Jeffrey Gordon is introducing computer science to both 4th grade classes at John Muir Elementary in thoughtful and creative ways. I visited his classroom earlier this week and was wowed as I realized his fourth graders are already confident coders.
Jeffrey shared that he initially teaches computer science without the use of computers. He first teaches, “a progression of basic computer science concepts using hands-on materials (popsicle sticks, index cards, playing cards, etc).” The day I visited, students had brought in at least six different objects of varying sizes. School supplies, miniature cardboard boxes, pebbles, apples, and stuffed animals were spread across student desks around the room. Pairs of students then conducted “bubble sorts” which I learned is a method of sorting by comparing adjacent items and swapping them if they are in the wrong order. This is repeated until all objects are in order — in this case, from smallest to largest. You can watch students performing bubble sorts in this video put together by Jeffrey.
Students are learning binary math which is an extension of the study of place value. They will build on this by studying basic algorithms and game design — which has many connections to the A Story of Units curriculum.
After the bubble sort, Jeffrey launched the next challenge in his very own coding and math curriculum. After a mini-lesson on how fast an object moves when it is thrown in the air and falls, students accessed the instructions for how to create a multiple jumper that moves at various speeds and got to work block programming in Scratch.
Fourth graders at John Muir will study computer science throughout the year and will eventually design their own games. You can get a sneak peak by checking out this link to “Mr. Gordon’s Math Games.”
If you’re interested in exploring ways to incorporate coding into your classroom, check out the “Students Teaching Coding” blog post about Claire Dugan’s (4th grade teacher at Cragmont) class which mentions Code.org and the Hour of Code as well as Scratch. Jeffrey Gordon also recommends two books: Mindstorms by Dr. Seymour Papert and Theory of Fun by Ralph Koster.
All of our third through fifth grade students will soon have access to Tynker accounts so they can learn computer programming through self-paced, fun lessons. Information about Tynker will be shared with teachers soon and students can access their Tynker accounts through the blue Clever button on their school’s library web site or at clever.com/in/berkeley. As always, please reach out to Allison or myself with any questions or for help getting started.
– Mia Gittlen, K-8 Instructional Technology TSA