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Coding with Kindergarteners

Coding with Kindergarteners?!
Learning with Mrs. Parker
Okay, I know what you are thinking. 
Kindergarteners coding?! 
I must admit that I thought the same thing. I also thought how can I teach coding when I don't even know how? Coding requires computers, right?! Wrong! 
I learned that you don't need to be a coding expert to teach coding. You can learn right alongside your students.
Coding can be fun and engaging. It helps students to think critically, work with one another and to problem solve. Isn't that what we want all our students to achieve?
While I am not a coding expert, I do believe that my role as a teacher is to give my students opportunities to partake in learning that will help them in their future. Coding does just that.
Here are a few ways we explored coding in our classroom. 
Computer Coding
Traditionally, we think of coding via the computer.  Luckily, we don't have to need to know a coding program like Java to code. Today, there are many resources for learners young and old to learn to code.  
Code.org is a great resource and has a plethora of activities. In our classroom, we also use Kodable; a free resource for teachers and students. My students loved both of these.  
Paperless Coding
Paperless coding or coding unplugged is a great way to introduce coding to young students. Students learn the basics of coding such as sequencing, patterns, directionality and following directions.  
In our classroom, we used SitSpots and arrows. Students worked in groups to tell each other how to travel through the SitSpots. 
You could easily modify this by using something like this or use a resource like this one to help you plan your lessons. 
What I liked about paperless coding is that students really began to understand the need for giving explicit directions. 
Coding with Bots
One of my goals this year was to go beyond the Hour of the Code in my classroom.

I knew that I wanted my students to code but I just didn't know how to fit it all in. I decided to incorporate coding into my math centers. 
We used this Code and Go Robot Mouse. It was perfect for partner work. Students created a maze/path for Colby the Coding Mouse to find the cheese. What I liked about this bot was all the mathematical reasoning that was involved. 
When I saw this Coji Bot which you code using emojis, I knew my class just had to have it. 

This little bot can be used with or without the app or device. Coji performs a series of movements based on how it is coded. It also responds to your coding via different emojis. Students loved this component.  

As I move forward teaching my students more about coding, I'd like to continue to incorporate new tools; thanks to Amazon Prime Day my Ozobot arrives soon, apps, resources and programs. I also want to set aside more time weekly to coding. 

Giveaway
I'd love to help you incorporate more coding into your classroom, too. If you are a Follower of my blog via any platform (Bloglovin', Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), I am giving away to one lucky follower either the Code and Go Mouse or the Coji bot. All you have to do is comment below with how you would incorporate this into your classroom. Leave your email address and I will pick a winner 7/19.

Please note: This giveaway is not affiliated with any of the above companies. These are products which I used and like. Open to US residents only. 


Congratulations, Lorena! 

Coding is for everyone; even our youngest learners! I hope that you can incorporate one of these three ways to code with your students. 


Happy Coding!

Inspiring Healing and Hope

It is with great pleasure to have Barbara from Corner on Character here to share her expertise on helping children heal. Having read her blog for years, I know that I can trust her when it comes to educating and nurturing the whole child. 


Hello from Barbara at the Corner on Character. Thank you, Sylvia, for inviting me to share some reflections on healing and hope. Children come to us in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds, with a variety of experiences from their formative years. Some will come to school healthy and happy, but others will be navigating sensory issues, be dealing with attachment issues, or be recovering from stress, trauma, or abuse. They all bring a story as unique as they are. As care providers, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to help shape, nurture, support, mentor, stretch and grow alongside of the learners in our class families as we step into their stories and give them skills to soar.

The children whose stories are riddled with problems and pain, sadness and sorrow, tragedy and trauma, anxiety and angst will need a lot of our tender loving care. Yesterday alone I walked with students through the sadness of losing a pet, the heartbreak of a relative who is battling cancer, the anger of a family that is going through a divorce, the stress and pressure of high stakes testing, the worry of an impending move because dad lost his job. The list could go on and on as it becomes increasingly clear that we’ve got our work cut out for us. If we can’t reach them, then how will we teach them?

So how do we reach them? Ah, the million-dollar question. First and foremost, students have to be able to trust us. We build trust when we deliver on our promises, when we do what we say we’re going to do, when we show up and listen to understand before we respond. We build trust by showing empathy, compassion and kindness. We build trust with people of all ages and stages by letting them know that they matter, that they are important to us, that we are there for them. Always. No matter what. As caregivers, we work with intention to connect with their hearts by honoring their feelings and helping them feel that they are valued and valuable.

One super easy way to make those connections is standing at the door and greeting students as they come in to your character building. I like to stand at the entrance, hold the door opened, and give high fives. I often put my opened hand high above my head and challenge students to reach higher. They have to jump a little to connect palm to palm. I can easily get an emotional barometer from this simple activity so I know whom I might need to check on before the day is out. Our teachers stand at their classroom doors to give handshakes, high fives, or hugs. Students can choose which way they want to be greeted, another way to empower them. For those who may be recovering from a trauma or abuse, or those who have sensory issues, hugs might not be appropriate, so we give them a choice and take their lead.

