Integrating Computer Science into an Everyday Classroom

Computer Science Week is Here!

The buzz of coding is in the air! However, in Goochland County we spend more than just one week on coding. We work to integrate coding and computer science skills into the curriculum on a regular basis! So, instead of highlighting just a week of amazing coding ideas I wanted to take a moment to highlight the various ways our teachers are integrating computer science into the curriculum with students as young as five!

In kindergarten students are exploring Ozobots, Scratch Jr, and PBS Kids Scratch Jr to make connections to literature, science, and even math!

Ms. Perry’s kindergarten class partnered with 5th graders in Mr. Beasley’s class to have the older students teach the younger students the basic concepts of Scratch Jr. We read the story There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey and challenged the kindergarten students to code their favorite scene from the book and they had to make at least one object move. The 5th graders helped the kindergarten students learn how to use Scratch Jr. and code their favorite scene.

In Ms. Ruffner’s  3rd grade class they coded a scene to show what they had learned so far about China.

In Ms. Kauffman’s 5th grade class we are using the Ozobots to code a road trip through the regions! We introduced students to the concept of block coding by having them complete various challenges through Ozobots’ Shape Tracer Training. It was amazing to watch students problem solving and persevering even when they felt like giving up!


Ode to Never Give Up!

At the start of this school year we began implementing our 1:1 program at the High School. We are 1:1 now in grades 3-12. As part of the technology team, we work together to deploy laptops and iPads to students. Before becoming an ITRT I spent seven years in the classroom and was part of the 1:1 pilot initiative. I have worked with many students and never truly knew what kind of impact I was making on the students I worked with. I was able to see a glimpse of this through high school deployment. While deploying laptops to high school students, I was able to see some of the students I had worked with! Many still remembered me and the fun they experienced in my class! One little lady proved to me that the fun, hands on lessons will stick with her for years to come. She told me “I still remembering using Oreos in your science class to create the moon phases.” This lesson although simple was something that stuck with her! As a teacher, it is so hard to understand the impact we make on students. We thrive to do our best and put our best lessons forward in hopes that something will stick, that one more approach or method may get through to one more child. We watch the “Ah-Ha” moments happen with many students but worry about those who fall through the cracks. Laying awake at night thinking about how we can get through to them! Wondering, what can I do differently?

While teaching 4th grade, I worked with a student that really struggled to read. She was on a primer reading level in 4th grade and her mother didn’t graduate high school. I worried about her future and how I could help support her as a reader and learner. I watched as she worked hard but struggled and cried because it was very challenging for her! I reminded her that she was beautiful and smart! I wanted her to know I cared and that no matter how difficult school was that she would be successful in life! I wanted her to love school but most importantly I wanted to see her graduate high school!

On that same day of high school deployment, I was scanning my computer for the information I needed to distribute a laptop when I looked up and saw her face! There right in front of me was that student. She had a bright smile on her face. The one I remember so vividly, being so warm and welcoming! That young lady is now a senior in high school. I told her how proud of her I was and asked what she wanted to do after she graduated? What she told me next brought me to tears. She said, “I want to go to college!” Here is a young lady that never had it easy yet she never gave up! She faced every obstacle in her way and made it out the other side.

These experiences are rare in my book but knowing that maybe, just maybe, I helped her on her journey is a great feeling! It reminded me of why I work so hard everyday! It reminded me that the late nights are worth it, because these kids are worth it!

As a new school year begins, I continue to reflect and think of ways to improve upon myself and ponder ways that I can support and help teachers on their path! I want to be innovative and forward thinking by providing teachers with a platform and support that makes taking risks easier! After less than a month of school I can honestly say that the teachers I work with everyday are reaching new heights this year! They too want to make a difference!

Teachers this is my ode to you. As you become tired and worn down remember that you are making a difference and what you do everyday does matter! Know you are making an impact because you care! Remember to take risks this school year and reach new heights because our students deserve the very best!

Stay tuned for all that is in store for this school year! I have no doubt that this will be the best school year yet!

Ozobot Life Cycles in Kindergarten

Students in kindergarten at Randolph Elementary learned about the life cycle of a particular animal. Each student created their own life cycle by coloring, cutting, and gluing pictures of their assigned animal. Then the students made a continuous circle (some included codes) to show how a life cycle never ends! I was so proud of the work the students did! They will be sharing their projects with their parents during a living science museum!

