Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Getting Going With Kodable

Here's a little background: Last year, we jumped head first into using Kodable at SEVEN schools in TK and Kindergarten starting about halfway through the school year! Teachers created their classes, added students and loaded their class code onto their set of iPads. Many teachers depended on my support to make this happen! Most students were introduced to Kodable during centers, and we provided support during this time.

I've had the opportunity to work many of these same teachers again this year! It has been an exciting, rush of energy these first couple weeks of school! As with any classroom, but especially Kindergarten, the first few weeks are ALL ABOUT ROUTINES! Kinder students are learning how to learn at school, how to transition and listen to their teachers, and so much more. With routines and procedures coming together in many of my Kindergarten classrooms, teachers are starting to inquire about ways to introduce Kodable to their students.

What's the best way to introduce students to Kodable??

This is a great question that we are constantly looking to improve how we introduce and continue to reinforce coding with Kodable to our TK and Kinder students. Here is an outline of how our introduction lessons have evolved this year. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please reach out to me on Twitter or email. I'd love to know what you think!

First, we tend to start with a whole group lesson with the students sitting on the carpet. The students do not have any devices in front of them, this helps to have the students focus on the introduction instead of their iPad screens.

Students are informed that they will be learning a new, special language that computers know how to read it too! We connect this to what they are learning in school, their letters, sounds and high frequency words to know how to read English. Our computers don't know how to read English, they read their own special language called CODE. What is it called? "Code" we make sure all the students respond.

Next, we talk about how they have a brain, which helps them learn and think. Their brain makes them very smart. Do you think computers are smart? NO, they don't have the same type of brain we have. To help us learn how to code, or use the language computes can read, we are going to use a fun, App called Kodable. What's the app called? Kodable. Turn to your partner and share, what is the name of the App? We try to have the students focus on key words throughout this whole-group direct instruction chunk of the lesson.

To help us learn code, we will be coding our Fuzz Friend aliens through a maze. Now, do you think our aliens are very smart? NO, you are right! Our aliens are not very smart. They only know how to read these... (holding up paper arrows). Don't say it, think... what is the name of this shape? If you know the name of this shape, whisper it to your neighbor. Depending on the class, it's been very common in most of our title 1 sites, that only a handful of students know the name of the arrow. We spend a few minutes introducing the arrow as a shape. We point out that it is a rectangle with a triangle. The direction of the arrow can be rotated to have different meanings. When the arrow points up, which way would our Fuzz Friends move?

We have the students show the meaning of up on their fingers by pointing in that same direction. Next, we point out that if we were aliens we could go all the way up until we hit the ceiling. Can we go through the ceiling? NO! Would we want to tell them to keep going up? NO, that would be silly. Next, we turn the arrow so it's pointing down. This time we model moving all the way down to the ground and repeat the same procedures for left and right. To help students visualize and make a connection to the Fuzz Friends' movements in the game, we physically move side to side until we hit a wall in the classroom. This visual movement has really helped our students make the connection from the arrows and their meaning in Kodable.

Once we introduce the arrows, our next step is logging into Kodable and modeling the first 2 puzzles. In the second puzzle, we always model a mistake and how to debug our mistake.  Also, as the students point using their fingers (up, down, right and left) to show which arrow comes next, we will purposely point to the wrong arrow on the screen to make sure they are following along. Also, this helps to build a deeper understanding that the direction of the arrow matters. After completing the first two puzzles, we usually say, "Wow! Coding is a lot fun! Now I could continue this all day, but I'm thinking that you are ready to write your own codes!" This is where students are given the opportunity to practice this new skill on their own. Depending on the access to devices, students will log into Kodable and beginning coding either all together or during center rotations.

Other Helpful Hints

  • When creating your class on, create a class code that will be easy for YOU and your students to remember. With our TK and Kindergarten classes, we usually invest in the time to preload their class codes onto each device. We have found this easier for the students, that having then enter the code. The students only need to select their spaceship and find their name to begin coding.
  • We use the playlists to stop students from starting new content. For example, we stop the students after the first two stages, right before the Bugs are introduced in the Sequence unit. We have our students who complete the first 10 puzzles quickly, go back and practice. When most the class has passed the first 10 puzzles, then we have another whole group lesson to introduce the students to Bugs and Debugging! Here's a link to my blog post on our Bugs! Lesson activity!