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Alphabetic Code Knowledge – The Key To Unlocking Written English

Joy Allcock Catching Up Your Code

We are faced with unprecedented challenges in education at the moment. Teachers are juggling face-to-face teaching and distance learning and wondering what they should do to maximise learning opportunities for their students. John Hattie has some wise advice.

“We should focus on the things that can have the greatest impact and stop being distracted by the things that don’t matter.”

Ref: https://visible-learning.org/

So what can we do to have the greatest impact on our students’ literacy outcomes?

We live in an age of information, with language the key to participation. Priscilla Vail 1 says, “For our society to function, for people to make productive use of the tidal waves of information available through electronics, we need the skills of sorting, prioritising, and organising which language offers. For individuals to participate and grow, we need well-honed communication skills.”
Vail was referring to the need to develop rich oral language skills and these are of course the foundation for all communication, whether it be spoken or written.

From birth, children begin the life-long journey of learning how to use language to communicate – a process that is innate in humans. They are exposed to written forms of language from an early age, but most do not begin the task of learning to use written language until they go to school. Learning how print works is not innate – it has to be taught.

Written languages fall broadly into two types – logographic languages, which use visual images to represent words (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, for example) and phonologic languages, which use symbols to represent the sounds that make up spoken words (English, Spanish, German, for example). Some phonologic languages have one-to-one relationships between sounds and symbols (Spanish, Italian, Finnish, for example) and others have diverse relationships (English, French, for example). Young children learning to read and write the language they speak must therefore learn to understand the symbols that represent either the words they speak, or the sounds that make up the words they speak.

Written English is a complex sound-symbol language. There are many different ways that sounds (phonemes) can be written (the /k/ sound for example – cat, kite, soccer, pack, queue, quay, school), and many different ways that the symbol (graphemes – letters and letter patterns) can be pronounced (chips, chef, school; apple, apron, was, water, fast, for example).

Understanding that words are made up of sounds and that sounds can be written using letters and letter patterns is an understanding of the alphabetic principle. Learning how phonemes and graphemes map to each other is learning about the alphabetic code. In some languages this is a relatively straightforward task. In English it is much more difficult because of the diversity that exists between how letters and letter patterns are pronounced and how sounds are written.

For anyone learning to read and write English, understanding how the alphabetic code works is essential. It is not something that is easy to ‘pick up’ through exposure to print. The way the code works must be explicitly taught. Phonics programmes are typically used to teach the alphabetic code in the early years. There are a large number of phonics programmes available and used in our schools and they vary in their accuracy and efficacy. It is often difficult for teachers to know how to evaluate the efficacy of such programmes and what to do if they do not produce the desired results.

I have been helping students learn how the alphabetic code of English works for more than 20 years. This is what I have learned.

    • Teach from sound to print – use what children already know (the sounds in words) to teach what they don’t know (the English code that forms written words).
    • Teach phonemic awareness skills – so that children can take words apart and put them back together again as they use their knowledge of the alphabetic code to read and write words that they do not yet have in their print memory.
    • Teach the alphabetic code beyond the early years.
      There are close to 300 graphemes that represent the 43 phonemes of English. Many of these are not in words that young children meet in the first two years at school. We cannot teach everything that students need to know about the alphabetic code in the first two to three years.

A lack of knowledge of how the alphabetic code works has a negative impact on reading and writing.
When you are reading, if you come to a word that is unfamiliar, you need to use your knowledge of the code and your phonemic awareness skills to link to the sounds that make up the word to sound it out. If you want to write a word you cannot spell, you need to sound it out and write the code for the sounds that make up the word. Fluency with reading and writing is negatively impacted by a lack of knowledge of the alphabetic code and poor phonemic awareness skills.

Catch Up Your Code is a book that has been written to quickly address the gaps in code knowledge for students from Year 4 to adults. By Year 4, students have been exposed to a lot of print and they will have a large bank of words they know both orally and in their written form. However, despite having lots of words in their print memory, many students are still unable to use the alphabetic code because they do not have conscious knowledge of it.

Catch Up Your Code uses a simple but effective strategy that helps students (and teachers!) think differently about how words work. Students are asked to think of words that contain a target sound and to write these words and find the code for the target sound. They quickly learn about the diversity of the code and begin to discover some of the conventions about how and when it is used. They learn to sort, prioritise and organise what they already knew, as well as what they have just learned about how the alphabetic code is used to represent spoken words.

Alphabetic code knowledge is the foundation for learning to read and write English. It is fundamental to becoming a successful reader and writer. Students cannot have gaps in this knowledge. They must have a deep knowledge of how it works and strategies that help them use this knowledge as they read and write unfamiliar words.

Using Catch Up Your Code for 10 minutes a day for a term will consolidate the code knowledge your students already have and fill in the gaps of what they don’t know, so that they have a deep knowledge base to refer to as they tackle reading and writing texts that are more and more complex.

Knowledge of the alphabetic code does matter. If you can find 10 minutes a day to use a simple but effective strategy for increasing students’ knowledge of the foundation of written English, it will have a significant impact on their reading and writing outcomes.

1 Vail., P., L. (1996). Words Fail Me. How language works and what happens if it doesn’t. Modern Learning Press. Rosemont. NJ.

Featured Product:

Catch Up Your Code

 

About the Author

Joy Allcock (M.Ed). Independent Literacy consultant, facilitator of teacher professional
development throughout New Zealand and internationally. Presenter at NZ and international literacy conferences (IRA, ASCD/ACEL). Author of a range of literacy resources for teachers and students (www.joyallcock.co.nz). Leader of Shine Literacy Research Project (designed and evaluated by Massey University – www.literacysuccess.org.nz)

 

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Catching Up On Maths

Maths resources on desk

Playing Catch-up
Teachers and parents have done an incredible job working together to minimise the disruption to children’s schooling this year. Clearly though, the unique circumstances of this year will have us all playing catch-up for some time.
For teachers, this means that getting the most value out of your class time and resources has become even more important. For parents, this means continuing to support teachers, albeit in perhaps a slightly different way.

 

What Are We Catching Up On?
Generally, we’re seeing disruption:

    • in topics that were already problem areas. For Lower Primary, that’s basic number facts (addition and subtraction) and time and place value. For Middle and Upper Primary, it’s tricky subjects like fractions and basic facts (multiplication/division) and place value to two decimal places.
    • in areas where special equipment is required such as in geometry and measurement.

 

Triage
Do you run your class with a yearly plan? You might need to chop and change your plan, bringing forward the most important stuff and being prepared to prune a little. For example, many probability concepts are revisited in Year 4, 5 and 6, so you may be able to pick these up later. A great deal of fraction work begins in Year 4, and it’s essential that this is covered.
Are you a new teacher? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every content descriptor in the Curriculum needs equal attention. For example, here are two descriptors in the Foundation year from the Australian Curriculum, “subitise small collections of objects” and “connect days of the week to familiar events and actions.” The former is a key concept in mathematics and failing to grasp it can really impede progress, while the latter will likely be learnt informally in Year 1 or 2.

