by Louisa Graefin von Waldburg-Zeil
This past December I had the opportunity to work with a group of pre-service teachers at the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Education to create a bank of coding workshops that are based around the math curriculum. Our goal was to make a lesson that could be matched with each math strand and that could be modified to suit the learning needs of students at a variety of grade levels. By the end of this experience, we had created a variety of resources based on Scratch and were able to deliver them (in English and French) to several classrooms in London as well!
A Unique Teaching Experience
One of the highlights from this experience was having the opportunity to teach a coding workshop remotely to a grade 5 class in Northern Ontario. In order for this to be successful, we had to give very explicit instructions on how this workshop was to be delivered. The teachers were emailed the presentation we had created on Google Slides. The students all had laptops, and I along with two other teacher candidates communicated with the classroom using a Google hangout. We were displayed on a projector at the front of the classroom so that all students in the class could see. Using a screen share option on Google hangout, we were able to control the flow of the presentation as we spoke. This feature also allowed us to show students specific areas of Scratch needed to be successful in the activity.
Our workshop is comprised of two components: un-plugged and plugged. During the un-plugged component, students use pseudo-code (combination of English and coding) to write instructions for the instructor to walk the perimeter of a square. We modified this part of the workshop to have the instructor draw a square on the whiteboard instead so that students could see the result within the frame of the web-cam. The learning goal of this activity is for students to understand that it is important to say things in the correct order and to be very clear when we code. As students test out their code, they learn what specific instructions need to be given in order to accomplish the task. In the end, the class was able to work together to create a code that programmed the teacher candidate how to draw a square.
The second part of the workshop challenges students to program their Sprite in Scratch to draw a square. Students were shown where to find the various blocks in the program, however it is up to them to try and program how to make their sprite draw a square. One of my biggest concerns with this section of the workshop was that typically my colleagues and I spend the majority of this portion of the workshop wandering around the classroom answering questions and guiding students. However, in this instance, I observed that students were more likely to go to their peers for help. If they were really stuck, they would bring their laptop up to the webcam to show us their code and we could guide them from there.
Coding to the Curriculum
To help students consolidate the key learning aspects of this workshop, we pair the activity with an activity sheet. Our intent is for the activity sheet to be used through Google Classroom, however it can also be distributed as a hard copy. The benefit to using Google Classroom is that it becomes a learning opportunity for students to practice using Google docs, as well as using screen capture functions and collaborative web-based documents – tools that are widely used in post-secondary institutions and businesses. The activity sheets ask questions about the challenges they completed in Scratch that tie the workshop to the curriculum. For example, after sharing the code they used, students are asked classify the angles found in their shapes. Depending on what the teacher would like to focus on, the activity sheet can be modified to include questions on perimeter or area. Teachers can also provide students with challenge questions such as “Scratch is walking around the his block. He knows that it takes 500 steps to walk around his entire block. He knows that each corner of his block is a right angle. What does his block look like?”.
Here are just a few of the Grade 5 Ontario Math Curriculum expectations that can be met using Scratch coding activities:
- Estimate and measure the perimeter and area of regular and irregular polygons, using a variety of tools (e.g., grid paper, geoboard, dynamic geometry software) and strategies.
- Create, through investigation using a variety of tools (e.g., pattern blocks, geoboard, grid paper) and strategies, two-dimensional shapes with the same perimeter or the same area
Geometry and Spatial Sense
- Identify and classify acute, right, obtuse, and straight angles;
- Identify triangles (i.e.,acute,right,obtuse, scalene, isosceles, equilateral), and classify them according to angle and side properties;
- Construct triangles, using a variety of tools, given acute or right angles and side measurements.”
- The Math Curriculum of Ontario (2005)
When the activity is properly scaffolded, Scratch is a unique an engaging resource that students can use to show their learning.
Teaching these coding workshops was an enriching opportunity. I have never considered myself to be technologically inclined, but following the practice I have had using Scratch, I am eager to integrate it into my own classroom one day. The workshops we created during the course of this project allowed us to teach the basics of Scratch to teachers and students, and hopefully we were able to inspire some people to explore it further!
**For those who wish to use the worksheet, it can be accessed through the following link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uzHJRSvVXdMb8086-YaftSajMvkvpkxM15H90qf-Bnc/edit
Ministry of Education. (2005). The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Mathematics. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.