Monday, 7 March 2016

Coding Morning in Grade One


Before last year, all I ever knew was that it was called computer programming and it was only something programmers could do. Thanks to Twitter and my PLN, I've discovered that it's something anyone can do, even my Grade One students!

For the past 2 weeks, we have been busy coding in our classroom. Not everyday, but for a few times a week, we would have a 'Coding Morning' and work in 3 different coding centres. These centres included:
  • Spheros
  • Chromebooks coding with Scratch 
  • iPads coding with Scratch Jr., Kodable and/or Daisy the Dino

We downloaded the app "Tickle" on our classroom iPads to create the codes to have the Sphero move. There is a sphero app, but it only allows students to move it using a joystick, I wanted the students to actually create the code to allow it to move. This was something new for all of us and a great learning experience for us all.

About a month ago we tested out Scratch as a class in the computer lab. Scott McKenzie created some basic step-by-step instructions on YouTube on how to do some basic things with the sprite (we call him, "Scratchy" in our class). With time to play and explore, they discovered how to make him move, make noise and use speech bubbles. With this little bit of background knowledge, I knew they could handle working on it more during these centres. Scratch can be challenging for Grade Ones as there is a lot of text to navigate, but with some purposeful partnership and time to explore, my students didn't seem too bothered by it.

iPad Apps:
At the beginning of the year I had introduced Kodable, a very basic primary version of coding, where students use arrows to direct a fuzzy ball through a maze. Scratch Jr. is a primary version of Scratch, without all the extra words. The codes that students use are pictures and are very self-explanatory.   Daisy the Dino is similar to Scratch Jr. where it contain simple codes to make the dinosaur move. These are great beginning apps to coding that are primary friendly.

We don't always have access to this technology, but when we have it, I am very grateful. For these centres, I used 3 Sphero's (on loan from our school board) paired with 3 iPads we have in our classroom, I signed out an additional 6 iPads from our school collection and currently have 4 Chromebooks in our class. Having a variety of technology in our classroom is an asset to allow students to see how they can use each one and learn the positives (and negatives) about each and what works better for the purpose we need.

Before we started our first Coding Morning, we read the book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is a book that focuses on growth mindset and failure leads to success. We talked afterwards about how the girl struggled to come up with the most magnificent thing that she had created in her mind, but that she kept with it until she made it. She took a walk when she needed space, but she never gave up and she always kept going. This was going to be our mantra as we worked through the centres. We also created learning goals that helped us focus on what we wanted to do. They focused on working together, problem solving and talking it through (especially when we get frustrated). Learning skills that are essential for everyone, but can be particularly difficult (but necessary) for Grade One students. 

I gave them a coding partner that they would work with for each centre, then gave a few introductions for each group (how to log into scratch, how to find the apps you wanted or how to use Tickle in order to make the Sphero work) then set them off to work with their partner.

My students were so engaged and created some interesting things. No one created a project that was worth sharing to a global audience yet, but each group created something that worth sharing to each other. The sharing time was so important. I found that by the third morning, the students had started creating more elaborate projects because of what the previous group had shared, even though they hadn't been at that centre before.

All in all, it was a great project and opportunity to explore together. I would definitely recommend coding to all primary classes. It certainly seems like the new language of the 21st century and something that engages all learners in my class.

So as life-learner myself, I've already started wondering about what is next and how I get there. How can I go deeper?  How can I link this with some of the Language expectations* for Grade One? How can I use coding in my classroom on a regular basis? 

As a Language teacher, where have you gone next? Would love to hear some of your ideas!

*Although there are other great curriculum connections, I am only teaching Language this year.


  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience! I feel as though you've already shown how coding can connect with language. Adding the speech bubbles using Scratch sounds like great writing to me and even a nice segue into point of view. You can also create digital storybooks using Scratch, or more easily, Scratch Jr. on the iPads (media literacy). The problem solving and rich discussions together definitely seem to link to oral language. Any of these programs that include text, also result in reading. Adele Stanfield, a teacher in our Board, also used Hopscotch in her class (with Grade 5's) as a Daily 5 Centre. She made the connection to reading as well. She's @adeletweets on Twitter, and I'd connect with her for sure, as she has a blog post that shares her thinking around this. I'd love to know more about what you do, as well as read any other suggestions people have for you. Happy coding!


    1. Thanks so much for commenting and connecting me with another coding teacher, Aviva!
      You are right, language connects to coding very well. It's those big ideas we need to focus on to really see what our students are showing us, since it's not the traditional paper/pencil activities. I'll need to continue blogging as we continue on our coding journey in class. :)

  2. I have been doing coding all year, and it's amazing what the kids have learned. I have half the class coding, and half the class working with me on math problem solving, so I consider it a problem solving time.
    My board recently purchased Lego Robotics, and we've been exploring with this. We have 6 kits to share amongst 19 students so it is group work. It has been really challenging to the kids who struggle with collaborative skills. We have been using it as review of our conflict resolution skills, and the kids have been highlighting their own successes at resolving conflict and the cheering of the successful collaborative groups has helped the kids who were struggling, I think.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Michelle!
      Collaborative skills and coding is HUGE - it's really great for students to work together, but at this age, it gets real tricky for them to talk about what they are learning (or thinking) and work it through together. Such a great skill for them to learn! Love when they can start seeing the successes and start celebrating each other. Sounds like such a positive community of learners!
      I like that you divide your class into 2 groups for Math with coding/problem solving. If I was teaching Math, I could definitely see how I would incorporate it into the program.
      Does your class have Twitter so we connect on what we're learning? My class is @Grade1Raptors We'd love to hear more about what you've been doing all year with coding!

  3. Hello, I'm a grade 5 student who is teaching coding to my class. My teacher gives me 1 period a week to teach them. We will soon be getting a LEGO Robotics kit. Between now and then I need some ideas for lessons. We have 5 computers, 1 Smart Board, and about 20 iPads. Please help. Thanks.

    1. Hi Josh,
      That's fantastic that you've been given the opportunity to teach your class to code! You might want to download a coding app for your class to try. Scratch Jr. is a great one. On your computers, you could try going to and trying one of the courses, or and trying some of the tutorials. There are some really great ones that I think your classmates would like.
      Put your class in partners, so some can be using the computers while the others use the iPads, then rotate midway through the period or the next week.
      Good luck and let me know how it goes! :)