 

Parents as Partners
I think now many parents have developed a new appreciation for the work of teachers – they’ve seen how demanding remote learning can be. Parents themselves have become fatigued.
Most parents want to help and you can help them help you by giving them clear materials to share with their kids. We have developed a simplified look at the Australian Curriculum which you are welcome to share with parents and coordinate with them.

When parents understand the point of the materials and tasks, including the catch-up work you’re sending home, they are better equipped to help you impart that knowledge to the students.

 

Picking Versatile Tools
Parents will not necessarily have the specialty mathematics manipulatives that a school uses but simple materials – such as a collection of buttons that may be sorted according to a range of criteria – are still very powerful learning tools. Sorting and classifying involves the use of mathematical language and provides an opportunity for mathematical reasoning.
Take a look at MTA’s short video on button sorting for some inspiration.
https://www.teaching.com.au/page/mta-au-videos

 

At Home: Making and Creating (STEAM)
One avenue that will help catch-up particularly for younger students is drawing out some of the learning in everyday tasks.
I have seen some amazing LEGO creations constructed by my grandchildren. Without realising it, they are combining aspects of mathematics, science, technology and creativity, often referred to as STEM or STEAM. Most children will have some LEGO (or similar construction bricks) at home and will spontaneously design and build all types of models. LEGO itself provides further ideas on its website. It is well worth having a look.

 

Games
Another catch-up avenue that parents can assist in is the use of games. Games are a fantastic catch-up tool. Playing games with children can help maintain relationships, while at the same time alerting parents to any issues that their children might be experiencing with mathematics. Most popular dice and card games, as well as domino puzzles and games, will support the development of fluency and reasoning. As children play these games their fluency will improve and parents can focus on any aspect of the mathematics inherent in the game that might be causing concern.
Here are some specific games that highlight specific concepts in mathematics.

MABBLE
Designed by Associate Professor Catherine Attard, this game not only promotes fluency but also strategic thinking. See here for a  video & detailed description of this game.

COMBO
As the name implies, this card game involves combining numbers using basic number facts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication (tables) and division. Originally this game was designed to be played with two to six players, but during the COVID-19 lockdown parents have increasingly been looking for games that are suitable for a single player. Extra games that may be played with a standard set of COMBO cards may be downloaded here
I have made some short videos to explain how each of the games is played, which you can find here.

 

Specific Skills
Children require regular exposure to certain concepts like basic number facts such as tables. One specific skill that needs regular exposure is “telling the time”. Children need to tell the time on both analogue and digital timepieces. In basic terms, Year 1 children are taught to tell the time to the half hour, Year 2 to the quarter hour and Year 3 to the nearest minute. I think children should be encouraged to wear an analogue watch and be asked to refer to the time regularly. A child can act as a timekeeper and note specific times throughout the day such as lunchtime at 12:00 noon. In a school environment there are wall clocks and the wristwatches that match. The Easy Read Student Watch is designed for that very purpose. I recommend that two children in the class are allowed to wear the watch for a day or week and act as official timekeepers.

 

My Versatile Materials Picks
In terms of a basic kit of materials, I think two six-faced dot dice, two ten-faced 0-9 dice {LINK}, a pack of school-friendly cards, some counters {link} and some dominoes would make for a lovely take-home pack. There are so many things that you can do with this basic set of materials.

 

Featured Items

Mabble

Combo Cards

Easy Read Student Watch

Six-faced Dot Dice

Dominoes

 

Dr Paul Swan Biography
Dr Paul Swan has taught at primary, secondary and tertiary level. He is an award-winning author having written over 50 books. He now writes, makes games and maths manipulatives and speaks to whoever will listen.

 

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The Robot Mouse In An Early Years Classroom

Robot Mouse Australia map activity

Introducing Digital Technologies into classrooms can be daunting for some and a pure thrill for others. Between balancing an overloaded curriculum, differentiating for a diverse range of learners and ticking off a never-ending to-do list, who has time for robotics? I get it. Well, I’m here to share how to introduce robotics into your early years classroom in ways that are meaningful, resourceful and easy to manage.

Let’s talk curriculum. The Australian Curriculum Achievement Standard for Digital Technologies in the Foundation-Year 2 band states, ‘Students design solutions to simple problems using a sequence of steps and decisions. Digging deeper, the Processes and Production Skills Content Descriptors encourage students to ‘Follow, describe and represent a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve simple problems (ACTDIP004)’. These statements are an intuitive early introduction to coding and programming. But how can we make this meaningful in an everyday classroom?

Today’s learners will be solving tomorrow’s problems. We need to provide our students with the 21st century skills and capabilities they will need in order to do that. The learning experiences that students are exposed to in the early years are crucial, as they will continue to be developed over the course of their schooling. We all have to start somewhere (teachers included). Let’s take a look at how we can introduce sequencing using the Robot Mouse  available from Modern Teaching Aids.

The Robot Mouse is an excellent way to introduce hands-on sequencing to increase basic coding skills, logic and navigation. The robot features movement in four directions (left, right, forwards, backwards) in two speeds and colour-coded buttons to match the accompanying coding cards. Users are required to input their sequence by pressing the buttons on top of the robot to be performed when the green circle in the middle is pressed. These robots are very user friendly for the lower years, and the cuteness factor (enhanced by the fact that the magnetic nose will ‘smooch’ another magnetic surface) will have your students hooked.

Robot Mouse hands on sequencng activity featuring child's hands

In my specialist Digital Technologies lessons, I alternate between using these robots in isolated sequencing activities and incorporating other disciplines for integrated activities. The above image displays how students can use the coding cards to design a sequence of code to achieve a purpose. In this instance, students are challenged to draw a series of lines, design a matching sequence of code and then execute it using the Robot Mouse. This activity has flexible differentiation, where students can begin with simple lines of code and then continue to extend it as their skill set increases.

The coding cards that accompany the Robot Mouse make isolated sequencing activities easy to manage. I keep the cards in small individual zippy bags, allowing the students to grab-and-go for their lessons. To begin with, lessons are very scaffolded, starting with a simple path that all students follow. After this, students of varying ability levels branch out to extend their paths and refine their logic. As students become more comfortable in their learning, they are able to design their own paths or they can attempt any pre-made ones I scatter through the classroom.

