Kindergarten circle time is typically filled with picture books, songs, and calendar. But soon after October’s CUE Primary in San Jose, CA, a new adventure made its way to sacred circle time – programming BeeBot Robots. The BeeBot is a small, friendly robot that the students can learn to program. The BeeBot develops critical thinking skills, problem-solving, teamwork, sharing, and persistence. One of the most extraordinary aspects of the BeeBot is the variety of content that can be integrated with computer science. Everything from sequencing, patterns, phonemic awareness or science.
Our students have enormous programming opportunities and challenges in their future that will undoubtedly produce astounding personal and global rewards. Our students will actually change the world.
Our First Lesson
As Tech TOSAs, we are tasked with helping to meaningfully integrate technology into our seven sites. We asked our Kindergarten teachers what they were currently working on and how we might incorporate the robots. The most accessible first lesson was a phonemic awareness lesson that could be turned into an independent literacy center. This class was working on /Pp/. We had a couple of BeeBots, a blank mat, and image cards that included images that began and ended with /Pp/ (these could come from the language arts program even!).
During the initial lesson:
We demonstrated how to program the BeeBot (Forward, Backwards, Turn 90 Degrees Right/Left, Go, Clear). We demonstrated how to find beginning or ending /Pp/ words. We then had kindergarten volunteers program the BeeBots to demonstrate for their peers. We encouraged the students to first write their program on a mini-whiteboard to help them think it through.
If students were not successful initially, we asked them to go back to their program and decide where they might revise.
As students became more comfortable, we challenged them to begin with the BeeBot in a new position (in the top, right-hand corner… maybe even facing backward for a challenge!).
The materials then became an independent Literacy Center for the rest of the week. The center did not need teacher supervision as the students were quickly able to become programmers, problem-solvers, and collaborators! Littles are not to be underestimated.
The Typical Literacy Center
We usually see completing a worksheet, sorting pictures, tracing words in literacy centers. The BeeBot activity provides more in-depth learning experiences, lays the foundation for computational thinking, and generates motivation and excitement. For the teacher, it is an entry point into teaching computer science without giving up valuable class time.
Kids Want to Code
How many minutes do we typically captivate a group of five-year-olds at Circle Time? Eight Minutes? Ten? Maybe Fifteen. It was the first trimester still and this initial BeeBot lesson held this group of student’s attention for 47 minutes – yes 47. Well into recess. Kids want to code.
Flourish in 2030
At CUE Primary, many sessions, discussions, and demonstrations focused on embedding programming into our everyday lessons. Recently, Alice Keeler tweeted this fact:
Our kindergarteners will graduate in 2030. Is the activity we are asking our students to do preparing them for life in 2030? -@alicekeeler
Let’s not forget this. Let’s find ways to incorporate computational thinking and computer science into our curriculum and give our students an opportunity to flourish in 2030.
Shea Smith is an instructional technology TOSA for Rescue Union School District. He is passionate about empowering students through technology and loves finding new ways to create with technology. His motto: Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch! @RUSDtech