Cubetto – the Perfect Robot for Young Learners!

Cubetto, a robot created by Primo Toys, is a cube-shaped robot that is programmed by adding shapes to a control board. This description is from their web site: Meet Cubetto: the friendly wooden robot toy for kids aged 3-7, chosen by 20000 parents & teachers to guide kids on coding adventures without screens.

Having discovered Cubetto from another educator on Twitter, I started researching it and decided this would be an excellent tool for teaching the basics of coding to our younger students. I shared the information with our Chief Technology Officer and our Middle and Upper School programming instructors who were equally excited. Our CTO even found some extra funds to purchase one!

A couple days later, Cubetto was introduced to our Kinder students. As you can see, the mats are small. There is no way you can fit an entire class around one so I asked the teachers to split their class into two groups each. One group worked on the Lego Wall while the other explored Cubetto. We switched after about 15 minutes.

We started by discussing the mat – geographical features, compass rose. It turned out that the students had spent the week learning about maps so this fit perfectly into their curriculum. The blocks were introduced by letting the students try them one a time to see how the robot responded. The function block brought puzzled expressions! By itself, of course, it does nothing. To a young child, the first reaction is that it doesn’t work! Later, they were able to see its benefits.

Then I gave a challenge – “Cubetto wants to travel to the mountains. How do we program it to get there?” As the control board was passed around to each child, we talked through blocks to choose. Then, we pointed to each block as Cubetto followed the commands. Of course, there were some “bugs” to work out which produces great problem-solving. Using the function blocks is necessary because there aren’t enough “go straight” blocks. That’s a hard concept for little ones but it will come with practice. You can see in the picture below that we were using the function blocks to represent 4 go straight blocks.

Everyone worked together quite well. A couple of the students really caught on quickly; you could practically see their analytical minds working! Some children were hesitant to make a decision about the type of block to insert but classmates were eager to offer advice and encouragement.

During the last group, it seemed to be taking longer than any other group to go around the circle so that everyone had a turn to add a block. Turned out, this group was actually larger than the first – one little boy apparently enjoyed Cubetto so much that, instead of going to the Lego wall, he just joined the new group to work with the robot again!

Judging from the reactions of the students, the Cubetto robot was a HUGE hit!

What I Like about Cubetto:

  • A lot of thought went into the making of Cubetto which means all types of learning is going on – directions, map skills, basic coding skills including function, geography, math.
  • Easy to use and perfect for small hands.
  • The hands-on nature of Cubetto provides excellent visual learning for students as they explore computational thinking.

What I Wish:

  • The basic kit comes with only one map and limited coding blocks (directions and 2 function). It would have been nice to have more blocks, including the logic ones.
  • The kits are expensive! You can buy extra mats and blocks, but at $29 each, that adds up.
  • For a classroom you will need at least 2 kits because only 6 or 7 students can comfortably around the mats. Three or four is even better but that gets expensive!
  • Cubetto is a very slow-moving robot compared to others I have. A bit faster would have been nice but we can certainly handle the slowness!

Would I Buy it Again?

YES!! This is an excellent tool for helping young children understand the concepts of coding!

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 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.

Kinder Fun with Ozobots!

What is an Ozobot? A tiny robot that can read specific color combinations that tell it to perform an action. The Ozobot Bit is capable of downloading programs created with Ozoblockly (drag and drop interface). Did I mention these miniature robots are super fun??

I wish I had a photo of the kindergartners faces when I first showed them how the Ozobot followed marker-drawn paths! Were they excited! Knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep their attention for very long because they could not wait to get started, I quickly talked about how the Ozobot had a sensor that could read specific color combinations but that it was just a bit picky. Ozobot likes lines and color codes that are “just right” – not too thick and not too thin. We did a quick lesson on drawing a “just right” line, calibration, and even cleaning wheels. Then I told what they’d be exploring for the day.

