Monday, October 31, 2016

Coding Scavenger Hunt

Engaging children in coding activities has been a priority for us this week. The children are very interested in mapping, grids, and giving each other directions so we want to capitalize on these expressed interests and weave in as much math and spatial reasoning as possible. 
A simple game that the children enjoyed was looking for treasure.  We created an array of post it notes on a large piece of chart paper.
Hidden underneath some of the post-its were silly emoji face stickers.

During circle we modeled how to give each other directions for moving on the grid using the coding commands we had been practicing - go up, go down, go left, go right, and jump.  We agreed that the starting point would be at the top, centre of the grid.
The programmer (Mrs. McLennan in the following picture) used the coding symbols and also orally gave the coding directions and the player had to follow the commands until the programmer stopped.

At that point the player lifted the note to see whether or not a 'treasure' (what the children termed the faces) was discovered beneath. If there was one, the programmer and player switched and someone else had a turn. If not, then directions continued to be given until one was eventually discovered.

The children became quite proficient at giving each other directions. We are working towards helping them understand that the directions need to go in over, line by line, and that when we write code we need to ensure they are in order.

This is also a great game for strengthening a child's listening skills as they have to pay careful attention to the directions and follow them precisely in order to be successful. Coding strengthens communication and cooperation. Children have to be patient with one another throughout the process too!

Thursday, October 27, 2016


In order to capitalize on the children's interests in all things Halloween, I offered a large pumpkin, pushpins, and elastics today to see what they would do. They immediately began to make connections!

"Look! It's like the spider webs we made yesterday!"

"This is like when we put elastics on the geoboards!"

"I want to poke the pins all over the pumpkin like it's having a big operation!"

They immediately got to work, being mindful to not put elastics on pins that weren't fully inserted into the shell because these weren't strong enough and the elastic would snap off.

"Look at all the shapes! It's like the pumpkin has a mixed up face! I see diamond eyes, but they aren't in the right spot!"

It's pretty hard to tell who has the bigger smile here!

Halloween Inspired Coding

The children have been very interested in maps lately; they create them at our writing table and use them in their dramatic play, refer to printed maps during outside time as they run and ride around on the tricycles, and talk about hiding treasure in our classroom and creating maps to help others find it. They are curious about places in our school and the hallways we need to take to get there.

As I reflected upon their genuine interest in location and maps, I thought it was the perfect time to introduce them to coding. Why coding?

1. Coding is basic language in the digital age. Computer programming is a language and is going to be an essential skill for many of our children to know as they grow. Our world is digital - providing children with activities that integrate communication, thinking and problem solving will be valuable for their future success. So many people are technology shy, and helping our children to be technologically literate is vital. The earlier one learns and practices the basics of this type of language, the easier it will be and the more positively it will affect their developing brains. 

2.  Coding is math. It involves spatial reasoning and logic. Helping children to think about direction, location and movement will strengthen their math skills. Children need to count the number of spaces being moved and indicate in which direction they are headed. Coding integrates a number of math skills together in one experience.

3.  Coding encourages problem solving. When activities like coding provide a challenge for the user, or there are multiple ways of solving the same problem, an emphasis can be placed on the process of learning and the child can consider multiple paths of arriving at a solution and choose the best or most efficient strategy. Planning ahead and being critical about the path of the activity is key for success.

4. Coding strengthens communication. When a child codes, she or he needs to indicate directions to another person (or the computer). These directions need to be as succinct as possible. When two children are playing coding games the child receiving the directions needs to be an active listener in order to move the coding pieces in the correct way. Clear communication is essential for success.

Want to learn how to better support your child's coding at home? Read this great article from CBC called Why Kids Should Learn to Code (And How to Get Them Started)

For today's coding activity I decided to use a spooky Halloween scenario to get the children to buy into the experience right from the start.

I created a simple grid using masking tape and our clear sensory bin lid. I wanted to engage the children in an experience that would help them understand the basics of coding. For this game we had four basic commands - "go right", "go left", "go up" and "go down". 

We had two pictures - one of a house (where the character would start) and one of candy (which is where the character needed to end). The children pretended that this was a trick-o-treater heading out on a scary Halloween night where many obstacles like bats, spiders, and other spooky creatures might be blocking the path. The ultimate goal was to move a character from the house to the candy as efficiently as possible without running into a spooky obstacle. 

The children used sticky notes with arrows drawn on them to indicate the codes. I encouraged them to verbalize their thinking and count the number of steps in their code. (e.g., "Move left 3 times, move up three times, move left one time, move up two times, move right one time").

This activity generated a great amount of interest, with many spectators watching the action or offering suggestions for more efficient ways to get to the candy faster.