Once inside the classroom, starting the day with a class meeting will be like serving breakfast to their hearts. Check out what this Trauma-Informed school in Missouri is doing to connect its students. Rose Park Elementary in Salt Lake City is also working purposefully to honor feelings and help students recognize and regulate them. Many schools use the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting model, others use the R Time program, still others have created their own grass-roots version of the sensitivity circle to help reach all students.

As the minutes turn to hours, we owe it to our children to be sensitive to the social and emotional needs of all students throughout the day. This can be accomplished by being in touch with individual needs and using strategies like conflict resolution wheels like Kelso’s Choice, designating safe-place areas as suggested by Conscious Discipline or simply by providing a calm-down corner with permission for a student to use it as needed, no questions asked. Put some fidgets, stress balls, sensory bottles, a journal, some crayons or markers and coloring sheets, maybe even a weighted blanket in there and let them choose how they’ll self-soothe. Talk about empowerment and trust!
Once relationships are in place, there’s no limit to the places you’ll be able to take our children, our future. Thank you for being the hero that you needed as a child for that next child who is fortunate enough to come into your life and share his/her story with you. Cape up and keep on crusading for good.

For additional resources on recovery and restoration, check out these posts:
Blessings on your {heart} work,
Barbara  
Corner on Character         

Hurt

This post has tugged at my heart for months. 

How do we help our students who come to school living in or with trauma? 

When I read this article, I felt as if it had been written for me. Then, I thought, I must not be alone. 

You see, I have had students like this. Students who at such a young age are overwhelmed by circumstances, often beyond their control. Students who are hurt. 

Each person handles these circumstances in different ways. As a child, I too, came to school hurting; wishing for better. How did I cope? Well, I retreated. I tried not to stand out but blend in. Hoping that no one would see the emotional pain I was in. As a result, school became my safe haven; a place where I could escape from my childhood trauma.

Today, as a teacher, I see my students act upon their trauma in different ways. While some may retreat like me, others, escalate, meltdown and go into fits of rage. What I have learned is that the child is not purposefully acting out. Instead, it is a cry for help.

There are some things that I can do to allow for success and to help.

Although, not an expert, here is some advice that I have learned over the years.

First and foremost, be mindful. Show respect and love for the child. Be willing to listen. Create a calm environment. Keep calm. Seek help. Show unconditional acceptance. Be willing to be vulnerable with the child. Forgive. Trust. Nurture. Be a champion. Advocate. Let them be little. Repeat.

Only, then, can you begin to teach strategies to handle one's emotions.

As a teacher, you may never see the "effects" of your work but know in your heart that you did good. Children in trauma need us. I know. I was that little girl.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year's theme is Building Community, Building Hope. For more information or help, you may want to visit here.



Using the Explore Tool with Young Learners

Have you tried the Explore Tool in Google Docs or Slides with your students?  If not, you must! What I like about it is that it is so easy to use; even a kindergartener can do it! 



This smart tool uses the content within your document to help determine the topic, related research and images as you Explore.  This allows young learners, like mine, to research and/or add images safely from within Google Docs or Slides. 



My students have used the Explore tool primarily to insert images. They type or use Voice Typing; another favorite, to create their document. Then, they simply click on the Explore icon and related images appear. My students find the one they like and press insert. The image is embedded into the document. 

Easy peasy. 




Integrating technology doesn't always have to be hard on you or your students with tools like Explore.

What are your favorite Google tech tools?


#TeacherFriends at the SCKC

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Southern California Kindergarten Conference (#SCKC).  It was an awesome experience of learning from the best and most inspiring teachers and bloggers.

It was an honor to finally meet Debbie Clement, moderator of the Twitter chat, #TeacherFriends.

  
If you have not seen Debbie Clement present, you must! Her joy for the arts and early childhood is without a doubt never ending.  Her words resonated in so many ways. I laughed, I cried and was utterly amazed by her. I can't wait to see her again! 

Want to get a sense of who Debbie is? This blog post is one of my favorites.


I've been a blogger for almost six years. Along the way, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best teacher educators and bloggers.  Deedee Wills and I collaborated for a blog book study; long before Pinterest and IG.  


To be able to meet her at the #SCKC was a great moment! 

She is the best! As I watched her present, I could see that to her, learning is #morethanaworksheet. It involves collaboration and learning through engagement.  

Thank you Deedee for welcoming me! You are always welcomed into my classroom!


Finally, I had a total #fangirl moment when I met Cara from The First Grade Parade


Anytime she likes anything on my IG account, I have a Sally Field moment. She is so smart and petite, like me! ;)

Thank you, #TeacherFriends for inspiring others; like me and for sharing your passion with other educators.  It was a great weekend! 

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