Look carefully at this photo. While there are many features which may grab your attention, what was most striking to me was that there are two students leading the lesson. Over the past year, I have had the chance to see several groups of 4th and 5th grade students learning coding. Some have used the Code Studio suite of lessons on Code.org, others have done the Hour of Code games (where, when I last checked, Draymond Green spoke out in support of kids learning to code), and some have learned block programming using Scratch.
Currently, there are just a few elementary classrooms where students are learning to code, but most often I have seen it as something for students to do when they finish their work early. I love this idea! However, I was especially impressed when I observed Claire Dugan, 4th grade teacher at Cragmont, who not only has committed time to ensure that all students learn to code, but she has supported students to master the material in order to teach it to their classmates.
District-wide, 4th graders recently studied the California Gold Rush. After a field trip to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, Claire’s students gathered and summarized information to write reports on pioneer John Sutter. Claire then had her students share their information through an animated slide show which they created by programming in Scratch. Below is a sample of one of their projects (at the time of my visits, their projects were incomplete, so this is just a snippet):
By teaching students programming, students had far more creative tools to use when designing their projects and it was exciting to watch all students learning these tools. What most impressed me was how she organized the class to have students taking the lead on teaching these tools. Claire was circulating to ensure that every student received the support they needed, however students took turns teaching a new aspect of the computer programming while a second student circulated and helped. Students were riveted by their guest teachers and the class was silent as they explained each new concept.
Most teachers have never learned programming. And yet, many believe that it’s an important skill to teach their students. I love how Claire took on the challenge of learning a programming language, but also opened her classroom up to allowing students to be the teachers as well. By integrating the teaching of programming with her language arts and social studies curriculum, she was able to carve out time for this exciting project.
-Allison Krasnow: Instructional Technology Coordinator