Robot mouse coding cards child's hands drawing path using whiteboard marker

Even at such a young age, you’ll find students are motivated to attempt more complex paths quite early on. A barrier that is often faced with early years students is resilience. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Miss Donnelly, the robot isn’t working”, I’d be a millionaire a few times over. I highly recommend having several conversations addressing that the robot IS working just fine; the problem is the student’s incorrect sequence. You can cushion this conversation with fun unplugged procedures, such as having the students verbally instruct the teacher to navigate from their chair to the classroom door. Did the students tell you to stand up? Did they tell you to move one foot and then the other? Each verbal instruction followed or missed reminds the students of the importance of thinking through the sequences and making corrections along the way. Their resilience will develop over time as they understand that the robots listen to every individual code in their sequence, even if it’s incorrect.

Let’s look at how we can bump up this activity to include concepts from other learning areas such as Mathematics. The Robot Mouse has consistent movement dimensions. This means you can create your own robot mats to suit concepts or themes you’re exploring across multiple disciplines. You can even print blank templates, laminate them and use whiteboard markers to create reusable resources to suit future uses in your classroom. It’s not about having a mat for every concept within your classroom curriculum. You can be resourceful and have these reusable mats at hand to create relevant learning experiences without printing and laminating a new mat every lesson. Click here  to download a free blank template for you to use in your classroom.

In the image below, you can see how several shapes have been added to four joined templates to create an activity where students navigate from one two-dimensional shape to another. In a Year 1 context, this activity is additionally addressing the Mathematics Achievement Standard in the areas of using ‘the language of direction to move from place to place’ and identifying two-dimensional shapes. Combining the two disciplines of Mathematics and Digital Technologies allows students to approach concepts from multiple perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and relevance of their learning experiences.

Robot Mouse shape navigation activity mat

For this specific activity, students were challenged to navigate their Robot Mouse from one shape to another. To begin with, they were given teacher instructions in buddies eg: navigate from the triangle to the octagon. As a team, they would use the coding cards to design a physical representation of their sequence and would then input the sequence into their robot. A few repetitions of this exercise will have the students feeling comfortable enough to design their own paths for the robots.

I like to have students buddied up in these learning experiences to cross-promote sharing skills and peer support. Sharing in an early years classroom can be problematic, but commonly, when it comes to robotics and technologies in schools, sharing is vital. You can buddy up varying ability levels to allow peers to support each other in their learning. In this instance, the lower ability student has comfort in learning alongside their friend and the higher ability student is exercising the description of their understanding.

 

Robot Mouse MAB activity with Kids hands

Once students are comfortable with using the Robot Mouse, you will be able to easily approach cross-disciplinary concepts with the integration of robotics. Approaching concepts like addition and subtraction using MAB block and tens frames representations can refine understanding of Mathematics concepts and numeracy general capabilities. Once you have one mat set up, the ideas will flow through you! Remember, you don’t need a mat made up for every concept area – you can reuse a blank template to be resourceful.

Robot Mouse Block 10 activity with kids hands

 

 

Technology can be difficult for schools to fund and in any sense, the robotics need to be respected by all users. A few rules I have my students practise when using the Robot Mouse are:

    • Hold the Robot Mouse with two hands (one on top, one underneath.
    • Walk, don’t run! You might drop your robot or step on someone else’s.
    • Only use the Robot Mouse on the floor.
    • Do not push and pull the Robot Mouse like a toy car.
    • Turn the Robot Mouse off when finished to preserve battery life.
    • Sharing is caring.

Having rules in place for the use of robotics in the classroom will also boost student ownership of the learning experience. Students will develop a respect and appreciation for the resources they are accessing and will show a higher level of focus on the activity in front of them.

 

Cross-curricula links

Robot mouse map of Australia activity

When it comes to robotics, finding meaningful cross-curricula links will deepen student understanding and help to avoid an extra workload on your shoulders. Identify areas of the curriculum that align first and then work towards approaching the concept from both perspectives. Work smarter, not harder. Be strategic and resourceful with your placement of robotics in your classroom curriculum. The Robot Mouse is versatile enough to follow chalk on concrete, marker on a flat whiteboard, drawings on scrap paper and a printed and laminated colour mat. Find what works for your classroom and I challenge you to implement one activity. I’m confident you’ll find the best way that works for you, allowing you to find passion for your lessons, ease on your curriculum and engagement for your students.

Robot Mouse Smilies activity Map and chldrens hands

Featured Product: The Robot Mouse

 

How do you use The Robot Mouse in your classroom, we’d love to hear from you?

 

About the Author
Taylor is a Specialist Digital Technologies Teacher in a primary school setting. In her five years of teaching, she has found a passion for integrating a range of technologies into her classroom and strives to share these experiences with those around her. Follow Taylor along in her teaching journey on Instagram @taylorteachestech

 

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10 Name Activities For Early Learners

Peg name activity featuring pegs with letters on clipped to card with name spelt out

Most young children are very interested in their name and it is incredibly personal to them. Often, a child’s name is the first word they learn how to read and write, which leads to further interest in reading and writing activities. When a child starts kindergarten or in the lead up to school, this is a great time to start fostering an interest in name recognition. This often helps children settle into their learning environment as they feel more confident being able to recognise their named belongings amongst their peers. In a school setting, there are lots of times where a child will need to recognise their named belongings, for example, when trying to find their school hat or bag. At the beginning of Prep (or first year of school equivalent), there will be a big focus on name recognition and writing, which will help support students with this learning.
Whether your little one is becoming interested in their name or if you’re a teacher looking for some ideas on how to support your students, the following blog will share many ideas and activities that will develop children’s ability to recognise, write and spell their name.

Sign In Area

Classroom sign in area for students

This ‘sign in area’ was a set-up I had in my kindergarten classroom a few years ago where children could practise writing their names each morning when they came to kindy. Not only was this developing children’s ability to write their name, it also fostered a sense of belonging in the classroom and formed part of the morning routine. Children also developed their name recognition skills as they had to find their own name card in the class pile.

 

Playdough Stamping

Playdough stamping, purple playdough and green alphabet stamps

Many early childhood teachers would argue that there is no better resource than playdough. It is such a fabulous manipulative that can help develop fine motor skills and it can be used in so many different ways. In my classroom, we love using our Alphabet Dough Stampers to stamp out our names, which builds children’s confidence in recognising and spelling their names.

Featured Product:
Alphabet Dough Stampers

 

Sensory Tray Sand Writing

 

Sensory sand tray writing spelling out Ellie letters

Sensory writing trays are a great way for children to explore writing and drawing, without the stress of holding a pencil. There are many materials you can put in a sensory writing tray, such as sand, salt or even coloured rice. At the beginning of the year, I usually set up sensory trays containing sand during our daily English rotations where students can have the opportunity to practise writing their names.

 

Can You Spell Your Name?

 

Can you spell your name activity

This is one of my students’ absolute favourite name activities! They love using the diggers and dump trucks to find and transport the alphabet rocks they need to make their names.

name spelling diggers featuring diggers pebbles with letters written on. sitting on grass backgroundIt’s a super fun and engaging activity that encourages students to recognise and find the letters in their name and then assemble the alphabet rocks in the correct order.

