Western Day Meets Seesaw!

Western Day is always a fun time at school. Everyone dresses in their best western wear – boots, hats, the works! When the kindergartners visited the lab, I wanted to capitalize on this excitement by having them post something to their Seesaw journal. The original idea was to have the students take a selfie then decorate themselves in western clothes (similar to the Snowy Selfie that Seesaw added to the Activities Library). However, something happened when I modified the activity; the students signed in without the opportunity to choose the camera. Still have no idea what went wrong!

Quickly moving to a backup plan, I asked the children to draw a picture of what they wore and then they were to record something about themselves as a cowboy or cowgirl. This was the first time recording on their own.

I absolutely LOVE how this child created her drawing by using the boots on the template I’d uploaded when the Seesaw activity was made.

Listen to this little guy work on saying bandana. SO cute!

Were the recordings perfect? No, some were too soft to hear what was said. But, what’s better than listening to the cute voices of little children??

The Power of Talking Through Steps in a Process!

Recently, I came across some fantastic Seesaw Activities compiled by Carrie Kunert, Beaverton School District Innovation Specialist. WOW! What a wonderful resource for all ages and subjects!

I’d been asked by a third grade teacher to review Seesaw with the students because some seemed to be unsure about the sequence of posting to their journal. Wanting to do something with math, I was excited to come across Carrie’s collection. For the first class, I chose an addition algebraic puzzle. I thought we’d breeze through this and move on to multiplication.

Puzzles from http://mashupmath.com/

They quickly caught onto the process needed to determine the values. It just took longer than expected to record the steps needed to solve. For the next two classes, I redid the above puzzle, changing it to multiplication but using the same symbols.

I was a bit surprised at some of the explanation, especially since everyone knew the answers. But, thinking about it, how often to we ask children to explain their thinking? It definitely takes practice! Below are a couple examples of those who had no trouble solving; they just found it difficult to put it into words.

Here are samples of students who understood the sequence of events when explaining – that the second sentence MUST be solved before any other values can be determined!

The more I ask students to reflect or explain, the more I realize the importance of doing this. If a child can explain the process, chances are his/her understanding is solid.

Coding Unplugged: Great Ways to Introduce Concepts

I found the best tool at a teacher supply store last summer – magnetic arrows!

I’m not sure what the maker had in mind for these, but they are absolutely PERFECT for practicing coding movements on the board!

One of the best and most comprehensive (and free) coding curriculum is from code.org. There are many excellent programs and apps available but I highly recommend this be a integral part of a coding program, especially for elementary ages. Besides the student activities, there are numerous resources available for teachers. One such resource is called “Happy Maps” where students tell Flurb (see below) which way to go to get the fruit.

Meet Flurb!

Last year, we used arrows to point the directions to move. The magnets I purchased have a turn arrow which is great for truly showing the sequence of steps necessary to reach the fruit.

After reviewing the vocabulary:

  • algorithm – a list of steps that you can follow to finish a task
  • program – an algorithm that has been coded into something that can be run by a machine

I ask how Flurb can get to the apple. With all the volunteers, we could spend the entire time moving arrows!

After one child has placed arrows and moved Flurb, I ask if there is another way to reach the apple. We spend a lot of time talking about being able to have several solutions to get to the same result. Of course, fixing and trying again (debugging) are extremely important parts of the computational thinking process.


After a few students have tried progressively harder puzzles, we move to the iPads and code.org. I encourage students to “walk out” the solution when they get stuck. We’ll hold the iPad together and walk in the directions they need to go. Some students (me included!) need that extra kinesthetic approach. I always love watching children do just that – they talk quietly as they walk the steps they should take:

one step forward > turn right > two steps forward

As we wrap up the lesson, I always ask, “Did anyone get stuck?” A few hands slowly go up, as if they are unsure that they want anyone to know. Then I tell the children, “You know what I noticed? When you got stuck, not one person complained and said they couldn’t do it; that it was too hard. You didn’t give up. You kept trying. That’s what coders do!”

And, isn’t that what we do everyday in life?!?

Rosie’s Runtime: A Homerun for 2nd Graders!

Last December, I came across Rosie’s Runtime, an unplugged coding activity created by Project Lead the Way. I was finally able to give it a try last week and, WOW! Was it a hit!? The students absolutely LOVED it!

In Rosie’s Runtime, a large grid is set up on the floor. The teacher starts out as the robotic dog who is trying to get from a fire hydrant back to the doghouse. To make it more of a challenge, there are mud puddle cards that must be avoided and there are bones that need to be collected.

There are two versions:

  • K-2nd Grades   Basic movements such as move forward, turn right/left, pick up bone are in this level’s commands.
  • 3rd – 5th Grades  More involved commands have been added to this level. In addition to the above, jump, repeat, and conditional commands are part of this more difficult level.

I worked with 2nd grade, using this as a refresher activity before students moved to code.org. Students were divided into 5 groups, each receiving a set of cards. For this level, the cards were move forward, turn right, turn left, pick up bone, and make a u-turn.

Correct or not, each time I, as Rosie the Robotic Dog, was given a command, I moved. They students were quick to make corrections! Of course, there were cheers when they guided me to the doghouse!

The students absolutely did NOT want to quit! Well, maybe I was a bit excited, too. We debriefed by discussing different routes the students could have had me travel and talking about how we had to debug a few times to get back on track.

We’ll definitely be doing this with other grades. And, I’m eager to try the harder level. I think this would be a good small group activity that students could do on their own once they’ve been introduced to it.

