If I Only Had a Robot . . .

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a robot at your beck and call? What would you have it do? How would it help you?

This is what the second graders were asked to ponder! Then, to their delight, they were asked to build a robot prototype. After constructing the robot, they were to post a picture or video, along with narration describing their creation, to their journal in Seesaw (digital portfolios).

The idea started with a Christmas gift from by mom! My mother is a fantastic quilter, has an amazing ability to determine just the right fabrics that go together, and is one of the most creative people I know! Recently, she’s been designing small quilts for every month that I hang in the window next to the door to my classroom. This past Christmas she gave me a really cute robot mini quilt. I told her it was perfect; that I’d been thinking of ideas for a robot lesson. Within days, she had created more of these little robot quilts!

Add in two fun robot books, and we were ready to begin!

We started with the question, “Would you like to have a robot to do something for you?” We brainstormed ideas of all kinds of tasks that robots could accomplish to make our lives easier. Then, to lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” the quilts were shown one at a time. You could almost see the wheels turning as students began to get ideas on what they would build!

Each table had a collection of q-tips, fabric, wiggle eyes, reinforcements, muffin cup liners, ribbon, yarn, lids. There were also small containers, boxes, and empty toilet paper rolls available.

Oh, my! I had no idea how exciting this simple creation opportunity would be! I enjoyed watching the students try different materials to create the “perfect” robot. If one item didn’t work, they regrouped and tried something else. For several, the idea they had in their mind at the beginning of the class wasn’t like the final product. That is such a good lesson to learn – not everything works the first time!

The children had the option of taking a picture then recording about the robot, narrating a video of their design, or having someone else video while they explained their robot. Below are some examples:

We had robots that danced, some that tossed baseballs, others that were like pets to be a friend to the owner, and many others. The one common factor is that ALL students were extremely proud of their robots! One confident child stated, “I LOVE my mind!”

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!

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.

 

“What is Under the Bed?” Can You Predict?

I love incorporating literacy skills into lab activities and bringing in technology is a fun and effective way to make predictions.

This year, I discovered the book, What’s Under the Bedby Joe Fenton. It’s a quick, rhyming book about a boy named Fred who is trying to go to sleep but hears noises under his bed. He finally decides to check it out:  “One, Two, Three, Four . .  . It’s time to look on the floor!” And, that’s where I stopped!

Before class, I created a template and air dropped it to our shared iPads. When the students arrived, we worked together to add a name to their page and set up the drawing feature. After doing some predicting by discussing the title, I told the children they could illustrate as I read. We read till we reached the page where Fred was about to look under his bed. At that point, the directions were to:

  1. finish illustrating your prediction,
  2. write your prediction, and
  3. record your prediction.

Instead of giving all the instructions at once, the students drew for about ten minutes. As they began to wrap up the drawings, I showed how to record. Soon all were off to various corners of the room, using our “telephone’ mics or the recording cubes.

When everyone had completed their one-page book and air-dropped it to me, we finished reading. What is great about this book is that there are visual clues to what is under the bed. It’s several pages back and you have to watch to catch it. This was a great way to discuss how important it is to look at ALL clues – in the text as well as in the illustrations!

Making Predictions with Second Graders from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

The class ebooks can be read on an iOS device (iPad or iPhone) by following the directions below. This eBook will NOT work properly on any other device (i.e. Kindle, Android tablet or phone).  However, the books have also been saved as a video that can be seen on any computer or mobile device.

Instructions for Viewing Books and Videos:

If you are downloading the ePub books, remember that you need to click on the book link while on an iPad or iPhone that has the iBooks app. Choose download and open in iBooks.

Click on the word “book” or “video” to view the projects.

We Love Dot Day!

What a whirlwind week we had as we celebrated International Dot Day 2017! As students are beginning the school year, it’s such a fun way for them to remember that we ALL are creative in our own way and we can also “make our mark” in so many ways.

I’ve compiled quite a few Lower School activities in Thinglink, TVS Celebrates Dot Day 2017. Below, I’ll provide more detail than you’ll find in the above link.