 

Threading With Letter Beads

 

Threading letter beads spelling out childrens names on grass background
I use beads in my Prep classroom a lot as it gives students the opportunity to develop their fine motor skills, as well as whatever additional skill we are practising at the time. My students often use these Chunky Alphabet Beads to spell their names and they’re perfect for this task because they come in uppercase and lowercase letters, so children can practise spelling their names the proper way with a capital letter at the beginning, followed by lowercase letters.

Featured Product:
Chunky Alphabet Beads

 

Peg It!

 

Peg name activity featuring pegs with letters on clipped to card with name spelt out

I’m all about the fine motor skill activities, can you tell?! Pegs are a great manipulative to help with the development of fine motor skills. Making these alphabet pegs was super simple and I use them in my classroom for a range of activities. One of the ways they are used is for name activities at the beginning of the year. I love this activity because students build their confidence with recognising and spelling their names, all while building their fine motor skills!

 

Nature Names

 

Nems written on wooden blocks and a leaf on a grass background
This is a fun name activity that can be done outdoors and is an opportunity for children to engage with nature. It’s as simple as it looks – children can find and collect leaves and then stamp their name onto the leaf. Much more engaging than stamping onto plain paper!

 

Fine Motor Name Craft

 

Fine motor name craft featuring collage of names spelt out glued to card

Yep, you guessed it, another fine motor focused activity! A lot of the name activities I am suggesting in this blog have a fine motor aspect to them because of my experiences as a Prep teacher. At the beginning of the school year there is a huge focus on name activities as well as developing fine motor skills, so being able to integrate them together is ideal when there is only so much time during the day! This name craft activity is great for developing both of these skills and they are perfect for brightening up the classroom at the beginning of the year!

 

Make It and Write It!

 

Make it write it activity featuring whiteboard and pen with magnetic letters

This is another favourite activity of mine that is usually implemented during our daily English rotations at the beginning of the year. Students can use the magnetic letters to make their name and then write it underneath on the whiteboard. I love that these magnetic letters differentiate the vowels and consonants by colour and children can easily recognise the different types of letters in their name.

Featured Product:
Teachables Magnetic Whiteboard and Letters Set

 

Rainbow Names

 

Rainbow names activity featuring clouds cut out of card with matching colourful name tags

A few years ago, my class made these rainbow name crafts and I loved them so much that we proudly hung them in our room for the entire year! This was a great activity for my students to practise writing their names, with the focus being on starting with a capital letter followed by lowercase letters, as well as forming their letters correctly. Plus, anything rainbow is just awesome, right?!

 

 

What is your favourite Name Activity for Early Learners?
We would love to hear from you!

 

 

Featured Products:

Alphabet Dough Stampers

Chunky Alphabet Beads

Teachables Magnetic Whiteboard and Letters Set

 

 

ABOUT HEIDI:
Heidi Overbye from Learning Through Play is a Brisbane based, Early Years Teacher who currently teaches Prep, the first year of formal schooling in Queensland. Heidi is an advocate for play-based, hands-on learning experiences and creating stimulating and creative learning spaces. Heidi shares what happens in her classroom daily on her Instagram page, Learning Through Play. See @learning.through.play for a huge range of activities.

 

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Keep Children Active While At Home

Staying Active at Home_ girl and boy crossing midline on floor

To help children to achieve their 180 minutes of physical activity per day (as recommended by the Department of Health), spread out their active play and gross motor activities across small time increments throughout the day.

In this blog, written by Robyn Papworth, an accredited Exercise Physiologist, Masters qualified Development Educator and mother of three we show you a few ways on how to keep children active while indoors.

Staying Active at Home Girl following numbered path activity

My oldest daughter set out this path (as pictured above) and challenged her brother to join in. The motor skills that both children mastered during this obstacle path included:

    • leg strength;
    • core strength;
    • balance;
    • spatial awareness;
    • fundamental movement skills;
    • coordination, and;
    • fitness.

Other activities that you can do at home to increase children’s physical activity include:

Throwing and catching a ball on the spot

Staying Active at Home girl on obstical course throwing large ball

In these images you can see my daughter throwing and catching with a large ball, while my son was throwing and catching with one hand using a tennis ball.

Staying Active at Home boy on obstical course throwing small ball

Start children with throwing and catching a large ball using two hands. Once they master this skill and become confident with throwing and catching, then progress children to throwing and catching a tennis ball with two hands, to next progressing to throwing and catching a tennis ball with one hand.

 

Walking heel-to-toe along the line

Staying Active at Home. Girl walking heel toe along arrows on floor

Set up a track using these floor markers (as pictured) or use masking tape. Encourage children to firstly walk in a heel-to-toe (tight rope) action along the line. Then, once children become confident with walking heel-to-toe along the line, increase the challenge by:

        • Hopping along the line
        • Jumping with both feet along the line
        • Side stepping along the line
        • Walking along the line while balancing a bean bag on your head (as pictured)

Combining physical and numeracy skills

Staying Active at Home. Girl exploring numeracy activity throwing numbered beanbags on numbered squares

      • In the activity shown above, you can encourage children to throw a numbered bean bag onto the matching numbered floor marker. This activity is great for improving children’s number recognition as well as throwing skills.
      • I extended this activity further for my older Grade 2 children by giving them a bean bag activity called ‘Friends of 10’. For example, children looked at the number that was on their numbered bean bag (e.g. 8), and then they had to throw the bean bag at the number 8’s ‘friend’ to make the number 10, which is the number 2 floor marker.
      • The children enjoyed this numeracy bean bag activity far more than just sitting at the table doing a maths worksheet.

 

Crossing the midline challenge

  • An important motor skill that we all need is called ‘crossing the midline’. Crossing the midline skills give our body the ability to coordinate one side of our body while being positioned on the opposite side of the body. For example, we use crossing the midline skills to write our name with our right hand on the left-hand side of a piece of paper. We also use crossing the midline skills when we hit a ball with our left hand on the right-hand side of our body, or when we pull our jumper on and off, using our right hand to help our left arm get out of our jumper.

Staying Active at Home_girl and boy crossing midline

  • These two crossing the midline exercises  help children to practise moving one side of the body to the opposite side of the body by tapping their right foot onto the coloured square floor marker on the left-hand side of their body, then tapping their left foot onto the coloured square floor marker on the right-hand side of their body.

Staying Active at Home_ girl and boy crossing midline on floor

  • We increase the challenge for children by having them cross the midline with their hands, while holding a ‘plank position’ as pictured above. During this activity children need to use their core strength to keep their torso straight. Their knees are under their hips and their hands are under their shoulders so that they have a straight back (like a table).
  • Ask children to tap their right hand onto the marker that is on the left-hand side of their body, then tap their left hand onto the marker that is on the right-hand side of their body.
  • The children will be strengthening their crossing the midline skills, as well as their shoulder stabilisation, wrist extension and hip stabilisation skills. All of these skills are important for developing their gross motor skills, as well as their fine motor skills.

