Kinder Through 2 Can Code Too

My wife teaches Kindergarten and first I know it's crazy! I have sincere admiration for Kindergarten and first grade teachers. I am starting my 26th year in education, absolutely none of those are in K/1. BUT, I did go to many of those classrooms and introduce Scratch Jr. last year. It was a lot of fun, and there are some new resources available to get you started once Back To School Night is over.  

Scratch Jr. can provide a solid base to get kids coding basics without a lot of extra work for teachers. It is great if you have an iPad or Kindle available with the Scratch Jr. app but it isn't necessary anymore. You CAN just use the resources below which include unplugged activities below without ANY technology. Yes, you will still be teaching the students coding. Is it more fun if you do have an iPad or Kindle? Yes, but do what you can with the resources you have available. 

Getting Started:

1. NEW Scratch Jr. Coding Cards: 

I was very happy to hear about these. I bought a set right away and if you are serious about trying to get some coding done in your primary classroom, make your administrator buy them for you. Once you get them, here's how I would use them. 

PURPLE CARDS: These are only necessary if you have an iPad or Kindle with the app. Sit down with these and open the app to explore all the functions of the app. There are 20 purple cards and these will help you learn the basics like adding a character, adding text, and backgrounds.

BLUE CARDS: These cards are ideas to get students started. I would just use these ideas to give students a starting point and see if they can use their creativity to go from there. There are 40 blue cards with ideas and it shows a picture of the code if you need a safety net.

GREEN CARDS: These are the unplugged cards that are awesome. There are 15 green cards with ideas to introduce computational thinking. An example: Guide A Friend - let's write a program to help your friend navigate around the room. 

I like these cards even more than I thought I would. 

Unplugged Scratch Jr. card sample

Unplugged Scratch Jr. card sample

2. Scratch Jr. Pics of Coding Blocks PDF:

These are simple and free. I printed the PDF out in color on some cardstock. Then I just cut the cards down to size and put some magnet tape on the back so I can use it on a whiteboard. I think this will be fun to introduce new blocks and is also a way to get students coding without having a device. They can program some directions for the teacher or another student to act out. The PDF of coding blocks is available for free on the Scratch Jr. website. 

PDF Sample on cardstock. I need to trim them down more. 

PDF Sample on cardstock. I need to trim them down more. 

3. Scratch Jr. Book:

Written by Marina Umashci Bers and Mitch Resnick is always good to have around for support as well. I put my thumb in all the pictures so you would know that I actually own all the things I am writing about. If you need a book to guide your way, this is the one to own. (Links on this site are all just to help, none are affiliate links.)

The only book you will need to get started. 

The only book you will need to get started. 

I hope this information helps out. Please feel free to comment, share, or reach out to me on Twitter @jonsamuelson. Once you get started I have some ideas on how students can share the digital products with their parents on Seesaw or other places  you need to share them. The important thing is to just get started. If you still need more ideas check back here, or just ask. If you need a reminder of why you should try coding with K-2, here is proof from one of my first lessons in first-grade. 

IMG_4899 2.jpg




A Different Style Of Professional Development

Professional development is a word that almost all teachers dread, especially around the beginning of the school year. Stale lecturing about new initiatives, icebreakers you've done before, all teachers really want is time to get their rooms ready. I think it may be one of the most frustrating times of the year for teachers. 

The folks at Birdbrain Technologies are trying to change all that with some fun ideas to get you hands-on with robotics. I attended Bots & Beverages last week with Katie Henry hosting the festivities in downtown Portland. The idea is to get you some robotics and coding experience in a non-school setting. What a concept! All you need is a small venue to host your event and a way to invite people. There were about 20-25 people at our event last week. Katie brought in some of the new Hummingbird Bits and Micro:bits for educators to share. The Hummingbird Bit is currently available for pre-order and is one of my favorite new edtech tools to get students creating and coding. You can click this sentence to open a new tab with all the info. (BTW all my links are NOT affiliate links, they are just to be helpful.) 

That is all you need. The best way to learn something is to just get in there and try it out. You could copy this style for almost any type of hands-on PD that you wanted to share. It was a lot of fun to get educators together from different districts around the Portland area. I think the fun part is you get to learn at your own pace and can ask questions and get ideas from other teachers you may not see on a daily basis. I know this is a different take on some PD that has the same philosophy as Edcamps, Barcamps, CoffeeEDU, and other ideas. I think the important thing is that we need to move toward this style of learning so that administrators can see that maybe they don't need all the structured lectures at the beginning of the year. 