The Ozobot website has TONS of fantastic lessons and I chose the Mother’s Day Card. This type activity is perfect for the youngest users because all they have to do is use the key to color in the small squares (great fine motor practice!). For the first group, we were fortunate to have some fantastic fourth grade helpers.

The next lesson segment was using Ozoeasy sticker codes. These are small, round stickers that have codes printed on them. This is fantastic for younger children because it really can be a bit tricky to draw a perfect code that the Ozobot can read. Even my 4th graders struggle with this. The best part about these sticker codes is that they are the brainchild of a now 9 year old boy, Holden, along with his brother and dad. Our students love to hear Holden’s story because, “If he can invent something, we can too!” Be sure to visit the Ozoeasy site and scroll down to read his story.

Each child was given a paper with a rectangular black path, 4 code stickers, and markers. As stickers were placed, they were challenged to have their Ozobot follow the path, first in one direction, then the opposite way. What’s fun about the codes is that a different action is performed depending on which direction it travels. The students were also encouraged to draw paths inside the rectangle using red, green, and blue markers to see how the Ozobot reacted.

Oh, my! What excitement! It’s SO much fun to see students engaged, experimenting, and working together. I’m sorry, parents; it’s my guess that there were a lot of kindergartners who went home that afternoon to ask for an Ozobot! In fact, on the way out, one boy whose mom teaches first grade at our school, excitedly shared with me that she would be coming down to talk to me about the Ozobots. And, she did!

In the week since we’ve used the Ozobots, I’ve had several students ask me if first graders get to use Ozobots. They can’t wait till school starts again!

Here’s a video of the students with these little robots:






The Great Fuzz Frenzy and Book Creator

Our kindergarteners presented their spring play last week and this year they performed The Great Fuzz Frenzy, based on a book by the same name. This is a cute story about a tennis ball that a dog has dropped into a prairie dog tunnel. The prairie dogs are terrified at first then they decide the ball’s fuzz is fun to have. If you haven’t read this book, be sure to do so to find out what happens in the end.

When the students came to the lab, I wanted them to illustrate a favorite part of the play and record a sentence or two about it. As I considered apps to use to accomplish this, I immediately thought of Book Creator, my favorite app because it can do so much, plus it is intuitive for even the youngest children.

Since we only have a 30 minute lab time, I did some prep work before the children arrived. A template was created in Book Creator and air dropped to each iPad. I used the landscape shape so there would be plenty of room for drawing. I also went in to each iPad to name the books with teacher & student name. That is a huge help to me when the books are air dropped to my iPad from three different classes. It makes it SO much easier to combine them into each class book.

We haven’t used Book Creator with kindergarten but with just a few tips, the children were busy with their illustrations. As they begin to finish the drawings, I showed them how to record. I just love how this child became swallowed up by the recording cube!

For one of the kinder classes, we were able to have a roomful of eager second grade mentors! What a wonderful help they were! The older students were paired with one or two kindergarteners and they did such a fantastic job guiding them through the drawing and recording steps.

By the end of each 30 minute session, every student had completed their page of the book.

I knew the app would be perfect for this age; just didn’t know if we’d have enough time. Are the recordings perfect? No, some are too soft; others have a lot of background noise. Is that acceptable? Yes! The children were learning as they created something that was very special to them.

Here’s a video of one of the books (Mrs. Newton’s class):



Links to the ePub books:
While on an iOS device that has the iBooks app installed, tap on a link. Choose download > open in iBooks.


Sharing Our Book

Recently the fourth grade classes worked in small groups to create a Lego ABC book to share with kindergarteners. (Click here for post about making the book.)


Our sharing took place on a beautiful afternoon so we gathered the iPads, the kinder students chose a “big” kid for a partner, and off we went. The little ones were enthralled with the 4th graders but what surprised me is how well the older students did with their young charges!