 

Hopscotch

Boy playing numbered hopscotch on carpet

      • Every child loves hopscotch. Even us big kids love hopscotch!
      • Encourage the children to set out the numbered floor markers into the hopscotch configuration.
      • Have children complete the hopscotch path as normal. Or add a bean bag throwing element into this activity by having children throw a bean bag onto a number, then skip that number as they jump and hop past.
      • You can also place the numbered floor markers further apart to increase the jumping and hopping challenge for older children.
      • If you don’t have the numbered floor markers, simply draw the hopscotch configuration on concrete with chalk.

 

How do you keep kids active at home, we’d love to hear from you?

 

Featured products:

Shapes & Numbers Toss Mat & Bean Bag Kit

Floor Markers Set

 

About the Author
Robyn Papworth is an accredited Exercise Physiologist, Masters qualified Development Educator, mother of three children, and a passionate advocate for children who have learning difficulties and developmental delay. When you follow Robyn on her social media challenges, you will quickly be introduced to her son Hugh who was born with developmental delay and has been Robyn’s motivator for establishing her business Play Move Improve.
With more than 10 years of experience as an Exercise Physiologist, Robyn designs and implements play strategies and motor skills programs that help children achieve developmental milestones, such as rolling, crawling, manipulating objects, walking, skipping and balancing.
Through valuable play strategies and movement routines, Robyn uses her expertise and creativity to ensure children work towards mastering the crucial skills that lay the foundation for participation in both school and life, such as handwriting, doing up buttons, participating in physical activity and other fine motor skills.

 

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Screen-free STEAM Games

Cyber Attack game extreme close up

The skills of problem solving, critical thinking and creativity can be taught through STEAM learning experiences using robots, apps and technological gadgets, but how can we continue to provide children with opportunities to develop these STEAM skills without needing to use these technologies?

In this blog, we explore five games that support STEAM learning that can be conducted at home or school that do not involve technology or screen time.

 

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

Age: 8+
Players: Single or collaborative game play
40+ challenges per game

The Code Programming Game Series contains three games that were created by Mark Engleberg, a teacher and former programmer for NASA. These games are designed to build the skills needed to learn key coding concepts. They allow students to work through over 40 challenges from beginner to expert level. Each of these games develops students’ understanding of problem solving and computational thinking. All three games in this collection are screen-free, unplugged coding experiences.

Featured Products:

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

On the Brink

On the Brink Coding Game challenge booklet and box spead out on table

On the Brink teaches procedures and problem solving skills through its single or multi-player game. The aim of the game is to use your problem solving skills to program the robot to move along the different game boards using the coloured control panel and movement cards. Each panel on the control panel has space for two movement cards which you need to program to move the robot from start to finish.

On the Brink Coding Game. Movement Cards spread out on table

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Movement cards (grey = beginner, yellow = advanced)
    • Control panel
    • Robot character

 

Featured Product:

On the Brink

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

 

Rover Control

Rover Control game spread and box on table

Rover Control teaches control structures and problem solving skills through its single or multiplayer game. The aim of the game is to move the rover from start to finish. The rover can only be programmed to travel on the coloured paths. The game board has been wiped off the coloured paths, and players must use the clues to redesign the path and program the robot character to move it from start to finish for each mission.

Rover Control Game on desk

The game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instructions booklet
    • Solution booklet
    • Game boards – Terrain cards x 4 (beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert)
    • Whiteboard markers with erasers (red, green, blue)
    • 2 x rovers (yellow, purple)
    • Tokens that include (charging station, data upload, and rover start and end discs)

 

Featured Product:

 Rover Control

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 

 

Robot Repair

Robot Repair Game on on table

Robot Repair teaches logic principles which are a key part of programming. The aim of the game is to fix the four broken robots by connecting colours and wires on each of the game cards through the clues given on each mission challenge.

This game includes:

    • Challenge booklet
    • Instruction manual
    • Solutions booklet
    • Game boards
    • Tokens (power cells, on/off and true/false)

Featured Product: 

Robot Repair Game

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

 


Pixel Plezier

Pixel Plezier game box on table

Age: 5+
Players: Single or pairs

Pixel Plezier is a puzzle game that helps students develop their understanding of binary code by creating pixel characters. Binary code represents text, computer processor instructions and any other data using a two-symbol number system consisting of ‘0’ and ‘1’ from the binary number system.

 

Pixel Plezier game complete set on table

Within the kit there are 8 puzzles to create and solve. This is a great activity to have students complete on their own or working collaboratively in pairs. Each kit contains 8 puzzles and 4 coding mats (2 boards 7×7 and 2 boards 6×6).

Extension
Using this template, students can extend this game by creating their own Pixel binary code for others to solve.

Download: Pixel Plezier Template

Featured Product: 

Pixel Plezier

 

Cyber Attack Board Game

Cyber Attack game box and board on table

Age: 6+
Players: 2-4

The Cyber Attack Board Game supports students in developing their understanding of cyber safety and how to act and behave online. It follows the format of traditional board games with question cards related to digital problems that students may encounter online. If students get the answer correct they can either proceed forwards two places in the game or can move an opponent back two places. If they get an answer incorrect they move two places back.

Cyber Attack game close up

Extension
This game can be extended by having students create their own question cards. This personalises the game, particularly if you have certain rules at school or home related to using a device and how to act and behave online.

Featured Product:

Cyber Attack Game

 

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

 

 Featured Products: 

ThinkFun – Code Programming Game Series

On the Brink

Rover Control

Robot Repair Game

Pixel Plezier

Cyber Attack Game

 

 

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LEGO Education® SPIKE™ Prime Activities

LEGO Education Spike Prime dancing robot and laptop in background

LEGO® bricks have been a staple resource in schools around the world since they were first manufactured in 1949. In recent years, the LEGO® Education team has continued to develop and support STEM learning experiences for our students by creating a range of products that incorporate technologies, robotics and computer programming. The LEGO product range is equipped with resources that will engage and empower students to learn to code from our youngest learners through to secondary school students.

LEGO Education provides a continuum of learning through its products:

Foundation / Prep / Kinder /Reception – Year 1
LEGO® Education Coding Express
LEGO Education Coding Express

Years 2 – 4
LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0

LEGO Education WeDO 2.0 Curriculum Solution

Years 5 – 8
LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Prime

LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Set

Years 6 – 12
LEGO® Mindstorms® Education EV3

 

LEGO EV3 Core Set

The LEGO Education Website has a range of lesson plans and challenges for students to develop their engineering and programming skills.

