Saturday, January 9, 2016

An Hour of Code Awakens the Library in Grades K-6

This year I have invited my wife Cindy Evans, a library media specialist at Park Magnet School / Hot Springs Intermediate School, to share some of her best library practices at the K-6th grade levels. Her first installment will describe the recent coding activity in separate sessions for grades K-2, 3-4, and 5-6.

An Hour of Code Awakens the Library in Grades K-6

My first experimentation with coding was at a local educational technology training.  The training began with a discussion of the importance of coding in school computer science programs because of the projected need for skilled professionals in this career field. There was a representative from to share resources to use for coding instruction in the classroom.  The training participants received an instructor handbook called Code Studio Lesson Plans for Courses One, Two, and Three. These courses were developed mainly for elementary students, but they are in the process of creating courses for secondary students.

Because of time constraints and the other standards that I have to teach in library media, I cannot take the students through each of the courses.  I began with providing them with the basic concepts just to give them a taste of coding. This happened during the Hour of Code week (December 7-13, 2015) when people from all ages around the world were encouraged to try at least one hour of coding within this designated week.

Grades K-2

Some of the lessons are "unplugged" activities in which no devices are used.  This is what I chose to begin using with the younger students in Grades K-2. I ended up combining the first two lessons in Course One. I began the lesson by teaching these students what an "algorithm" is.  Even young students need to hear the correct terminology.  They can handle these big words because they are like sponges at this age as they soak up and remember things much better than most adults do. The first activity introduced them to how to give directions for movement using arm signals to show left / right and up / down. Since young students have a hard time understanding left and right, they just called the direction "across" while the participants went across following the direction that the arm was pointing.

Once the students seemed to understand the directional movement symbols of the arms, we moved on to Lesson Two. In each lesson, I modified them using different materials than the suggested ones listed in the lessons. In Lesson Two, I told the students they were going to use the arm direction symbols to "program" another person to follow a maze to reach an object. I have carpet squares that the students typically sit on during our reading or instructional time. (You can see them in the photos.) For this lesson, the carpet squares were used to create a grid on the floor.  Some of the squares were turned the wrong way to show blank squares. The purpose of the blank squares was to create obstacles for them to avoid when going through the maze. (The numbers on the squares had nothing to do with the activity.) Completion of the maze was successful when the students made it to the carpet square where a Pete the Cat toy was sitting. Two students at a time participated in the activity.  One student was the "Controller" giving the directions.  The other student was the "Machine" receiving the input and following the directions of the "Controller". The "Controller" would decide the square where the "Machine" would begin and would place Pete the Cat on the square where the maze would end.  The "Machine" would follow the arm directions of the "Controller" until they found Pete the Cat. To make it more difficult and to make the students think more, they had to begin finding the shortest amount of steps that it would take to reach Pete the Cat from the starting point. I could see the "Controller" and the observing students thinking through the process and counting the squares silently to find the shortest path.

Grades 3-4

Since grades 3-4 have one to one iPads, I decided to let them do the Hour of Code activities on I began by showing them how to find the website.  We did one activity together on the Promethean Board to demonstrate how they would manipulate the coding activities.  Then I allowed them to explore the different activities on their own. They were so quiet and focused, you could have heard a pin drop!

As they progressed to harder puzzles, it even got difficult for me.  When I was unable to assist them,  another student was able to guide them through the process. The thrill of coding begin to spread when the students left the library.  When I had a sibling from another student arrive the next day, he was so excited and said, "My sister told me what we are doing in the library.  We are coding!  She showed me how to do it at home last night."  It is exhilarating to see students learning and sharing their new knowledge with others.

Grades 5-6

I don't have scheduled class times for grades 5-6.  For this reason, I shared the resources with the teachers during a professional development, and they implemented it in their classrooms during the Hour of Code week. Some of the math teachers have been teaching coding to their students since this school year began.

Final Thoughts

It was intimidating for me to attempt teaching coding to my students, but I took the risk.  I went into it knowing that it was a learning process for us all and that I would probably learn more from the students than they would learn from me. If I had not attempted these coding lessons, I would have never discovered the excitement that these students showed me.  Most importantly, I planted a seed that will help them to continue growing in their knowledge of this skill which is an important part of their future. I encourage you to awaken student learning in your library through the power of coding.

This is how we hosted "Hour of Code" in our 8-12 library.

How my wife became Super Librarian!

Have you been wanting to try #Mysteryskype? Go here to see how we did it in the library for the first time!

Follow Cindy on Twitter: @CindyRookEvans
Cindy's email:

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