To check out the video about the Envision Math games my students love to play, click here.
Games have opened up many opportunities for differentiation in the classroom. I have thought about teaching coding to my first graders, but I wondered if it would be too difficult for them. I tried to take a coding class over ten years ago, but I quit after a few weeks. I struggled every day and I found it more confusing than fun. I did learn enough from those few weeks to be able to decipher code. I wish I had stuck with it and I think about how much easier it would have been if I had started learning to code while I was in elementary school. I’m so excited that students are able to learn it through game playing. I first learned about code.org when I read Stiff’s article. I immediately thought of the girls in my classroom when I read, “To teach computer coding, Hamley uses fun Internet programs and applications like code.org and crunchzilla. Code.org entices girls to learn coding by offering a coding program featuring popular “Frozen” characters Anna and Elsa” (Stiff, 2015). I had to check out code.org to see if it is something I could teach to my first grade students. I was excited to learn how “code.org has developed an elementary school curriculum that allows even the youngest students to explore the limitless world of computing – at no cost for schools. The courses blend online, self-guided and self-paced tutorials with “unplugged” activities that require no computer at all. Each course consists of about 20 lessons that may be implemented as one unit or over the course of a semester. Even kindergarten-aged pre-readers can participate” (Code.org, n.d.). The best thing about code.org is that students can work at their current academic level, meaning it is differentiated to each student’s ability.
I have thought a great deal about using MinecraftEdu in my teaching, but my administration is not supportive of the idea this year. There is a good chance that if I have the same principal next year, I could teach using MinecraftEdu. There is a good chance that I could be looping up with my students again next year and teaching second grade. I was excited to read about a teacher who used Minecraft with his second grade class. As Granata (2015) wrote, “The segment that involved Minecraft was intended to last a week, but Levin used the game for the rest of the semester, teaching students to type by allowing them to communicate with each other in the game and showing them how to do online research by trawling the vast Minecraft forums for specific information.” By setting up the game myself, I could plan and program for differentiation. My students would get to work at their level while playing a fun and engaging educational game. I can’t see the downside in that.
Code.org. (n.d.). Computer Science Fundamentals for Elementary School. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from Code.org: https://code.org/educate/curriculum/elementary-school
Granata, K. (2015, February). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft in the Classroom. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from Education World: http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/teachers-take-advantage-minecraft-classroom-60294258
Stiff, H. (2015, February 16). Monforton Teacher Instructs Coding to Kids. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from Belgrade News: http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_6716d926-ae2a-11e4-959b-13ebce844c1c.html