LEGO Education’s most recent product launch is the LEGO Education SPIKE Prime. This kit supports students to develop the essential STEM and 21st century skills needed to become the innovative, confident and creative minds of tomorrow.  SPIKE Prime forms part of the continuum that builds upon students’ prior knowledge of coding that they have developed through LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 block coding system.

Each SPIKE Prime kit can be used by a small group of students, preferably two to three students per group. The kit provides students with:

    • 528 pieces in a range of shapes and colours
    • 3 motors
    • 3 sensors
    • A series of data cables
    • Multi-port Hub that serves as the brain of the set
Multi-Port Hub Sensors Motors
6 x Input/Output ports
5 x 5 Light Matrix
6 x Axis Gyro
Speaker
1 x Colour/Light
1 x Distance/Ultrasonic
1 x Force/Touch
1 x Large
2 x Medium

The Hub connects to the LEGO Education SPIKE app via Bluetooth or USB. It is compatible across devices including iPad, computer and Chromebook, with the ability to carry multiple programs and be commanded to light up and play sounds. Extending the functionality of the Hub, there are six inputs/outputs to connect the motors or sensors to create movement, patterns and actions.

LEGO Spike Coding blocks on Laptop

The LEGO Education SPIKE app intuitively introduces students to coding and robotics. The four SPIKE Prime curriculum units engage students while developing design skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Each of these units can be implemented into classrooms with focus on real world relevance.

The four curriculum units are broken into:

Invention Squad

    • The Engineering Process

Kickstart a Business

    • Applying and Developing Computational Thinking Skills

Life Hacks

    • Working With Data Representation and Manipulation

Competition Ready

    • Getting Ready For Competitions and Challenges

LEGO Spike Curriculum Units

The LEGO Education SPIKE app includes a range of resources for both teachers and students, from lesson plans for teachers to templates that support students in building a range of creations using the kits.

Once students know the basic fundamentals of the kit, teachers can explore and integrate the skills learnt through the lesson plans and curriculum units to connect SPIKE Prime to other creative lesson ideas and challenges.

 

Six Lesson Ideas to Extend SPIKE Prime in the Classroom

Design a Mini Golf Course

LEGO Spike Golf Course featuring Spike model grean card and golf ball on floor

Materials required:

    • Cardboard
    • Masking tape
    • Scissors
    • Various art and craft materials
    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group
    • Toy golf kits (1 per group)
  • In small groups, students sketch and design their own mini golf hole with a moving obstacle and sound effects.
  • Combine the holes of each group to create the mini golf course.
  • Students play and give feedback on each hole.

The result….


Create a Moving Animal

LEGO Spike Moving Animal on grass background

Materials required:

    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group

Students work in pairs to create an animal of their choice.

    • Use the sensors to have the animal move away from different coloured LEGO blocks
    • Record animal sounds to play as the animal moves
    • Program their animal to move through a course

LEGO Spike Animal on grass background

Teachers can connect this challenge to various curriculum areas including endangered animals, ocean life, Australian animals etc.



Design a Sustainable House

Materials required:

    • Cardboard
    • Masking tape
    • Scissors
    • Various art and craft materials
    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group

Students design and create a sustainable house.

    • Design a house using the SPIKE Prime kit
    • Include an object that moves or gives messages to support sustainability



Create a Futuristic Car

LEGO Spike Futuristic Car on homemade roadside featuring LEGO Duplo trees and animals

Materials required:

    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group

Students will work in small groups to create a futuristic car

    • Sketch and design the car prior to constructing it
    • Use the ‘Driving Base’ building template within the LEGO SPIKE App to help build the base of their car
    • Add Sensors to create a self driving car



Code a Car Through a Racing Track

Materials required:

    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group
    • Masking tape

Create 2-3 race tracks (depending on the size of your classroom) on the floor using masking tape.

    • Students design, create and program a racing car
    • Work in pairs
    • Use the ‘Driving Base’ building template within the LEGO SPIKE app to help them build the base of their car
    • Program and code their car to move around the race track

Extension:
Creating Obstacles on the Racing Track.
Materials required:

    • Sensor added to car
    • Coloured LEGO blocks

Using coloured LEGO blocks as obstacles, students can program their car to move around the track by adding the sensor to their car.

 

Create a Dancing Robot Dance Routine

LEGO Spike Dancing Robot with laptop showing Coding blocks in background

Materials required:

    • 1 x SPIKE Prime kit per group

Students will work in pairs and design their own robot. (Any students who find this difficult can use the template in the LEGO SPIKE app under BUILD – ‘Break Dancer’ to help them build a basic robot.)

    • Program the robot to move and dance to their chosen song or music
    • Record an original song by recording directly within the app
    • Host a dance competition

The end result…

 

How do you use SPIKE Prime in your classroom? We would love to hear from you!

 

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

 

Featured Products:

LEGO® Education Coding Express

LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0

LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Prime

LEGO® Mindstorms® Education EV3

 

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18 Tips And Tricks For Educators New To Remote Teaching

Remote Learning montage vector image including laptop clock think bubble and textbook

With much of the world under lockdown, schools closed, and parents and students working and learning from home, educators everywhere are finding alternative ways of teaching their classes remotely.

Many schools are set up for some kind of remote learning, but there are an equal number for whom this is a whole new world, especially for elementary educators. It’s also true that while teachers probably have lesson plans ready for the upcoming semesters, it’s a whole different ball game to suddenly put all these lessons online without disrupting any learning.

 

The most important thing for educators to remember about remote teaching is…

…go easy on yourself. Our first tip – not included in our official list because we want to call it out – is to practise self-kindness. We’re all in a new situation and it will take time to get used to. Some things you try will work, and some won’t. That’s ok. We’re all learning together.

 

Rest assured, if you can use a phone and the internet, you are more than able to teach remotely! You have the subject knowledge, teaching experience, and you know your students. The most important thing to do is try and bring the feeling of a classroom setting into their homes.

 

18 Tips for Educators

1.     Use your existing lesson plans

Take those plans and put them online. You’ll have to tweak them a little for the digital world, but you have the majority of the content you need already. As you get used to doing this, you’ll develop your own methods. You might find that constructing all your lessons in a similar way every time makes the whole process more efficient – and gets your students into a routine they recognize.

 

2.     Find software that works for you

There’s plenty of educational software out there. If your school isn’t using one particular system, try Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams or Moodle. Any of these platforms will help you work collaboratively and engage students in an online learning environment.

 

3.     Be available online during the time you’d normally teach

It’s important to still be there to answer student questions when they’d normally be able to ask them. Software helps here, too. Conferencing platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom can all help you stay connected. You may also want to  schedule some time outside of normal teaching hours to provide any extra support students may need.

 

4.     Connect your students with each other

Your students (and most likely you, too) will miss the social, collaborative, and peer-to-peer aspects of the classroom, and the ability to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Try and facilitate this as much as possible while teaching remotely.

