Teacher of the Week: Melika Panneri

Our Teacher of the Week caught our eye in a news feature on the amazing work that she’s doing for The Wilson School. We were lucky enough to catch up with Melika Panneri and learn more about how she took coding from a 6th grade capstone project and built a technology program that prepares younger students for complex projects in later grades.  MELIKA_3-1

What do you love most about teaching?

I love that every day is a new day and there’s always something new to learn. Kids say what they think and that’s refreshing. I love seeing kids figure things out on their own and apply it to life.

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

Coding is about challenges and problems and asks for kids to deal with it- it’s not just math and science. Kids grow their tolerance for frustration when they hit a wall and can’t figure something out.  Jobs will eventually need a background in computer science, whether you’re a programmer or not, and exposing kids to coding prepares them for that.

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

I started Think Camp this summer and I ran a session on creative coding. I  have never seen kids that excited in my life. We used a variety of coding options and tools, but the entire time kids were excited beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I think if they could have exploded, they would have! IMG_0481

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

Getting other teachers to see the value in it is always challenging and talking about it is not enough. Once people see students learning it and watch me teach they start to understand and want to be a part of it. I have an ELA teacher who works with me to integrate ELA with coding. We did a coding project with 5th graders on explaining idioms to the world. An example was the idiom, “you crack me up.” A student created this scence, with an egg cracking and laughing, and he coded every bit himself. It’s a challenge showing that coding is not just science or math.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

I’d like to get into more complicated possibilities for 5th and 6th graders. I learn a little bit more every year, and if I keep l learning I’ll be able to help kids dive deeper. I started them in 2nd grade and now they’re coming in with projects they’ve made over the weekend, things they have built over the summer. They want more and I want to be able to teach them and learn from them.

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

I’ve learned to get a little better at saying no when I’ve hit my limits.

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

To have the opportunity to have that crazy joyful moment where they’ve figured out what works best for them to learn. Learning how to learn, and being excited about learning.

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

I love to travel when we have the time. My final student teaching was in Australia, and that was incredible. We like to go to New York City and San Francisco when we can.  I also love graphic design and real estate.

Thank you, Melika, for sharing your experiences and perspective with us!

Interested in getting coding off the ground at your school? Register your free teacher account and get started today!Register an Account

McKinna Elementary: Anne Jenks and Letty Batista

This week’s feature is an example of how collaboration and teamwork can set the tone for innovation and success. We are honored to introduce you to Principal Anne Jenks and Kindergarten teacher Letty Batista, both of McKinna Elementary in Oxnard, California.

Can you tell us about your path to becoming a school leader? anne jenks tow

Anne: I’ve been in education for about 22 years; I taught for 13 before becoming an administrator.  Teaching was a second career for me, I never dreamed of being a teacher until I started tutoring a 15 year old boy through Project Literacy. I went back to school while working full time, and got a teaching job mmediately. From there, I went back for my  Masters and became an administrator. I came to McKinna in July of 2007.

How did you begin to integrate technology into the work you’re doing at McKinna?

Anne: We started doing weekly raffles for students who were following school expectations- I had a 6th grade girl win an iPod, and she didn’t know what it was or what to do with it. I knew we had to start integrating more technology for our students. We started with the Hour of Code and not everyone could see the value of it right away. I met with teachers and told them, “I’m asking you to do this for one week, as little as 20 minutes a day.” When they did it, they saw the engagement, the resilience in students, and they were on board.

How did McKinna go from the Hour of Code to teaching coding daily? Letty TOW

Letty: Ms. Jenks came to me and told me the Hour of Code was coming up. She gave me the iPads and said, “I’m asking you to do 1 hour of coding with the Hour of Code.” I immediately saw fascination in my students, the kind of joy that we try  so hard to teach kids. It completely blew me away. After that, I asked Ms. Jenks if I could continue to teach coding and use Kodable with my class. I teach a bilingual class, and many of my students speak indigenous languages— we have so many standards to cover and so little time. I asked Ms. Jenks if I could adjust my schedule by shifting my calendar time to later in the day and she was supportive. The schedule shift allowed me to start getting coding time in daily.

How did you develop your instruction off-screen as you began teaching coding beyond the hour of code?

Letty: We were just getting started and learning together in the first year. The next year, I signed myself up for an Hour of Code workshop and I started teaching coding with unplugged activities. I needed to start on the right path to help them understand coding and how we can use it for math, reading, writing, storytelling, playing with blocks, etc. I started teaching coding with a curriculum and immediately noticed that children started practicing communicating in English naturally. Coding helps develop ESL students’ verbal skills and has improved students’ confidence.

What are you coding goals for the school?

Anne: I would like everyone to agree to 1 hour of coding a week, but I understand the time crunch that exists. I feel that coding is something that teaches “soft skills”- resilience, collaboration, the skills that are embedded in the Common Core. These make the learning more exciting and more relevant. Coding spills over into all of the subject areas and that is the value in it.