While the big kids weren’t too eager to hold hands with the little ones (that was my suggestion that fell flat!), they were great at keeping them entertained with the book, talking to them, asking about their interests.



The only problem we encountered was getting too far away from buildings and then we’d lose Wi-Fi. But, that was an easy fix.

We returned to the lab with a few minutes to spare. That allowed time to finish viewing the Lego Book and share other apps.


It was a really good experience for our oldest Lower School students to interact with our youngest ones! Looking at the smiles on faces makes these kinds of activities worth every minute.


International Dot Day Celebrations!

the dotI love International Dot Day! September 15ish is the day to celebrate Peter H. Reynold’s wonderful book, The Dot. In the book, Vashti is asked to draw a picture in art class but can’t think of anything to illustrate. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti jabs the paper with her pencil to create a tiny dot but the next time she comes to class, she discovers her teacher has framed it. From there, Vashti determines that she really can make better dots! At the end of the book, Vashti pays forward what her teacher has done for her by encouraging a little boy who believes he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. This book has two wonderful themes:

  1. Every person is creative in their own special way.
  2. Each of us can find a way to “make our mark” by helping and encouraging others.

This year, celebrating Dot Day was a bit difficult for me. I worked part-time till Sept. 15 due to back surgery over the summer. But I had a wonderful sub, Jane Cooper, who worked tirelessly with many classes to  start our Dot Day celebrations. I returned full-time on September 15 to continue the activities – by the end of the day I was completely exhausted but it was a fantastic day to return! Below are descriptions of how our teachers and students “made our mark.”


Our kinder teachers gave each student a dot and a “swirly gold framed” paper. The students created a picture from their dot.

photo 2(1)Click here for more pictures from kindergarten.

First Grade

The first graders had a two-part lesson. Mrs. Cooper introduced the students to making their creative mark by reading The Dot. The children were then given the dot coloring sheet for use with the ColAR app (free in the App Store and Google Play). Lots of colorful illustrations were made as the students were told that the following week they would see something magic happen to their dots. When the first graders returned to the lab, I showed them how to use the ColAR app. Amazed “oohs” and “aahs” were heard as my dot became 3-dimensional! The students were thrilled to see their own dots come to life.

IMG_1060View Animoto videos of each class:

Second Grade

Mrs. Cooper worked with the second graders to create a dot using the Drawing Box app. She explained to the students that, just as people are unique, their dots would be different from their classmates. But, when joined together, they would create a tapestry of colors. The children discussed how they were individuals but each unique person was needed to make a successful group – just as each dot they drew was important to the overall tapestry.

Third Grade

I asked the third graders to combine their creativity and a desire to “make a mark” on others by illustrating a picture in Microsoft’s Paint program. The students were asked to think about how they could make a difference  – in a person’s life (a classmate, family member, friend . . .), by doing a task to help their community, or thinking about something they could do in the future. The students wrote a short description then illustrated their idea. I combined their thoughts and drawings in Animoto videos


Fourth Grade

Because of time constraints, I was only able to work with two of our three fourth grade classes (the third class participated in Dot Day in Spanish).

In one class, I asked the students to create a PowerPoint slide that included their name written in Braille and clip art that represented some of their interests. The students used the Braille Bug website to convert their name to Braille. They then used the shape tool and duplicate shortcut to create dots to form their Braille name. After adding clip art, I asked the students to save their slide as a jpeg (at this point I hadn’t decided how we would share their work). I ended up creating one slideshow with their images.

For another class, I thought I would give coding dots a try. The students had been learning JavaScript with our headmaster, Gary Krahn (see post) so they already had some practice. I asked them to use the ellipse code to create dot pictures. They eagerly set to work and programmed some absolutely amazing images! I loved watching them problem-solve with each other as they worked on placing their dots. When finished, they took screen shots of their work and I combined them into a slideshow.