 

5.     Record (and pre-record) some lessons

Pre-recording your lessons can make remote learning more efficient. You can do this at a time that suits you, and make it available to your students when they need it. It also helps to record your live sessions as it means students can go back and listen to them again if they need to.

 

6.     Set your lessons up to run as smoothly as possible

Decide what you are going to say in live sessions in advance. You don’t need a script, but you do need direction. At the beginning of each lesson, ask your students to turn off their microphones and cameras so you limit distractions as much as possible. Try and limit the length of time you’re talking to your students so they stay as engaged as they would in a normal classroom where everything is much more interactive.

 

7.     Set ground rules

We’ve mentioned turning off mikes and cameras, but students also need to understand that when they log into their remote lesson, they are effectively at school and normal school rules remain in place.

 

8.     Stay in touch with parents

It’s going to be much more difficult to know how your students are really doing. Keeping communications open with parents is vital. You could do this via email or text, and most schools will be updating their website and social media accounts regularly, too. Don’t forget that parents will need support as well. It’s daunting to suddenly have to homeschool your child so you could let them know you appreciate them helping out with remote teaching their child.

 

9.     Take it step by step

Getting used to a remote learning set-up takes time, so don’t try to do everything all at once or try anything overly complicated too soon, especially if you’re new to remote teaching. Allow both yourself and your students time to settle in. A 15-minute recorded lesson that students can pause and rewatch with time for them to process and apply the lesson is a good start.

 

10.  Keep in touch with students individually

Send an email or a note through your classroom management system to ask how your students are getting on, that you’re missing seeing them, and are looking forward to seeing them back at school.

 

11.  Provide feedback

Keeping in touch with your students also means providing them with qualitative feedback. It’s something that can be easy to forget if you’re teaching remotely but it gives students a feeling that they are working with purpose, and they generally want to know how you think they’re getting on.

 

12.  Stay in contact with your fellow teachers and school staff

It’s not just your students that it’s important to keep in touch with. Your colleagues are experiencing the exact same things as you. You can help each other by sharing these experiences, giving each other tips, and learning from what others are doing. Plus, it’s great to have that support network.

 

13.  Create a routine

This is definitely more difficult when you’re teaching remotely than when you are in school. But it’s important for you, your students, and their parents to stick to a routine to have consistency and to set expectations.

 

14.  Motivate your students

Being able to motivate your students is also more difficult when they’re learning from home with all the distractions and temptations that brings. Set goals for your students, both individually and as a class. Involve students in the process of setting these goals so they buy into them, and make sure both they and their parents understand the goals and why you’re working towards them.

 

15.  Recognize successes

Share individual student successes with the class in a video. Create online certificates of achievement. Celebrate wins!

 

16.  Recognize the emotional impact that COVID-19 is having

This is a difficult time for everyone, and it’s important that you talk to and reflect with your students about what’s happening. There are plenty of resources available to support you as you do this.

 

17.  Get hands-on

Just because you’re teaching remotely doesn’t mean you can’t give your students a hands-on, engaging experience!

 

18.  Have a well-thought out physical space in which to work

You need to be comfortable at home in order to deliver remote learning lessons well. Set up a space that works for you – and let the people you live with know when you’ll be on video!

 

Do you have any other tips for Remote Teaching? We would love to hear from you!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This guest blog was written by Arduino Education

Arduino Education classroom programs progress students through STEAM from middle school to university, increasing in complexity to challenge them as they develop their skills.

All programs include a range of electronics such as programmable boards, sensors, mechanical parts, simple open-source software, online content for students, and guided training and support for educators.

The products students learn with are the same as those used professionally in companies around the world, in applications like rapid prototyping, AI, drone technology, and machine learning.

Check MTA’s Arduino Education Range

 

 

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5 Great Reasons To Play Board Games With Your Children

Montage of education board game boxes

There’s no school or preschool for many kids right now and with no play dates, sporting events or birthday parties to look forward to, life could be a little tricky at your house as you try to live, learn, work and play under the same roof.

If the novelty of ‘physical distancing’ is starting to wear off and your internet data levels are going through the roof because your children all want to watch ‘screens’ while you’re trying to work from home, why not pull out a board game to keep them engaged and interacting with one another for a while?

Games have been used since time immemorial for teaching social and academic skills to children and adults alike.

Did you know that the games of Go and Chess both evolved from being a way to test the mind of a military leader to a way to pass the time? The board games of today are no different.

Aside from building strong family ties, spending time playing board games with your children can have a surprising range of social and academic benefits.

I’ve been a teacher for over thirty years and wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve played board games with my students. The child psychologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists I work with today also often use board games to help children to develop the skills they need to succeed at home and in the classroom.

With a good board game, you can do the same with your own children!

 

Benefits of Board Games

Some of the benefits your child can gain include:

• Building resilience

Games that involve a chance to randomly experience a set-back can help your child learn resilience. By playing games like Snakes and Ladders , you can help your child learn to bounce back from a disappointment and keep pushing towards an end goal.

• Learning how to cope with winning and losing

Playing games with others helps children learn to focus on having fun, rather than winning or losing. However, it also teaches them how to cope with both sides of that coin. Rather than celebrating and gloating they learn to move past the glory of winning and focus on having fun as a group. When you play board games with your children, you can show them how to recover from a loss and do better in the next game instead of sulking over coming second.

• Learning patience and the concept of waiting for one’s turn

This one can be difficult in our fast-paced world but taking the time to play with your children can help. In my children’s health and education practice in Sydney, we make frequent use of many of the board games made by Orchard Toys that are perfect for teaching young children this skill. We particularly like the Bus Stop Game and Where’s My Cupcake?, which combine real life scenarios with great lessons in turn taking.

Board games build thinking skills

Games can also be played to help children consolidate curriculum skills that they’re learning at school or preschool.

By playing board games with your child, they get opportunities to practice:

• Early number skills such as matching, counting, and keeping a score

Matching games teach children observational skills as well as being able to pair like with like. One of our favourites to play is Monster Bingo

A key skill for children to learn prior to going to school is the ability to count. Games that can support correspondence counting make the time spent to learn the skill more enjoyable for everyone. A fun one to start with is Catch and Count, which helps children learn to count and recognise numbers.

Keeping score is a step up after learning to count, and can be applied to most games, even if it’s only a simple “OK, I won this game, mark it down.” When the game is over, you can ask, “How many games did you win? How many did I win?”

Another Maths option is a game like the Magic Spelling Game. Kids have lots of fun learning addition and subtraction and quickly come to understand that count how close all the players are to winning is the key to the game.

• Early literacy skills that are learned when a child reads for a purpose

Adding games to your child’s leisure time on a regular basis can also aid them immensely as they develop early literacy skills. Games can vary from letter recognition to reading for a purpose, such as reading the ‘Chance’ cards from Monopoly. Our favourite for this group is difficult to choose, but it might just be Sight Words String Ups which combines vocabulary building, reading and fine motor skills in an innovative game that kids enjoy.

