I'm trying to rethink the way that I teach my students about coding. I've always been a fan of a project-based approach over any other, and this year I started thinking about how I might also make that experience more personalized to my students' interests and needs.
Having spent nearly a year teaching 2nd grade online during this pandemic, personalizing the learning experience feels even more important now than ever before. I am constantly seeking out ways to motivate, inspire and engage a group of 7 and 8 year olds who are all having to do this school thing more on their own than ever before.
Most recently, my latest experiment was to pose a programming design challenge to a group of my more advanced learners. In math, we've been spending a lot of time on strategies for adding and subtracting 2-digit numbers and I noticed that a majority of my students were still having trouble mastering their early facts (sums/subtraction within 20), which is then getting in the way of their work with larger numbers.
So, the problem that I posed to my programming groups was: "design a math video game to help other 1st & 2nd grade students practice their math facts".
Honestly, I'm figuring out this process as we go. I knew a group of my students needed something more challenging to work on, I knew they enjoyed the coding we'd done so far this year, and I wanted there to be a design element since we are a design-focused TK-8 school. Most of the decisions I've made about the process have happened on the fly (i.e. the night before the next assignment or the day of). Here's what we've come up with so far:
- Label what the user will see on the screen
- Label what the user will have to do or accomplish
- Label any buttons or interactive elements you think you might want to have
- Conference with teacher about your plan
- Think about what coding and design skills you already have
- Create a list of skills you need to learn in order to move forward with your game
- Complete coding mini-lessons
- Skills assigned to individual students based on their requests
- Use what's learned in mini-lessons to build out video game prototype in Scratch
Personalized Coding Pathways
- Keep it short to ensure that students are able to maintain attention and so as not to overwhelm their cognitive load for new material.
- Package each mini-lesson into a "hyperdoc" format with UDL design principles in mind-- text option, video option, lots of visuals-- so they all have different ways of accessing the new content.
- At the end of each mini-lesson, students complete a mini-make to demonstrate understanding (by following along with a video example & customizing as they like).
- Using the ask/answer blocks
- Using selection/conditional statements (if/then/else blocks)
- Creating & using a score keeping variable
- Creating & using lists
- Creating a game timer (coming soon with the help of another wonderful educator in Canada, Andrew McDonald)
- Creating a side-scrolling effect in game (coming soon)
Additional Personalization Plans
1) Build out collection of mini-lessons
Gr 2-3 Ss 💚 earning their Pi programming badges in our "Hacking Minecraft Pi" + phys computing class. Thx for the idea @thehughes2! So motivating & great tool for assessing learning! #CUSDRockstar #MakerEd #Picademy #K2CanToo #CSk8 pic.twitter.com/V83nRezo4I— Amanda Haughs (@MsHaughs) March 5, 2020
3) Peer & Self-assessment process
I'd also like to embed more self- assessment and possibly peer assessment in the process. In our online format this year I've lost momentum with the self-assessment process that had become such a regular routine in the classroom. I am still using learning targets to help students clearly identify the specific goal they are working toward, but trying to get back to a self-assessment process to support more reflection on their learning and next steps.