Saturday, January 10, 2015

Allowing My Kindergarteners to Code and Create

I've been reading so much about the Hour of Code (coding in the classroom) and The Maker Movement in education, that it has me wondering what my Kindergarten students really think about our daily routine.

We focus a lot of our time on reading, writing, math, letter identification and letter sounds...all major pieces of the state standards. I know that NOVELTY is an education buzz word right now, with teachers saying that the best results from their kiddos come when the presentation of the material is switched up, generating more interest and keeping them engaged in the subject matter. The material is stuff that I have to cover. I try to make it interesting, I've taken some risks (some that did not pan out), but it's still the information that I have to cover. It's important. It's very important. But I'm not sure that, as a five or six-year-old kid, I would be enthusiastic about attempting to learn it four or five hours a day, five days a week.

Lately, I've been interested in giving my students something else to be excited about. Opportunities to learn in different ways. I want to give them a chance to make something or create something. They are kindergarteners, so it would be hard for them to complete a step-by-step project, creating something that they will write about or make videos about. I think I'd like to try, though.

First came the interest in the Hour of Code, where students spend time in their classrooms coding. This is the first step in communicating with a computer or robot and getting it to do what you want it to do. This will undoubtedly be a life skill necessary for my students to be successful in the real world in the next 10 years (maybe earlier). There are several apps and websites (check out this Edutopia article) that provide games for students to practice this on a basic level (if you check me out on Twitter @WesDicken, I retweet and post several articles about it). I watched my five-year-old play some of the apps at home this weekend, and I'm convinced that my students would enjoy it, and eventually be good at it. She loved Run Marco and Kodable, both apps that have students move a character throughout a level, step by step, by providing instructions. She found the games fun and engaging, and they were both very user friendly. Within minutes, she was asking me to stop helping her, wanting to play the game herself.

Also at the forefront of my mind is just allowing my kids to create something...anything. As I watch my own kids mess with cardboard and paper to create different objects, I am convinced that cardboard tubes and boxes could serve as building blocks for kids. With some direction and encouragement, they could make some pretty cool things that might even complete an objective they've been given. I read an interesting article on Edutopia talking about kids using cardboard and wanting to build and create, and then watched a video on kids creating Rube Goldberg projects using random materials. In the video, the project was student-led, giving them the chance to communicate with each other and work as a team to create something together...very valuable real-life lessons.

I know that my students will love these opportunities. I just have to make them happen.

1 comment:

  1. Great insight Wes. Kids don't have much time to create and we want them to create much more than the old construction paper figures that were copied off and cut out for them in the past. All they did was glue and glitter and voila! Creation complete! It was hung in the hall in all its imperfect perfection. By appearance it was just enough kid-like to give it character, but not enough to challenge the OCD hidden inside every teacher. Quality creating has to be on their terms, validating their ideas right? After being inspired by a good ol' game of Mousetrap, my 9 year old daughter attended a 3 hour Rube Goldberg class. It was inspiring for her in many important ways, but most of all opened more of her brain to even more new ideas. Creation fuels inspiration fuels creation...and then confidence, risk taking, and real learning. That's the good stuff. Thanks for sharing your kindergarten class good stuff!