Measuring Coding Progress: 5 Ways to Check for Understanding

Teachers are constantly required to gauge student learning and report on student progress. To do this, we confer with students, do whole group checks throughout lessons, and constantly assess student learning formally and informally.

With coding, teaching resources can be limited, and there aren’t too many teachers that are Computer Science experts on the side. How can progress be measured without the instructor having some level of coding knowledge? A good starting point is recognizing that teachers can (and should!) check for understanding in coding like any other content area.

We’ve put together 5 ways teachers can monitor student progress in coding- checks for understanding that can be applied to coding like any subject:

1. Ask Questions

It’s easy to think that a student using a coding app or program knows what they are doing as they progress through levels. Passing levels does not mean that a student fully understands what they did. Asking students to explain what they are doing requires critical thinking and helps students make sense of what they are learning.

Basic questions to ask students to check for understanding:

  • “What concept are you working on? Tell me more about __ …”
  • “What do you think you should do next?”
  • “What will happen if you do (x)?”
  • “Why do you think (x) is the best move?”

2. Quick Sketch

A visual representation of a concept:

  • Students spend one minute doing a quick sketch of the concept they are learning about
  • Share: In pairs or groups, student explain the concept that they sketched

Teachers can collect sketches, and should listen to students explain to each other in groups.

3. Letter to a Friend

Have students teach a friend about a coding concept they’ve been taught.

Ask them to include:

  • The concept they’re learning about
  • Programming terms and vocabulary
  • One challenge they experienced and had to work through
  • One success they had or their favorite lesson

4. Stuck in the Mud

Write and draw: Students reflect on their biggest challenge in coding and how they got through it. 

Students are very unlikely to breeze through apps and programs without having to try a few times to get through levels. Cultivating an environment that promotes perseverance will help students accept that challenge and failure are elements of success in coding.

 5. Define a Concept

Give each student a post-it, index card, or small piece of paper to write their name and definition on. Have students define the concept they are learning about, and collect it or use it as an exit ticket on their way out of class.

 

Below, access our examples of student reflections and checklists that you can use to monitor and track progress. We’ve included teacher questions for conferring with students, and checklists for sharing student progress with parents and administrators.

 

Get even more tools like these! Try our curriculum – enroll your class for free.

Teacher of the Week: Episode 3

As a student, what I loved most about school was knowing I was loved and appreciated by my teachers. The experiences I had being cared for as a person by my own teachers shaped the way I interacted with my students when I became a teacher. I was reminded of this last week, when I spoke with Marilou Schantz, of Washington Elementary in Clinton, Oklahoma.

Marilou emanates compassion and love for every student she crosses paths with, and I was inspired remembering how a deep care for students as people can be a driving force in the work of an educator. Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 7.04.46 PM

Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little about your teaching background?

This is my 9th year teaching. I’ve taught 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade “Gifted and Talented”, and after following my daughter to her school to teach 6th grade, I’m in my second year of 5th and 6th grade science at Washington Elementary!

What do you love most about teaching?

The kids; just getting to love them. I always tell them, “You’re mine, you’re mine forever.”

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

To keep up with the world around them. I want to see my kids be able to do anything, and to know that they can do anything. My class motto is, “Don’t say ‘I can’t’ because you admit you’re not trying. Believe you can, no matter what.”

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom?

They don’t want to stop! They want to do it all of the time.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

Not everyone wants to do it just yet. There’s always an element of being afraid to try it, with anything new. For me, I just dive right in. I’m not afraid- whatever it is, you have to just try it. I tell my kids that and I do it; I show them you have to just try.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

For kids to take it home and show their parents, their friends. Share it, show someone else, be excited about what we’re doing.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

I run marathons! I run, I get kids to run with me. I’ve had a few kids do 5ks with me. You have to make time between the time you don’t think you have- you have to do it.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?

For them to believe that they can be anything, and to believe it whole heartedly. To know that they’re loved, every single one of them. In here, in my classroom, they are all loved and appreciated and they know it.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching?

I have two daughters, I like to hang out with my girls whenever we  can. We like to watch movies and be together.

Thank you, Marilou! We are inspired by the love you have for your students and the expectations you have for them to reach their potential.

Register for an account and get your students coding!

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5 Tips for a Successful Back to School Night

Back to School Night is an exciting time to engage with families and start building relationships that will benefit students throughout the year and beyond.  Back to School Night typically comes after a full day of teaching, sometimes with a staff meeting sandwiched between the two.


Here are 5 tips that helped me with 5 successful Back to School Nights when I was teaching:

1. Set yourself up for success – Put out sign in sheets

In addition to having a main sign in sheet available when parents enter the room, placing one at every table proactively mitigates missing names and contact information for anyone in attendance. Sending an appreciation note, text, or e-mail the next day to those on the list is always a great starting point for parent communication.

2. Everyone likes to know what to expect – Give your guests an agenda

Having hard copies of the agenda on tables allows parents to relax, take their eyes of the clock, and engage with your presentation. No one really likes surprises, especially when little ones are in tow, dinner is waiting at home, or preparation for a busy tomorrow is looming.