How are teachers supported as they get started with teaching programming?

Letty: Ms. Jenks and I present a lot for staff,  and there’s a lot of communication around what we’re doing. All of our kindergarten teachers kind of set the pace for everyone else. Our first graders come in already knowing so much, the first grade teachers have their gamefaces on and are ready when their new students come in. We have an after school coding club and we are hoping to start doing monthly events with students and families, especially in the upper grades.

What advice do you have for schools wanting to get started with coding?

Anne: You should begin with the Hour of Code in December, it’s a  great starting place to introduce teachers to coding. Teacher buy-in is absolutely vital. With everyone trying to wrap their head around the Common Core, asking for one week of something new seems doable. It’s one hour, there are options. The Hour of Code is a great starting point. kodable kids

Exploring ways to get your school coding? Register your free account and tell your teammates!Register an Account

Teacher of the Week: Jaime Chanter

We are honored to introduce Jaime Chanter, of Horace Mann and Grant Elementary. Jaime’s teaching career was sparked by learning the value of helping others, and we’re inspired after hearing how one teacher’s passion is equipping so many students with technology!

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

When I was in high school, I worked at a grocery store that helped individuals with disabilities join the workforce.  The teaching bug bit me when I saw employees teaching skills and participants graduating from the program. I knew I really want to get into Special Education and was credentialed in PK-12 in Special Education and PK-8 in General Education. My heart and soul was always in Special Education and after teaching a General Education first grade class, I switched districts to do a 3-5 intervention. I was a huge advocate for inclusion in General Education classrooms, which spiraled into technology. Technology was  key to help level the playing field for students with disabilities in the inclusion environment, and 2 years ago a position in the district opened for a Curriculum and Tech teacher. Now I work with 600+ kids and get to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love the excitement when I walk into a classroom-  the kids are super excited to work and be engaged.  Students love what we’re doing, it’s fun and they’re willing to work because they want to learn.

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

Coding makes something happen. Kids have to start with an idea,work at it, and then make something out of it. It involves critical thinking, collaboration, failure, and perseverance. Kids crave to go back and try something else, they want to make progress.

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

Doing the hour of code has been so exciting for us. Seeing kids and teachers experience coding for the first time and get hooked on it has been really exciting. At home, my 3 year old uses Kodable, and my other daughters love coding. They’re so proud of what they are doing.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school? future club jaime chanter

Time is a huge challenge. Teachers are always pressed for a time and it’s not always easy to see how important coding is if they haven’t seen the results. Money is also hard. Kids can use free apps and websites for a long time, but it’s so nice to get robots and subscriptions that make apps better. Finding a way to budget time and money is really important. I started a Future Club with a focus on coding, robotics, gaming, and making.  Three schools (soon to be four) hold weekly one hour meetings before school for alternating groups of students.  We had such a huge response, we had to rethink budget, space, and time!  I’m so lucky to work with amazing teachers who volunteer their time to lead the club with me.  My administration has been so generous, which is huge to have that support.  I’ve  also written grants, which has been a really successful way to get what we need.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

We have a local company called Hyland Software that held a contest for high school students. The students got to work together to develop an app and students from our high school won. They were awarded with an internship through the company, and  I would love to see some of my current students get that opportunity. I want the kids in our coding club to have that chance, I really want to get our k-5 kids ready for that project in high school, maybe find or even start one for elementary students.

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

I wake up at 4:45 on school days and do 1 hour of spin class. I don’t check my phone; that hour is mine and mine alone. I sacrifice sleep for it, but it’s so worth it. It makes the whole day better. I’m more productive, energetic, and happier. I’m awake and feeling good!

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

Skills. Less focus on content and information,  but to be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically, get creative. Student led passion and discovery.

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

I have 6 kids. I like to take and edit photos of them and turn them into movies. I add text and audio to them, I love to get creative with it. I want the movies to be really special for my kids later in life.

jaime chanter family jaime chanter project


Thinking about bringing coding to your school and students? Sign up for your free account and get started! Register an Account

Coding: Strategies for Integrating the 4 c’s and the Common Core

Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity: skills that are vital to being a successful 21st Century adult, and are directly linked with the style of learning that is demanded by the Common Core.  More than that, these are life skills and should be developed throughout a child’s education.

Here are 4 ways quick ways that you can tailor coding lessons to support communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in the classroom.

1. Communication

Coding is unique in that students are required to fail before they succeed. This is a great opportunity for to students engage in academic discourse about their failures, successes, and strategies for pushing past challenges.

Try this in pairs or small groups:

  • Each student presents a problem they encountered and how they got past it- in an app or game this could be a level the student could not pass, or it could be a concept the student is struggling to understand on-screen or off-screen.
  • Using coding-specific vocabulary, the student explains their challenge and how they worked through it to their listening partner or group.

After each student has presented and explained their problem,  have them take 10 minutes to silently explain their problem and solution in writing.