FYI:  I thought about using felt squares for the game board but was concerned those might stretch after being stepped on several times. I ended up buying a fabric (don’t remember what kind) that won’t fray (yea! no hemming). The fabric is the same type as what is often used in the recyclable grocery bags you can buy. I cut them into 12″ squares which turned out to be a perfect size!

Creating “Snowy Selfies” – Kindergartners Learn about Seesaw

Thirty minutes is not a long time to introduce the Seesaw app (Seesaw Digital Portfolios) for the first time but these little ones did an amazing job!

Since we had a slim chance of snow (flurries if you looked closely enough), I guided the children though the “Snowy Selfie” pre-made activity. Giggling when I asked who had ever taken a selfie, the students scattered to take their own photos. For most, it was the first time they had held an iPad themselves to tap the shutter button themselves. They were cute to watch as they moved their heads back and forth, trying to get it in just the right position on their screens.

Actually, the selfies were the hardest part! But, they did it! Then, the decorating began.

Even the teachers had fun making their Snowy Selfies!

The students were excited to show off their finished pictures.

What a fun project to introduce the little ones to Seesaw! Western Day is coming us in a couple of weeks. I’m thinking we’ll create Western Selfies then.

How do you introduce Seesaw to your kindergartners?

The Littles LOVE Ozobots!

I love bringing out Ozobots for Hour of Code! There are so many things you can do with them – draw paths and codes on paper using markers and predetermined code combinations, make paths and insert codes using the Ozobot Draw app, and drag and drop programming with Ozoblockly. There’s something for all ages!

Until I discovered OzoEasy sticker codes, asking kinder and 1st graders to draw their own codes was just a bit tricky. As I tell the students, Ozobot is like Goldilocks – every code has to be just right! Just as Goldilocks tasted the porridge and determined one was too hot, another was too cold, but one was just right, Ozobot likes those color combinations to be close to perfect! In fact, we even started calling the little robot “Ozolocks” when something didn’t go as expected!

This year I gave each child a sheet printed off the Ozobot Educator’s page (can’t remember which lesson). It had a rectangular path printed with blank squares for coloring in the codes requiring three colors. I added additional lines in the inner part of the rectangle. For the little ones, I created a condensed version of the codes that was easier to read so they could choose a code for coloring each of the groups of squares.

Each child also received 4 stickers. These were the “special moves” like tornado, backwalk, spin. They loved those!

It was SO much fun watching the kindergartners interact with the Ozobots. The look of awe on their sweet faces was priceless! I wonder how many children requested these for Christmas!

Here are short videos from each class of the students enjoying the Ozobots.

Hour of Code: Ozobots!

What a hit! The students absolutely LOVE programming the tiny Ozobots! These are small robots that are programmable using color codes, the Ozobot app or the online Ozoblockly block-based program. What I love about these is that they can be adapted to several ages.

One first grade class entered the room, immediately noticed the Ozobots on each table, and suddenly I heard, “Oh, Oh, Oh, we get to do Ozobots!” This little boy was practically dancing with excitement; even rushing over to give me a hug.

Some of the second, third, and fourth grade classes were asked to video their paths and codes to upload to Seesaw journals while explaining what Ozobots are and what they do.

Here’s an example:

These fourth grade students did a fantastic job with their explanations. I see a future in sales! 

Ozobots are a fun and easy way to introduce computational thinking to children. It’s easy to adapt these robots to any age.


Making the Grinch Grin!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss, is one of my favorite books! When Mrs. Kee, a first grade teachers, came to me wanting to incorporate technology for “Grinch Day,” I jumped into brainstorming mode.

She wanted to have the students come up with ways to make the Grinch grin, and wondered if the Seesaw app would be an appropriate tool for this. I agreed that Seesaw would be perfect for this.

Using the DRAW tool in Seesaw, the children illustrated what they would do to make the Grinch grin. Before posting to their journal, they recorded what they would do. They came up with some very creative methods.

Here are samples from all of our first grade classes:

And, for the true meaning of Christmas . . .

Don’t you just love these cute drawings? And, wouldn’t this make a fun class book? The Book Creator app would be perfect for this activity. Hmmm. . . perhaps I’ll do that!

What Kind of Turkey is This?

Wanting to do some kind of STEM activity with the 4th graders, I did some research and came across a blog post from Angela Willyerd, titled “The Great Turkey Race.” I did buy her packet and am glad I did – love how the design process is incorporated in the lesson!

The Problem: “Farmer Dave wants to choose the biggest and best turkey for his town’s Thanksgiving Feast. He decides to race them, assuming that the biggest turkey will be the slowest. Well, the turkeys get wind of this and decide to create a double because they don’t want to become Thanksgiving dinner!

The Challenge:  The students have to create a turkey “‘double” using some common items such as styrofoam bowls, toilet paper rolls.

Angela has created a fantastic PowerPoint that walks the students through the process so we started with that. I told the class the materials they would have and what had to be included – head, body, feet, and tail feathers. Then, I asked them to sketch what they had in mind. The next step was to decide on a group design – not easy when each person is fond of their own!

The groups set to work creating some of the strangest turkey doubles I’d ever seen!

One group held up pieces of their styrofoam bowl and sheepishly asked if they could have another.

The test track had been marked by masking tape and as groups finished, the asked me to time their turkey.

This one actually rolled quite well but too many turkey parts were missing from the design!

This one was pretty cute but the team couldn’t get it to move.

They changed the design and tried again.

This was such a good challenge for learning that sometimes things don’t work they way you expect and changes need to be made. No one became frustrated; they quickly went back to their place and began to brainstorm how certain changes might affect the outcome.

Was it loud? Oh, my, yes! Were the students learning? Most definitely!

We may just continue Thanksgiving AFTER the break so that other classes have the opportunity to give this a try.