Ozobots Explore the Classroom

Ozobots! A tiny programmable robot that engages students in various ways. This school year, I had the privilege to receive a grant to explore how Ozobots can engage students in the classroom. I have to admit, I was unsure of its success but knew that students would find working with them intriguing. Being an innovator, I approached one of our amazing school librarians about working with me to bring these robots into the school. The other two elementary schools had recently purchased sets for their library maker spaces and I wanted to see how we could use them to engage students in the classroom.

We developed a plan and chose 1 lesson to accomplish for each grade level. In order to initiate our plan, we first offered a time to push into classrooms using the Ozobots in a basic line drawing activity. This exposure provided not only the students but the teachers an idea of how these robots work. This method empowered the teacher to think about ways they could incorporate the robot into their everyday curriculum. Teachers began checking out the Ozobots to try with various projects. Some projects include-Creating a rollercoaster ride down a major U.S. river, simulating a showdown between a predator vs. prey, matching compatible numbers, and even creating a treasure map. I then reached out a second time with specific lessons.

I recently went into two third grade classes to test the Multiplication Table Practice activity. I was skeptical of the challenge but wanted to try it and then make changes. I did modify the code to slow down the wait time between problems. I gave the students the game board and preprogrammed robot. I told them that the robot was trying to tell them something and they needed to figure out what it was saying. The robot would run down 2 numbers and then flash a series of colors representing the answer. The amount of focus and attention to this task was amazing! Check out an example!

The possibilities are really endless with these robots! I am currently working with an after school coding club on the Ozoblockly website. We will culminate our time together by programming the Ozobots to dance.

I can’t wait to continue to explore ways to use these robots in the classroom!

Mini Market Economy of the Flaming Phoenix’s is up and Running

Students have decided on a society name, created their currency, applied for jobs, and now are beginning to earn money and make products to sell for their first market day. The students will be writing paychecks, tracking jobs using Google Sheets, collecting taxes, organizing the class the library, handling the money for the bank, and guarding the bank. The student jobs were announced on Schoology using a fun newspaper template! Check back to see pictures of their products and learn more about how their society has grown and changed!

Descriptive Snowmen Using Draw and Tell

Students in Mrs. Tysinger’s Kindergarten class were learning about snowmen and how to be descriptive writers. In order to continue to build these skills, the students worked with the app Draw and Tell. We began by reading a story about a snowman and then had the students describe what the snowman was wearing. We then showed the class the basic features of the app. The students picked it up quickly and began designing their snowmen! Once they designed their snowman, they used the recording tool to describe what the snowman was wearing! The great part about this app is that as students were recording they could point to parts of the snowman and it would put a blue circle on the part they touched. The students were very proud of what they did! Once finished we shared them with the class!


Disguising Turkeys using Book Creator and Chatterpix for Kids

Students in kindergarten and 1st grade read the story Turkey Trouble and then were challenged to disguise their turkey. In kindergarten, students created their designs and then took a picture of it. They then used Chatterpix Kids to describe their disguise. Students in 1st grade took it a step further and told us why they disguised their turkey. In one class, we created a book about our disguised turkeys! The students had so much fun creating their disguised turkeys!


Coding with Dash


This week in Mrs. Wilcken’s class, we learned how to use the programming app Blockly to program the robot Dash. We looked at a few of the basic block components and then challenged students to create a knock-knock joke to the theme of interrupting robot. This introduction lesson will provide inexperienced coders with an opportunity to work with the Blockly app before they are tasked with a curriculum aligned assignment. Students learned that testing their code led them to revise and edit their original design. We will follow-up this lesson with a project where students need to program Dash to describe the characteristics of the 8 regions of the United States. Stay tuned for pictures from the regions project!




Can you Escape the Classroom?

Today, I had the pleasure of working on a fun and engaging lesson about adding and subtracting decimals with Mrs. Gates’ Class. Students had to work in small groups to answer clues in order to escape the classroom. The students had to learn to read directions carefully, work together, and use their time wisely all while solving math problems. One group came close to escaping! What a great learning experience for the class! I can’t wait until we try it again!