Design Thinking and Dot Day in Grades 2 – 4:Like last year, I used The Launch Cycle, as a framework for a Dot Day Design Thinking project. Students were given a blank circle on a paper and partnered with a classmate. They were to interview each other and then design a dot for their partner that described that person. My goal in doing this was to get students to look outside of themselves. Sure, it’s easy to create something for yourself. It requires good listening skills to create for another person! (Click here to get a much more detailed explanation of the process.)

To be honest, I was a bit concerned that the children would complain that they did this last year and wouldn’t want to do it again. Over and over, though, I discovered that not only were they excited about repeating the activity, they remembered exactly WHO their partner was last year. AND, they could describe precisely WHAT their partner designed for them! I was amazed!!

One pair had worked together last year and somehow managed to end up as partners again. When I discovered that, my response was, “Oh dear! I’m so sorry that I didn’t catch that!” In a very matter-of-fact voice, one of the two replied, “That’s okay. We’ve changed in the past year so we’ll have different answers!” WOW!!

Another class came in rather loudly and I was having a some trouble getting their attention. I told them that we didn’t have to do the Dot Day activity. From the back of the room came a small voice, “Noooo! We have to do this!” I was amazed that one activity from a year ago made such an impression! 

Making Dots Come Alive with the Quiver App:

Our first graders used the Quiver app for their Dot Day activity. Because it’s difficult to color the dot and use the app in just 40 minutes, the children did their coloring before coming to class. When they arrived, we talked about how to use the app and I demonstrated with a dot I’d drawn. As the quiver app brought my picture to life, there were lots of oohs and aahs and they couldn’t wait to get started! I asked the children to do two things:

  1. Take a photo of the dot.
  2. Video the dot moving around.

Both are really easy to do within the app. Later, we uploaded the videos to their Seesaw portfolio to share with parents.

Flipgrid:

A latecomer to Flipgrid, I’d just started exploring it when International Dot Day rolled around so I really didn’t get to do as much with it as I’d hoped.

A few of our fourth graders added a video telling what they liked about Dot Day.

“Hi, my name is Julian and I loved the dot day project because you get to meet new friends and learn more things about them.” ~ comment from a 4th grader on our Flipgrid Dot Day grid.

Día Internacional de Puntos:

Once again our Spanish teachers incorporated Dot Day in their lessons. Sra. Ross worked with first graders creating Maya Spirit Animal Shields.

Using an idea from the Painted Paper in the Art Room blog, Costa Rican Oxcarts, Sra. Nedrelow guided her fourth graders to design oxcart wheels. Third graders designed beautiful flores!

Kandinsky Dots in Art:

Mrs. St. John, our art teacher, even had students create dots based on the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Her bulletin board displays were gorgeous!

There are SO many more activities that were done by our teachers! Be sure to view the Thinglink, TVS Celebrates Dot Day 2017, to see videos and more!

We LOVE celebrating International Dot Day!

Stop-Motion Video and Legos: So Much Fun!

Who doesn’t like Lego Building? Add in MyCreate app for making a stop-motion video and you’ve got instant creativity!

Our second and third graders were given a challenge to photograph each stage of their Lego building process and create a stop-motion video. If time allowed, they could even add sound effects! All this had to be accomplished in 35 minutes. (Enter groans of “No, that’s not enough time.”) It’s amazing how ideas come together when there’s a deadline!

The MyCreate app is super easy to use. The hardest tip to get across to students is to keep the iPad in the same place. We talked about how the smoothest videos created are when the camera doesn’t move. The app makes it easy to line up the subject if the iPad accidentally shifts. Photos are taken within the app and the frames per second can easily be changed. The more photos you have, the better. The only issue we had was with one iPad that wouldn’t save the video to the camera roll. We tried everything but it never did save for one group. What was strange is that it had just worked for a previous class.

Some groups decided to build cars, planes, buildings and then start taking the photos. Others started from scratch, constructing garages, houses, and more.

This was a fun activity designed to show the students how to use the app. However, there could be lots of curricular uses.

  • Storytelling/Creative Writing
  • Math Problem acted out
  • A Historical Moment

Here’s a sample from Mrs. Weth’s class of the process and the stop-motion videos:

Click to see other second and third grade videos.

How do you use stop-motion in your classroom?

