Second week of state standardized testing has been grueling. I’m currently de-stressing via blogging with a cup of joe (but not really-more like Black Masking), watching the Cosmos with Neil de Grasse Tyson while brainstorming extra credit projects related to the show, scanning through the next stages of Code.org‘s intro course to computer science, having a Google Hangout chat with a colleague about our day, and anxiously awaiting Scandal. I can’t turn the teacher off.
Have you seen this awesome photo Instagrammed by Bill Nye a couple weeks ago? I’m in love with this ‘presidential selfie’ showing students how cool it is to be a change agent or a scientist for that matter.
Any who, this post is about survival- my kids surviving the test, my survival providing highly engaging instruction after my kids have been wiped out due to a physically and emotionally draining exam, and my ability to think computationally to teach a computer science course. A couple weeks back I was inspired by the following article highlighting the amazing things happening in a college teacher acquaintance’s class. (Wow, I’m sure that last sentence has some kind of grammatical error.) She was teaching 3rd grade students how to code!! I thought to myself, “Whoa, if Sharon can teach third graders to code, then 7th and 8th graders could totally do it too!”
I searched the link that she referred to via Donors Choose, watched some highly engaging and motivating tutorials which included real computer programmers including Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerburg, and created an account to take the course myself. I’m not going lie, I was overwhelmed. Talk about a brain drain! I always think of myself as a literacy teacher trapped in a science teacher’s body so the computational thinking- patterns, algorithms, decomposition, and abstraction (see Lesson 3), was a little challenging to wrap my head around. After a couple hours of programming, yes I wrote code, I created my lesson plans this week with the help of Code.org’s k-12 intro to computer science course. My ball and chain, a computer programmer, was so proud!
Monday consisted of a KWL about computer science, a read aloud, and an intro to how computers process data via the binary coder activity (See unplug 1) and creating student accounts on the website. Day 2 consisted of watching the intro video clip whole group and diving right in to Stage 2: Writing code to move an angry bird through a maze to catch a pigglet using block code. Before coding, students independently watch a tutorial how to use the ‘move forward’ code. As students master each maze, students learn how to use more complicated blocks to write a more efficient code. Ex. During the first couple mazes, students write code by using 5 move forward blocks. In later maze levels, students use two blocks, ‘move forward’ and ‘repeat,’ blocks to get the same task accomplished.
Throughout the week, we have made anchor charts to support new vocabulary, processes we have learned, and problem solved in a collaborative and engaging way. My kids have been rock stars this week…even my students that lack the motivation or enthusiasm day to day. Students asked me in the hall before testing if we were going to code today. Some said, “I think I might want to be a computer scientist one day.” My babies are teaching each other how to code…
Thanks Sharon, Donors Choose, and Code.org! You have helped us survive testing and sparked an interest in computer science. Who would have thought?