Co-Curricular Classes
Of course, Dot Day wouldn’t be complete without music, art, and Spanish and those teachers led some very creative activities!
Mrs. Holloway had her music classes practicing musical note writing as they composed Dot songs.
photo 2First graders in Mrs. Black’s art classes used watercolors to beautifully decorate coffee filters.
photo 2(1)
Click here to view more art and music pictures.
Our Spanish teachers were busy with a variety of activities. Sra. Ross’s first graders learned the Mexican Hat Dance (a circle dance). Her second graders designed Mexican mirrors. Sra. Nedrelow’s third graders created colorful Aztec calendars while her fourth graders constructed Costa Rican Ox Carts. (See more detailed descriptions of the mirrors and ox carts by clicking here.)
Spanish classesClick here to view more images from our Spanish classes.
We are proud to be part of International Dot Day 2014 but our creativity doesn’t stop in September. We will continue to make our mark all year!

Draw & Tell Visits the Farm

duck duck mooseWell, actually the Draw & Tell app came after the farm visit!

The kindergarteners took their annual trip to the farm and I wanted them to share something about the visit. When they came to the lab, I asked them to open Draw & Tell. This is a kid-friendly app that allows children to do just what the name says: draw a picture and tell about it by recording their voice.

I honestly did not know if the students would be able to complete their drawing, record, and save to the camera roll within our short 30 minute time period! But they did! We had 3 adults per class – teachers, assistants, and myself – and those extra hands made all the difference. But credit certainly goes to the kindergarteners who quickly learned what to do. (And kudos to Duck Duck Moose for a superb app!)

After the children left the lab, I air dropped the screen casts to my iPad so that all could be combined into class videos using the iMovie app.


Mrs. Moore’s Class

Mrs. Newton’s Class

Mrs. Rea’s Class

In addition to making a creation to share with parents, the teachers were able to see the power of this app. They are excited to find more ways to use it within their classrooms.


International Dot Day 2013 in Review

Our Dot Day celebrations spanned several days and then it took me a bit longer to pull everything together but here’s a look at the students’ creativity.


After brainstorming what a dot could become, the children were given a “swirly gold frame” from Fablevision’s Dot Day Handbook and a dot sticker to make their own creation.

First Grade:

First graders decorated their dot by using the sheet from the ColAR website. ColAR Mix is an augmented reality coloring book app that brings images to life!  Dot Day Fun! Watch Your Dot Come to Life describes what special things happen to a dot when viewed through this app. Talk about oohs and ahhs from students! What I found amusing was watching the teachers getting just as involved as the children!

Second Grade:

Second grade took this activity a step further. After discussing that, yes, even young children can make a difference in other people’s lives, we brainstormed how this could happen. The students wrote their thoughts on their dot then decorated with crayons and markers. Then the fun began with the ColAR Mix app.

Third Grade:

After talking about how Vashti’s teacher made a difference in her life and then how Vashti guided a little boy to “make his mark,” the third graders were challenged to illustrate how they could make a difference in someone’s life. Students used the Microsoft Paint program to create their pictures. Since not all students wrote how they would make a difference, what they were thinking might not be readily observed but all had something in mind. We had a fabulous discussion about how even the little things you do are important! Here is a look at what they drew.

Fourth Grade:

By the time the students came to me, they had either read The Dot or had watched a video of it but that didn’t mean they didn’t want to hear it again! And, when the students found out that I also had Peter Reynold’s Ish and Sky Color, we couldn’t even begin the activity until I had read BOTH books! The students decided they just wanted to create. Some created images from a dot while others made some type of “ish” picture. Then I decided to let them experiment with the ColAR Mix app. They weren’t as “wowed” as the younger children but they did enjoy doing a walk-around to see what their classmates had created.

Co-Curricular Classes:

The music, art, and Spanish teachers incorporated dots into their lessons too. From dot paintings to dot music to oxcart wheels to mirrors, the students’ imaginations flowed!

Another Dot Day has passed but the creativity will continue!