Tim Lauer and Katie Henry


STEAM Team Podcast Lanches Today!

A podcast created about the stuff we love.

Brian Briggs knows a TON about great STEM tools to use in the classroom. We attended Picademy together last year in San Jose. It was a ton of fun. If I need advice on things to purchase or ideas for lessons, I turn to Brian for help. It was these Voxer conversations that made me think we weren't the only ones talking about STEAM. I finally wore Brian down and he agreed to start a podcast with me. The podcast format is going to be very open. We may talk to cool people we find doing great stuff, we may just talk about something we have done, or we may go on tangents about random things that guys in their 40's with ADHD discuss. Whatever it is, it should be a fun time. At the end of each show we will highlight a Kickstarter or Indiegogo that has caught our eye in a segment called "Crowdsourced Corner."

We will release one more show before ISTE 2017. This show will be focused on littleBits, and more specifically the new littleBits Code Kit. I had the pleasure of testing it out with students before it was released. The students absolutely LOVED it. We had students stay in from recess and also do working lunches to finish their project. I am a big fan of Global School Play Day, and tried to discourage them from staying inside, but they loved the littleBits. Check back for that episode later in the week, for now, I leave you with our introductory episode for your listening pleasure. 


littleBits Coding Kit

Coming up on our next episode. 

Learn To Teach Coding Over The Summer


It is super simple with CodeCampus! Watch the video below for a 2 minute description of what the site can do for your teaching. 

This is a great opportunity! CodeCampus gives you FREE easy to follow tutorial videos, so you can learn the basics of Scratch in about 4-5 hours.

I know that there are too many new things to teach, and not enough hours in the day.
Your district just got a new "insert subject here" curriculum that you have to learn.
You don't have enough time to fit an extra subject into the day.

Well non-believers, I think you should just start with CodeCampus and see how it goes. The first video gives you the "why's" of coding. Next, you get into your first actual coding assignment, and you are hooked. It is amazing the sense of accomplishment you feel after creating your first program.

The beauty of it is, that once you complete all the tutorials, you can see that you don't need extra time to fit coding in. There are times in your day when you could easily embed it into a content area. Have you ever given an assignment using Google Slides to demonstrate knowledge of a topic? Your students could do the same thing in Scratch, and be CODING, to get it done. Think there's no way to code an ELA assignment? Think again! There is a Mad Libs exercise you create on CodeCampus that will open your eyes to the possibilities. 

CodeCampus also gives you an abundance of lessons for K-6 classrooms. There are almost 32 weeks of curriculum for Scratch and Scratch Jr. that everyone can use. 

Give CodeCampus and Scratch a try to start the next school year. I am convinced if you start the year with 3 or 4 Scratch lessons, the students will be self-sufficient enough to keep going through the entire school year. They may even start coding at home on their own time.

If you still aren't convinced, here is the first episode of my new "Teaching In Beta" podcast with one of the original lead developers of Scratch, Natalie Rusk of MIT. 

Here's a link to the Scratch Coding Activity Cards we talk about in the podcast. 

10 Best Sites For Free Stock Photos

I like to create lists. They are useful to create and share in my job, because many times people will ask for apps, websites, lesson plans...lots of things. I use Listly to create these lists. They are easy to share and don't take a lot of time to make. You can head on over to my profile and see that I have over 100 different lists that I have made over the last five years. They range from useful lists of free apps to put on iPads, to absurd websites that are about Drake

I created a list of sites to get attribution free stock photos this week. There are some beautiful photos on these sites that people share to use however you want. I am currently trying to get some work done at the end of the school year, and taking the photos I have and loading them on to a Google Drive folder for students to use. Many of the sites listed below will email you ten images a week to download, if you sign up for their mailing list. It is a great way to get some photos and not have to search through the entire website. I have such a collection of stock photos now, I am currently trying to sort them in to categories for easy student use. 

I included ten sites and my three favorite tools to use with stock photos, at the bottom of the list. Hope you enjoy, and get a chance to look at the stock photos that are out there. The thing I love about these sites is that people are adding new content each day. Feel free to share it around!