3. Get organized – Recruit students to help set up your classroom

Intentionally organize your classroom for the evening and have materials ready (recruit student help!). Important, often overlooked details to keep in mind:

  • Chairs available for extra seating
  • Space for activities that require movement (icebreakers, classroom tours, time to mingle)
  • A designated area for parent belongings
  • Handouts and resources printed and easily accessible
  • Writing utensils for filling out forms, notes, etc

4. First impressions are important – Save time with a Presentation Template

Plan and set up your presentation in advance. A successful presentation is:

  • Timed. Make sure you run through it beforehand and it isn’t too short or too long!
  • Clear
  • Collaborative: allows for parents to ask questions, actively engage, and supports a strong, parent-teacher team.
  • Student-friendly. Have students participate by handing out materials, assisting parents in demos, and available as guest speakers to talk about their classroom.
  • Compatible with the technology you will use to present
  • Tested in advance- there is nothing worse than a presentation that won’t load or sound that won’t work with a room of silent parents looking at you!

    *Note: We’ve gone ahead and designed a presentation for you to use on your Back to School Night. We hope this eliminates the time you would spend planning, and we hope you’ll share it with other teachers! All you need to do is click the image below to download the Kodable Back to School Night Resource Kit. Enter your school/classroom information and fill in your agenda.

    Copy of EST. 2015

 

5. Have fun!

Back to School Night is an exciting opportunity to start building relationships with families. Let parents mingle, get to know each other, and get to know you! Include parents in your focus for the year and communicate clearly that this is a team you’re excited to be a part of it.

 

Introducing Kodable Teacher of the Week : Episode 1

 

 

Kodable Teacher of the Week

Teachers are absolute rockstars and the world doesn’t hear enough about it. We know how hard our teachers are working to get their kids coding and developing 21st Century skills and want everyone else to know, too.

We’re excited to announce we will be introducing you to a new, code busting teacher each week. It is our goal to spotlight teachers bringing coding to their schools, and to let their stories inspire others.

Meet Brian Adams, our first ever Teacher of the Week!

BrianAdams

Brian is a Pennsylvania native, with 20 years of teaching under his belt.  Mr. Adams is the Instructional Technology teacher and coach for k-3 students at Ridge Park Elementary School in Conshohoken, Pennsylvania.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Mr. Adams before he embarks on year 21, and learn about how he has successfully implemented coding in his school.

Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us about your teaching background and how you got started with teaching code?

My first nine years of teaching were spent teaching second grade. I switched to k-3 Technology, and a few years ago we started a really big transition with iPads. I had heard about different coding apps, but was looking for more than just “drill and practice” and I really wanted my students engaged with the content. I found Kodable and played through the whole thing; I fell in love with it. We started with 24 students sharing 14 iPads, but once the web version was released I could get all of my students on at once. We currently have our 1st and 2nd graders using it, and 3rd graders trying to come back and log in to do more!

What do you love most about teaching?

I love seeing the students engaged and enjoying what  they’re doing. It’s really great to be able to see their excitement and willingness to take it as far as they can.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills? 

I’m really drawn to the problem solving aspect. We’ve used Kodable individually and collaboratively with our students. Our 1st graders have  started off working with a partner, because it’s a new way of thinking for them. For them, it’s huge getting their fuzzes through the maze and learning to be persistent. They have to learn how to try and retry- maybe even 10 times. It forces kids to ask, “how can I learn from my mistakes and improve?”

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

There haven’t been too many challenges. I’m fortunate that my Administration has always been on board and supportive from the beginning; they’re a group of progressive thinkers. Early on, we struggled with limited devices but the Web has allowed us to get all of our students on at once.

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom? 

I had a mom come into the classroom and see the poster that showed skills kids were building with coding. She was a math major in college, and to see her simply in awe really felt good. I had my own perspective on it, but then to have a workforce perspective come in was awesome. With students, I had a 2nd grade student log in at home and complete everything in a few weeks. I couldn’t believe that he had successfully worked through it that fast, I kept double checking him in class and he could explain every concept. I brought him to the parent council meeting for the district. He sat with parents and iPads and explained Kodable and problem solving to all of them. He was able to explain the value of it to parents, and that was really special.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

Sometimes, it’s just saying the day is over and putting school aside. The to do list can wait. I make sure I make time to exercise. For fun, the Phillies! 

phillies

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education? 

It sounds cliche, but a love and enjoyment for learning. Things can pile up; tests and papers. It’s important for them to find the part of it that they enjoy somewhere in there.

Thank you, Mr. Adams, for your 20+ years of serving students, and for being our first Kodable Teacher of the Week! 

Register your teacher account today and get your students coding! 

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Buckle Up Fuzzes: Now Flying into the World of Asteroidia!

