions to get from one corner of the room to the Promethean board. IMG_4054It was really helpful for students to see how they had to give me explicit directions – including which direction to turn – before moving in another direction. Students then had some time to practice on their own using the Unplugged activity called “Happy Maps.

In Happy Maps, the objective is to program the Flurb to get to the fruit. Using arrows, students work in partners to try to figure out which direction will get the Flurb to the fruit in the shortest number of steps. It was a bit of a challenge for some students to choose the shortest path. I think maybe they just wanted to glue all their arrows down! But, Mr. Stalter compared the steps to trying to win a race. If you need 1 step to get to the finish line and the other person takes 3 steps, who will win? That helped them to understand why they should try to find the shortest distance.

IMG_4052We finished up with an Assessment on Code.org where students answered questions about which way to turn in order to get their Flurb to a pot of gold. One of the things I LOVE about Code.org is the Teacher Dashboard. You can set up all your students in a class and assign which course you want them to be working in. Then, you can track their progress in those courses, including areas where they may have “passed” a level, but used more blocks than necessary. This shows that students are understanding the main concepts, but are still having struggles with something like looping or conditionals. Code.org using block programming, where students drag and drop blocks onto the work space and they can watch their code in action as their character moves through a puzzle. There is an option to show code, which is great for older learners as you begin to make the transition between block programming and programming language. When you create your class on the Teacher Dashboard, you also have a vareity of options for login. We created a picture as their password, rather than an actual word the students had to type. I love that it’s so scaffolded for different age and skill levels.

We had a blast and are really excited for this school year! IMG_4053

Are you interested in learning more about Code.org? You can find a FREE workshop to attend where you will get training, curriculum guide, swag bags, resources, and more. If you’re local to the Lansing, MI area, sign up for my workshop HERE.   

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