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Sharing Spanish Learning with Parents

Sra. Ross came to me a few weeks ago asking about an app for her second grade students to record themselves speaking Spanish as they described photos. She wanted to share the videos with parents so they could hear what their children are learning in class.

We’ve been using Seesaw, a digital portfolio, with our 1st and 2nd graders so we knew that was an excellent way to share the finished work. The next question was how to combine the photos with their narration.

Fortunately, I’ve been following the Seesaw group on Facebook and have learned SO much! Having read how child-friendly the Shadow Puppet EDU app was, I suggested using that. Let me tell you – this has become one of my ALL-TIME favorite apps! It’s a really easy way to combine 2 or more images, narrate, then save as a video to the camera roll. It also uploads seamlessly to Seesaw (app is created by the Seesaw developers).

Back to Spanish – Sra. Ross and her co-teacher, Sra. Sanders, took the second graders to the playground where they photographed equipment. They asked me to help guide the students as they created their video. Students added their photos, recorded themselves talking about the equipment, and some even wrote the vocabulary or the phrase in Spanish. The videos were uploaded to their Seesaw portfolio. What a great way to share a foreign language with parents!

A Better House for the Three Pigs

Continuing with the Fairy Tale theme, Mrs. Garcia and I found an activity from Teachers Pay Teachers called, The Big Bad Wolf STEM Challenge. We adapted it slightly to incorporate design thinking. (I like to use the Launch Cycle model because it’s very easy for elementary children to understand. See the post, Design Thinking + Dot Day = Thoughtful Creationfor a more in-depth description of this model.)

The challenge: Build a house for the pigs that can’t be blown down by the Big Bad Wolf (aka the hairdryer).

The students chose 20 of one of the following:

  • toothpicks
  • straws
  • popsicle sticks

We started by asking the children to assume the role of the pigs. What would you want for a house? How could it be built so that it was sturdy enough to withstand all the huffing and puffing of the wolf?

Going through the design thinking process, we had the students discuss ideas with their partner using only verbal descriptions. They had 2 minutes for this (and begged for more)! Then, the children sketched ideas based on the previous discussions. Next, each described their illustrations. The hardest task was to choose the “final” design – the one to be used for building. That step required give and take as well as negotiating skills as they tried to prove that certain designs would withstand the wolf better than others. It was interesting to listen to the conversations as the children combined the best parts of each of the sketches. There was no arguing. Instead, we saw and heard fantastic reasoning skills as students talked through the pros and cons of each design element!

Time for building! Students collected the materials and went to work. No two houses were alike!

The one thing I’d change for the future would be to limit the amount of tape. That would certainly increase the challenge difficulty. These houses were like an armored truck; there was SO much tape wrapped around some of them that I’m not even sure these structures could be crushed!

The reflection time is very important. It’s really easy to skip this step because of lack of time but it’s critical to have the students talk about their challenges; what worked, what didn’t, what they would change doing it again, etc. It also provides the opportunity for the teacher to get a better idea of the students’ thinking.

Here’s a video to give you a glimpse into the Three Pigs challenge.

To the students, this seems like “play” – it’s most definitely fun for children AND teachers! But, there is SO much learning going on. Collaboration, design, planning, learning how to improvise if something doesn’t work – to name just a few of the skills!

I’d love to hear your experiences with design thinking!

Wanted: Tiny Rooms for Stuart Little

The second grade classes are reading Stuart Little this year. After attending the LLI Southwest conference in February, our teachers are eager to incorporate design thinking and makerspace activities into their curriculum. One of our teachers, Mrs. Shapard, came to me with the idea of having her students create a small room to better fit Stuart Little. We brainstormed materials that might be helpful for students to use and she asked parents to send in anything that might be useful for the project. Soon, her room was filled with boxes, empty paper towel/toilet paper rolls, fabric scraps, buttons, small plastic bottles, and much more.

I really like Launch Cycle by John Spencer and AJ Juliani to move the students through the design thinking process. “Launch” is an acronym that describes each step in the process. I also like the cycle image so that students have a great visual showing planning and creating as a continuous process.

Empathy is a critical part of the process and this is a challenge for any age, especially for younger children who like to create something based on their likes. The challenge was to think like Stuart Little. What would he like in his room? We started with a thinking time about a minute long. That seems like an eternity for students who are ready to build!

