I started working with the Prep students from the first day of school this year. Although many of them had used an iPad before at home, their level of experience was quite varied. I wanted to create a technology unit that would challenge students without having unrealistic expectations for their achievement so early in their schooling. For their first unit I decided students would explore simple coding skills through use of the app ScratchJr, while addressing English learning outcomes based on storytelling. Throughout the term, students worked towards answering the inquiry question, ‘How can we learn about others through coding?’
In our initial coding explorations I would pose a challenge question, such as ‘Can you make a character eat some food?’ or ‘Can you make a diver collect an object from the bottom of the ocean?’ As a whole class we would discuss strategies for solving the challenge and use laminated cards of the coding buttons from the app to visualise possible solutions. Students worked in pairs on the iPads, collaborating to create simple animations to address each lesson’s challenge question. As our lessons progressed and students added to their coding skill sets, the degree of difficulty of the challenges increased.
For their final project, students were required to draw upon the skills learnt throughout the term to plan and create an animation to tell others about themselves. They worked in pairs to design the animation that introduced and shared one thing about themselves. For example, their character may have said “Hello, my name is … I have a pet dog called …” Students drew characters, added movement, backgrounds and photos of themselves into the project.
This introduction to coding unit proved to be the perfect way to start the year with the Prep students. I was pleased to see just how quickly students built on skills from previous lessons and used their intuition to make suggestions on how to complete coding challenges. Working in pairs helped students develop necessary early learning skills of sharing and turn taking, while encouraging more able students to support those who may be experiencing difficulty with the task.