We’ve been rolling through mazes, and now we’re taking the fuzzFamily talents to space- let’s just say, the Kodable fuzzes have never looked so good. We are so excited to bring you the world of Asteroidia, and introduce you to the added concepts and lessons that you will use to build on your student’s coding instruction!

Clearing the Asteroid Field

Universe_BgAlmost immediately after take off from Smeeborg, the fuzzes encountered all types of issues flying in space. Soon they were upon fields of multi-colored asteroids. The only way to clear the asteroids was to match them with their supply of fuzzballs! Taking their learning from exploring the Technomazes of Smeeborg and being excited to learn new skills, the fuzzFamily is now working together to fly safely through Asteroidia.

 

Asteroidia, gives students the opportunity to have fun learning about how variables work. Every level gives them a group of asteroids that are blocking their ship from moving forward. To clear the asteroid field, students must match numbered (integers) and colored (strings) fuzzballs with like asteroids. They must select the matching variable in order to eliminate the asteroids in the way.

Example5.3

As they progress farther into Asteroidia, students will be required to arrange their colors and numbers into arrays and launch them as an ordered list to clear the asteroid field. To fly their spaceships to the next level, students must match the colored and numbered  fuzzes with the asteroids and launch them from their ships.

 

Asteroidia is Complete with Variable Lesson PlansCurriculumVar

All of the new lessons in Kodable are accompanied with lesson plans, learning guides and screen free activities for easy curriculum integration. You can view the lessons from the curriculum page on your teacher dashboard.

fuzz shot for astroidia blog

Asteroidia: Variables, Syntax, and What it All Means

As we have fully shifted into being a K-5 coding curriculum, we’ve aligned our lessons with an end goal: students going through the Kodable Curriculum will be reading and writing code by 5th grade.

The concepts in Asteroidia that build on foundational skills and prepare students for reading and writing code are:

  • syntax- the rules in programming language that define how code is written
  • variables– A variable is a container for information.  Variables form the bridge between the foundational coding concepts we teach in Smeeborg with higher level concepts like object-oriented programming (coming soon!) that will enable students to directly read and write code.

There are three types of variables in Asteroidia:

    • strings (a sequence of characters or words)
    • integers (basic, mathematical integers. ex: 1, 2, 3, 4)
    • arrays (ordered lists of variables)

By matching, ordering, and grouping fuzzballs and numbers, students will successfully apply basic rules of syntax and variables to clear their way through Asteroidia, prepared to move into object-oriented programming.

Where Our Fuzzes (and students!) Are Going

Like the progression of learning in any subject, the Kodable Curriculum begins with developing fundamental skills. Students using Kodable in grades K-2 begin with creating a foundation that will allow them to learn more abstract, complex concepts.
With the world of Asteroidia bridging foundational skills and mastery, students will apply their knowledge of syntax and variables and get one step closer to reading and writing code. When students reach 4th and 5th grade, they will begin learning and mastering object-oriented programming, where computer programs are designed out of objects that interact with one another.

Foundational Skills

 

We are so excited for you to check out Asteroidia and start getting familiar with the new material in the Kodable Curriculum! Make sure you stay tuned for our improved student login release, coming in the next few weeks.

Reach out to support@kodable.com for additional support navigating our new features!

Hasta la Vista, Student Limits!

Jon here, one of the founders of Kodable. We have some exciting news to share with you! Starting today, we’re removing the student and class limits for Kodable Teacher accounts. Our goal at Kodable is to provide teachers and administrators with an elementary programming curriculum that you fall in love with. As we prepared to release more of our new curriculum, we realized that the student and class limits could take away from the experience we want educators to have using Kodable, and that’s something we never want to do.

So, starting today, teachers, schools, and districts are free to enroll as many students and as many classes as they want in Kodable to experience just how valuable programming education is. We will continue offering the full curriculum, admin tools, professional development, and more as part of Kodable School, but we know by giving all of your students a chance to use our new curriculum, you’ll agree that it is a worthwhile investment in their future.

FAQ

What’s changing for teachers?

You can now add unlimited students and classes and use the free Kodable Curriculum with all of them. All of the new students will get access to Kodable, as well as the new curriculum and game content. Please note that premium content will remain locked until Kodable School is purchased.

I’m a school administrator/technology coordinator. Can I add my entire school to Kodable?

Yes! You can now create separate classes and get progress reports on all of them, all with a free Kodable Account. However, administrative tools such as remote teacher account management, transferring classes between teachers, shared playlists, etc. will continue to be reserved for Kodable School subscribers.

I already have a teacher account, do I need to make a new one?

No! Your existing account has been upgraded and you can jump right in and add the rest of your students.

I’m an existing Kodable School user, how does this affect me?

It doesn’t! The premium content, admin tools, and professional development offered with Kodable School is remaining the same, and will continue to be billed per-student or via site license as it was before. If you have any other questions, please email me personally.

I really like this, now I want to purchase Kodable for my school! How can I do that?

Great! You can request a quote to give us some basic information about your coding needs, and a Kodable representative will respond to you within one business day.