2. Collaboration

Working with others is an essential life skill. Students can learn by working with and helping others, and the way I’ve seen kids genuinely want to collaborate when it comes to Kodable and coding is so exciting.

Intentionally provide opportunities for students to work together:

  • Coding Buddies
    Pair students with a buddy from an older class and meet weekly to do a coding activity together. Similar to reading buddies, this is an opportunity for cross-age collaboration and social emotional learning.
  • Challenge of the Day  
    Assign groups an off-screen challenge. This can be anything from defining a programming concept to having groups create a maze for another group to program a fuzz through. Keep it fun, appropriately challenging, and level the groups so every student has an opportunity to participate and contribute.
  • Code Busters!  One sentiment that has been echoed by our Kodable teachers is that coding has been an opportunity for students who typically struggle in other areas to shine. Assigning 5 daily  helpers, or “Code Busters,” gives every student an opportunity to share their expertise with classmates and help them work through challenges.

3. Critical Thinking

Coding is an act of thinking critically.

  • Ask Questions
    Ask students questions when they’re on their devices! Talk about their ideas, where they came across a challenge, or what they can do differently for their next attempt. Get students to actively think about what they are doing.
  • Promote Problem Solving
    Integrate writing and speaking activities that get students sharing how they solved the same problem in coding. Highlight that there are multiple ways to see a problem, think about a problem, and solve a problem. Use manipulatives, visuals, and create tables and lists.

4. Creativity

Coding programs and apps inspire design, art, expression, and overall creativity. Use off-screen lessons and activities that allow students to design and create.

Creative classroom activity: Have students create their own programming language.

Start small- students can create symbols for directions. Students decide what means up, down, left, or right in their language and teach their language to a partner.

Try these Kodable-specific activities to get creative with coding:

  • K-1
    Draw a picture of the world of Smeeborg. Include details, fuzzes, and arrows for navigation.
  • 2-3
    Write a short story about the adventure your fuzz went on in the lesson. Include programming language that is relevant to the lesson’s content.
  • 4-5
    Using other apps (Scratch), create the world of Kodable. Include mazes, fuzzes, and programming concepts (loops, conditions).

Register a free account and access Kodable lessons, resources, and additional tips for coding best practices.  Register an Account

Teacher of the Week: Polly Meissner

Watch Froz-N-Code, inspired by Polly!
Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 7.52.49 AM

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

I work with 8 elementary schools doing coding and programming as a Media Specialist. I get to work two full days a week at Loess Hills Elementary, which never feels like enough time. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught library in different capacities. I did 1:1 computers at the high school level and got “the tech bug.” We started a student help desk and trained students to repair computers for each other. Now, Loess Hills is going 1:1, and the high school students are working on the computers and bringing them to the elementary school kids.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love seeing kids “get it.” That look on their face when something becomes meaningful; a connection to the world, the class, or to each other. I see it a lot with coding- when one student gets it and they want to show someone else. It’s amazing to see them buy into it, feel proud, even be a little amazed with themselves. I often see it in coding with the kids who struggle a little more, and it’s such an eye opener for the students who typically get everything right away. It’s a huge boost of self esteem for kids who aren’t always in the position to be the “go to” person for help from their classmates.

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

It teaches so many problem solving skills and kids see that there are multiple ways to do things. Students start learning that we can do things differently and recognize that they can use their own skills to come up with a plan and make it happen. Our kids are maybe missing that in other areas. Technology promotes collaboration to solve problems and teamwork.

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

I worked with a small group of 2nd graders last year and we had a student arrive from another country and was very far behind. Building a relationship with her through working on coding together and solving problems really helped her progress. Coding helped us build a relationship,  give her self confidence, and help her adjust. That’s what I love about kids and coding- they know that a mistake just means try again; it’s okay to try a few times.

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

Our story is interesting because we started with a cohort of teachers (1 in each grade grade) bringing coding into the classroom. Scheduling was probably the biggest challenge; I travel and can only be at Loess Hills two days a week. I want to be able get into the classrooms more, time is always a challenge.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructorPolly Meissner TOW

I want to be the Kodable guru that everyone can go to!  I want to learn every part of the program, so I need to make time go through it all myself. Coding doesn’t come that easy to me,  and I want to learn everything about what you guys are designing so I can help my teachers get it into their classrooms.

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

I love to read. I have three daughters, but I try to take 30 minutes a day for uninterrupted alone time. Sometimes it’s listening to a book in my car during my commute; I love getting taken away into a story for a bit.

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

To become a lifelong learner. It scares me how many adults just focus on work and life and stop learning. You have to be willing to reevaluate your work and make changes. Ask yourself, “How can I make myself better?” Always keep learning, don’t get stuck in a debilitating rut.

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

I have four kids, and we live on a farm. My daughters raise their own cattle and our family does the fair circuit. We enjoy the farm life activities; I like to leave the city and get to go home to my family on the farm.




Feeling inspired by Polly’s story? Register your free account today and bring coding to your students like Polly has. 

Register an Account