We talked about architects and builders; how they would never start to build something without having plans first. One of the parents in this class is a builder so the child knew exactly what I was talking about and eagerly explained it to her peers.

As we began, I first asked the students to get some ideas in their head. No drawing yet! After a long minute, we moved to the next step which was to sketch out their ideas for the room. Again, I just gave them a short time (a couple of minutes). There were lots of groans and comments that it was TOO short!

Before we moved on to the next part, we discussed how to disagree without hurting anyone’s feelings. This step involved telling about the ideas and then deciding which to use. We stressed that parts of each sketch could easily be incorporated into the chosen design. Then the chatter between each pair of students began. We loved hearing the respectful way that each child listened. They truly wanted to hear about their partner’s ideas.

The next step – building! The children were SO excited! As we walked around observing and asking questions, we learned more about the thinking processes of the children. And, that was fascinating! One boy told us that he couldn’t find the supplies that they wanted to use for their room so they “had to start from scratch.” No complaining about lack of supplies, he and his partner solved that roadblock and moved on!

Here’s a video to show the students in action.

After about 30 minutes, Mrs. Shapard had to send the students to Spanish. The students had additional time later that day and into the next. At that point, the students were told building would end that day. Later, I saw Mrs. Shapard who told me that the students were mad at her. When asked why, she reported that they weren’t at all ready to stop!

At our reflection meeting, I asked the students to tell me how they felt about the designing and building. Here are some responses:

  • It was hard getting an idea and then choosing which one to build.
  • We had trouble getting things to stick together so maybe the supplies weren’t the best.
  • It was easier to draw the design on the paper than it was to build it when you found out you didn’t have the right materials.
  • It’s going to be hard to decide who keeps what we built.
  • We couldn’t find one of the supplies that we’d used earlier so we had to find something else and make it work.
  • My partner did a lot of compromising with me.
  • It was hard agreeing where to place things.

As for the teacher reflection, we decided that perhaps the challenge was too open-ended and really couldn’t be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Next time we’ll narrow the focus. Regardless, the planning, designing, communicating, and compromising that occurred was well worth it!

 

Flat Stanley Needs Help!

I love the story of Flat Stanley – the boy who ended up flattened when his bulletin board fell on him! The book explores the many benefits to being flat!

Mrs. Zabriskie, one of our second grade teachers, wanted to create a design thinking lesson where her students would create something that would protect Stanley from falling bulletin boards.

I used the Launch Cycle by John Spencer and AJ Juliani to move the students through a design thinking process. We began by just thinking about what might work for Stanley – and, let me say that it is hard to sit in complete silence for 60 seconds! Actually, I shortened it to 40 seconds which, as one student said, “Seemed like forever!”

After that, time moved too quickly (according to students!). First, I asked the students to talk about ideas they had to keep Stanley safe. They had 2 minutes for this and everyone in the group had the opportunity to speak and ask questions. When the timer went off, there were lots of groans along with, “That couldn’t have been 2 minutes!”

Next, the students were asked to sketch of what they could create to keep Stanley safe. No talking for this segment; that came in the next step. After a couple of minutes sketching, the children shared the drawings with their group. The most difficult part was deciding which design would be used for the prototype. We role-played how to disagree nicely as well as how to take some aspects from each sketch to create a working design.

We enjoyed listening to the children as they participated in that all-important give and take; such an important skill to learn. Lots of hand gestures were observed as students attempted to explain their ideas to the group.

As for materials, Mrs. Zabriskie asked for parents to send in straws, paper towel rolls, toothpicks, playdoh, etc. I believe she bought a few items as well. Really, anything can be used.

I wasn’t able to participate in the entire building process since I had another class to teach. From comments from the teacher and the students, this was a worthwhile activity. The students didn’t think they were doing “school stuff” but, in reality, they were learning many important life skills:

  • problem-solving
  • sharing
  • communication
  • reasoning
  • failure

Yes, even failure! Two major goals of design thinking are for children to practice empathy as they work on problems to solve that help someone else (in this case, a book character) and to discover that failure isn’t a bad thing; that we take failures and learn from them.

A few days after the project, I asked the students to blog about the process. Here are just a few of the responses.