As you spend time playing with your children on a rainy day, you’re not only helping them to learn and build skills, but you’re also building memories.

When they get to play games with you, they learn many life skills that will serve them, as well as a relationship that will only grow with time.

So next time a friend or relative asks what to buy your child for a birthday or other special occasion, why not suggest a board game or two?

They’re the kind of gift that just keep on giving!!

 

Featured Products:

Snakes and Ladders

Chess

Monopoly

Bus Stop Game

Where’s My Cupcake?

Monster Bingo

Monster Bingo

Magic Spelling Game

Sight Words String Ups

About the Author

Sonja Walker is the best-selling author of School Ready: A practical and supportive guide for parents with sensitive kids. She is also an experienced teacher, speaker, mum and the founder of Kids First Children’s Services, an award-winning pediatric health and education practice in Sydney where she leads a highly experienced team of child psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and teachers. Sonja’s mission is to help kids to thrive, not just ‘cope’ by supporting their parents and teachers with practical solutions and easy ideas that make life happier at home, preschool and school. Sonja presents keynote speeches and workshops in preschools, schools and corporate settings and is a sought after media commentator on topics related to children’s learning and development. To contact Sonja, please visit www.kids-first.com.au

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Creating Real World Solutions With The Micro:bit

microbit sleeve preview image

The BBC Micro:bit is a favourite Digital Technologies tool of mine that allows our students to design solutions to problems, create games, make music and respond to the surrounding environment.

The small handheld micro-controller can be coded by students using Block Code, Python, Javascript or Scratch 3.0, making it a versatile tool that can be adapted for students in primary and secondary classrooms.

The features of the Micro:bit are;

  • USB connector: Connects to a computer for power and to load programs onto the Micro:bit
  • 25 LED lights: Can be individually programmed to show shapes, text or numbers
  • 2 buttons (A and B): Programmable input buttons
  • Light sensor: The LEDs on the Micro:bit can also act as a light sensor to detect ambient light
  • Edge Connector: 25 external connectors, called Pins, on the edge of the Micro:bit allow you to connect to other input and output electronic hardware, including LEDs, motors and sensors
  • Battery socket: Power the Micro:bit using batteries
  • Reset button: Restarts the Micro:bit
  • Radio: Communicates with other Micro:bits
  • Bluetooth antenna: Wirelessly sends and receives signals to Bluetooth enabled PCs, smartphones, or tablets
  • Processor: Where the program is stored and executed
  • Compass: Detects the direction (north, south, east, west) the Micro:bit is facing
  • Accelerometer: Detects if the Micro:bit is being moved, tilted, shaken or in free-fall and at what acceleration
  • Temperature sensor: Detects the current temperature of the Micro:bit in degrees Celsius

microbit stepcounter

Introduction to the Micro:bit

The Makecode platform, developed by Microsoft, allows students to code using Block Code and Javascript. It has a great range of project tutorials for students to work through to develop their understanding of, and familiarity with, the Micro:bit.

Website: https://makecode.microbit.org/

My favourite tutorials:

Rock, Paper, Scissors
Name tag
Step counter

Step Counter

microbit stepcounter code blocks

Extension: Have students personalise and/or make enhancements to the code.

Step counter – Enhanced with a message displayed on the Micro:bit when the user reaches 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 steps.

microbit stepcounter blocks

Once students have developed a basic understanding of how the Micro:bit works, they can be given a range of projects or challenges to solve individually or in small groups. These challenges will allow students to use their imagination and creativity to design their end product.

BOSON – Starter Kit for Micro:bit

microbit in box

Micro:bit is a simple micro-controller that can be enhanced with a range of add-on resources to allow students to achieve even more. The Boson Kit comes packed with easy-to-attach modular blocks to further empower student creativity and projects.

The Boson Kit features:

  • Micro:bit expansion board
  • Push button
  • Motion sensor
  • Rotation sensor
  • Sound sensor
  • LED light
  • Mini fan
  • LED strip
  • Mini servo

microbit fan sensor with button and childs hand
Incorporating the features of the Boson Kit into their designs allows students the opportunity to create solutions that can respond to a variety of inputs or sensors and respond or act with a desired output.

microbit sensor circuit setup

Micro:bit Pets

Students create their own Micro:bit Pet. The pet must react to different Micro:bit movements by using the LEDs and sounds to showcase the pet’s emotions. Students use art and craft materials to design and create their pet, integrating the Micro:bit to act as their pet’s face.

microbit pet green, faeturing laptop in background

microbit pet pink on classrom desk

 

microbit pet orange on classroom desk

 

microbit pet yellow with laptop in backgroundMaterials:

 

UN Sustainable Goals

There are a total of 17 goals that make up the UN Sustainable Goals. I focus on two or three that connect to the current learning themes taking place in our classroom when undertaking this project. This provides students with a real-life scenario to develop a solution using the Micro:bit.

UN Sustainable goals vector table

Students need to apply their content knowledge from our units of work in class, to generate ideas, code a solution and create a prototype.

Examples created by students aged 11-13 years old.

Automated Street Lights
Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
As pedestrians walk on the footpath at night, the light above sensors their presence and switches on. This provides light where it is needed, saving energy as they are not on all night long.

microbit automated street lights

 

Class Countdown
Goal 4 – Quality Education
This device will be installed in every classroom and every student wears a synced watch. As students enter the classroom they press button A to automatically mark the roll. If students require teacher assistance, they press button B on their watch. If the teacher wants all students’ attention on the floor, they get a countdown timer to appear on the LED screen of their watch. This was designed to save time in the classroom so teachers and students can work more efficiently.

microbit class countdown

 

Tree Cut Down Warning System
Goal 13 – Climate Action
Goal 15 – Life On Land
Trees in forests have sensors attached. When a tree is cut down it notifies the rangers, so they can then locate where the tree is and stop deforestation before it occurs.

microbit tree cut down warning system

 

Turtle to Clean the Ocean
Goal 14 – Life Below Water
The turtle swims in the ocean collecting rubbish. It was designed to appear like other animals in the ocean so as not to scare others.

microbit turtle to clean ocean

 

Wellbeing Watch
Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing
This wellbeing watch helps fight mental health issues. When button A is pressed, either a joke, funny emoji or funny sound will play at random to cheer the person up. When button B is pressed, it notifies authorities of the location and that this person is in trouble and needs urgent attention.

microbit wellbeing watch

 

The Micro:bit and Boson Kit allow students to work through the design process to prototype and solve real-life problems. These resources give students the creative freedom to explore and generate ideas through hands-on learning experiences. How are you using these tools in your classroom?

Featured Product:

Boson Start Kit for Micro:Bit & MicroBit

 

How do you use Micro:bit in your classroom? We would love to hear from you!

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

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