Friday, April 10, 2015

Coding with Bee Bots in Spanish 7

Right before spring break, the library experienced the most adorable insect infestation ever - Bee Bots!  If you are unfamiliar with Bee Bots, they are a tool designed to familiarize people with the basic concepts of computer coding.  The Bee Bot is placed on top of a mat.  From there, users can select the forward, backward, turn left, turn right, and pause options to program the Bee Bot to reach a desired destination.  With each programmed move, the Bee Bot can move one space along the mat.
A picture of the Bee Bots in action.
Ms. McKenzie, Pioneer's seventh grade Spanish teacher, has always had an interest in computer coding.  In fact, she will be an adviser for Maker Club next year!  After having success during the Hour of Code with Spanish students, Ms. McKenzie was looking for other ways to incorporate coding principles into Spanish class.

The community and neighborhood unit was a perfect time to incorporate coding.  Using the Bee Bots as a tool, students learned community vocabulary, a new Spanish verb, and how to create directional questions.

The unit was divided into three days.  A rubric was provided so students were aware of the activities and requirements associated for each class period.
The rubric for the community/coding unit.
At the end of each day, Ms. McKenzie asked classes the following questions in order to guide the learning objectives for the unit:

1. What is coding?
2. What is the relationship between languages and coding?
3. How can coding and languages be helpful to you in your future?

As students progressed through the three days of coding, the answers to the above questions became more profound and meaningful.  It was awesome to see the students develop into blossoming coders!

Prior to the library visit, Ms. McKenzie provided students with a packet of vocabulary necessary for the unit.  On day one of the project, students came to the library prepared to use their community/neighborhood vocabulary. Students were familiarized with the principles of coding and how to operate the Bee Bots.  An important aspect of day one was the concept of Bee Bot care - they needed to be treated with extreme care, since they were on loan from CA BOCES Learning Resources.

Students would be practicing their vocabulary and getting acclimated to the Bee Bots by using the Bee Bots to land at a specific destination on the Bee Bot mat.  A picture of a community destination was placed on each square.  Ms. McKenzie then put questions (in Spanish) up on the projector.  The questions challenged students to program the Bee Bots to land at a specific location.
Each square on the mat represented a vocabulary term in the community/neighborhood unit.

Every group member needed to take a turn coding the Bee Bots.
As the class period progressed, students were given more complex sentences in Spanish.  This tested their knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and made it a bit more difficult to decide which location on the mat the Bee Bot should move towards.  During this stage of the activity, groups were assessed on their ability to program, care of the Bee Bots, and teamwork.

The second day of the unit required students to utilize their Spanish vocabulary in a more challenging way.  Instead of using the Bee Bots to get to a specific destination, the Bee Bots would now be used to code questions and answers produced by the student groups.

In order for students to have all of the vocabulary necessary for writing directionality questions in Spanish, the students were first introduced to the Spanish verb "ir" which means to go.  Once students conjugated this verb, they were now prepared with all of the words needed to navigate the Bee Bots.

Instead of pictures on the Bee Bot mats, the squares now contained Spanish words that the groups would use in order to create sets of questions and answers.  There were blank squares on the mat which the groups could use to insert their own Spanish words that were not already found on the board.
An example of a Bee Bot mat prepared for the question and answer activity.
A group scopes out the words available on the Bee Bot mat.

Coding question and answers in Spanish.

All questions and answers were written in Spanish in each group member's packet.
During day two, an additional coding challenge was presented when students were introduced to the "pause" button.  While coding the sentences, the students needed to include a "pause" so that the Bee Bot rested on each word in the sentence before moving on to the next word.  This made coding a little more difficult.  Other challenges on day two included trying to code the longest Spanish sentence possible, given the words that were on the mats.  There were groups that were very successful with creating long sentences.  In fact, some of the groups even coded more commands than the Bee Bots could hold!

Here is an example of a Bee Bot in action!  The group coded sentences in Spanish, with the Bee Bot pausing on each Spanish word utilized.

More time than one class period was needed for the day two activities, so the first few minutes of day three were devoted to finishing the questions and answers from the previous day.  Once that work was completed, the teams were then able to test their knowledge of the unit's activities through participating in a Kahoot! contest.

Students were already familiar with Kahoot because it was used during a prior visit to the library.  Kahoot is a great tool to assess learning in a fun, interactive, and competitive way.  Each team was given an iPad with which to answer the Kahoot questions.  Teams received points for answering the questions quickly and correctly.  The Kahoot questions centered around community vocabulary and coding.
The Kahoot questions were displayed using the projector.

The competition was intense!
After the Kahoot competition, Ms. Muhlbauer discussed the different opportunities right at Pioneer Middle School that students can use to hone their coding skills even further. 

First, students are always welcome to visit the Pioneer Middle School Library website in order to work on coding activities during school, at home, or at a public library.  Popular coding sites are organized on the library page via a Symbaloo organizer.  Click here to see the coding Symbaloo: Library Website
Coding Symbaloo accessible from the library homepage.
Other opportunities to learn more about coding within the school setting include First Lego League and Maker Club.  Ms. Muhlbauer shared the dates and times these after school activities take place.  We are hopeful that exposure to coding will lead to lots of new members for Lego League and Maker Club!

The last piece of the unit was for students to complete a thoughtful reflection about what they had learned.  Students were asked the following questions:
1. What is coding?
2. What is the relationship between languages and coding?
3. How can coding and languages be helpful to you in your future?
4. What part of the three day unit was most challenging for you?  Why?
5. Read through an article outlining "The Habits of Mind."  Circle two habits your group used during this project.  How did you display these habits during the unit?

Students constructed excellent responses to the questions.  Here are some examples of student responses for the first four questions:

Students had the following responses about Habits of Mind skills:

Overall, this was a very successful unit.  Students enjoyed learning more about coding and also appreciated the opportunity to learn vocabulary in a creative way. 

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