As the children became more comfortable they created more complex paths to the candy by strategically placing the obstacles in the way. They were also very attuned to the grid and noticed when too many obstacles were placed on it and wouldn't allow a clear path.

In order to offer children a different perspective, I also had paper grids prepared with the same experience (house, candy, spooky obstacles) and invited the children to plan out the code directly on the paper.

Blank hundreds charts were also available for those children who wanted to draw their own Halloween obstacles and then program the code.

Stay tuned as we will continue with our spooky Halloween coding tomorrow and use more ideas that can be easily implemented into many scenarios to encourage children to use the basics of programming. For those who would like to print the coding pages used in this experience, please click on the following links.

Simple Halloween Coding Grid

Difficult Halloween Coding Grid

Printable Halloween Coding Pieces

Blank Hundreds Grid

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Indoor Spider Web Weaving

The children have continued with their interest in spiders so today I thought it would be fun to have a mini spider playscape that promoted cooperation, storytelling, and mathematical observations.

We used two sturdy logs. I stuck pushpins into the top surface of the log and encouraged the children to connect the logs with a mathematical experience or tool we have in our classroom. The children immediately suggested that the pegs on the log reminded them of our geoboards. We brainstormed how we could use the pegs to make spider webs. The children were keen to weave and wind fuzzy white yarn in order to make as realistic a web as possible.

As the children wove they counted how many times around the pegs they went - 1, 2, 3... They noticed shapes emerging in the web and compared to see which was the largest shape. 

"Look! I see so many triangles! How many are there?"

"The outside needs a longer piece of yarn than the middle."

"It reminds me of a pizza with all the little parts inside."

The children wanted to connect the two logs together with a web so the spiders could move from one place to another. They needed to cooperate and problem solve how to connect the webs without disrupting the original one. Once the web continued they needed to find a way to keep the web from unraveling. They noticed the bigger spiders were heavier and would sink lower on the middle web. I overheard much rich mathematical conversation as the children played with the spiders. 

At the end of the day we unwound the web and I challenged the children to think of what we might add to the logs tomorrow to make the spider playscape even more interesting....perhaps some prey for the spiders? What would you add to the playscape?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Patterns in Nature

"Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics."
Dean Schlicter

It's amazing what you can see when you look at everything through a mathematical lens. 

On Friday one our of children came to school clutching a tiny snail in his hands. He was so excited to share it. "Look! It's so small and slimy!" he giggled as he opened his fingers and revealed it to his peers.  The children asked if we could put it in a clear glass aquarium so they could observe it for the day. 

In kindergarten this is not an uncommon request; children find many treasures in the outdoor world and bring them inside in order to explore them further. We are always finding natural artifacts in our classroom - rocks kept in the children's coat pockets, wild flowers stored in cubbies, pinecones and leaves strewn about the room. The old me - the teacher who I was before I fell in love with math - would have smiled at the children as they observed the snail and complimented the experience with literacy materials such as nonfiction books and drawing tools.

But on Friday this was not the case. Ever since my own mathematical mindset grew over the last few years, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask the children what math they noticed in the snail.

"'s a circle! I see circles!"

"There are swirls on it, like when we made swirly lines with the gems."

"It's little and other snails are big."

"We can see how far it goes with it's slimy trail."

"I see a pattern...the shell has colours on it."

Although there was interest in all ideas, the children focused mostly on the patterns on the snail's shell. I wondered if it was because we had recently explored patterning with loose parts.  

The children helped me create a 'Patterns in Nature' exploration area where the snail could be observed and other natural patterns could be investigated further.

I added close up photos of other animals so that the children could notice many interesting and different patterns...

It was fun guessing what animal owned the pattern and seeing the different ways we could describe what we saw, since many patterns were not neat and linear and had to be investigated further in order to be uncovered.

We also added some nonfiction books about shells and other patterns in nature. Photos of patterns from a recent trip to Fighting Island were also added to the centre so our SK children could reflect upon their experience on that trip and make connections to the current activity.

Some children spent time observing and drawing what they noticed while others just enjoyed watching the snail.

Later in the day we went outside for some play and the children began noticing some of the patterns occurring in the garden. I encouraged them to document what they saw using the class iPad.

Here are some of their findings. Can you guess what where these patterns might be found?

Many people wonder how children can engage in rich mathematics in an inquiry-based, child centred classroom. Although I also introduce ideas to children through interesting provocations and whole/small group lessons and activities, it's easy to see from the small act of a child bringing a snail to school how educators can cultivate a genuine interest in and appreciation of math in daily events. When one looks at the world through math-coloured glasses, you never know what you might discover! Math is everywhere!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...