Coding in Centers to Improve Student Collaboration Skills

Ms. Moyers classroom
Ms. Moyers classroom

The Challenge

Ms. Moyers' fourteen second graders struggled with communication and frequently argued about who was right or wrong in a situation. Ms. Moyers' classroom goal for the 2020-2021 school year was to improve on their communication and collaboration skills.

The Outcome

"I found that coding in the classroom has helped to strengthen my students' ability to problem-solve, but more importantly, to collaborate with one another effectively," says Ms. Moyers, a second grade teacher.

"Students struggled with communication skills and respect, in general, largely in part due to the isolation the pandemic caused."
Melissa Moyers, Second Grade Teacher

Setting Growth Goals

As part of her goal to strengthen the students’ communication and collaboration skills, Ms. Moyers introduced games and coding.

Goals were set at the beginning of the year to help students practice:

  • Active listening (with their whole body)
  • Initiating conversations with peers
  • Using appropriate voice level
  • Asking and responding to questions (and also to seek help when needed appropriately)
  • Giving simple two-step directions
  • Working respectfully with others
Students sitting around a tablet playing Kodable together

Learning to Communicate and Collaborate

"At the beginning of the year, we spent a whole day playing board games to learn how to lose. A lot of our students play video games but have not played board games, so they were not familiar with how to lose in a game."

Ms. Moyers credits the day of board games with starting her students down the path of strategic thinking and looking at alternate ways to succeed.

Ms. Moyers first introduced coding as a screen-free activity, with a 12x12 grid on a table cloth. "I created a challenge for my students to get a stuffed animal owl to its nest. Their task would be to find a path from one end [the owl] to the other [the nest]."

Ms. Moyers modeled the activity to students using one directional command per space on the grid, then students could work in groups or pairs.

Communication and collaboration are something Ms. Moyers' class worked on throughout the year. The class role-played how to give help without giving the answer and created an anchor chart in the room with helpful questions students could ask when offering help.

She often paired students who were more comfortable with strategy and video games with the students who were not. This usually allowed lower students the opportunity to shine and show their skills with coding.

Poster with coding questions students can ask themselves when they're stuck, such as what is it asking you to do?

Coding in Reading Centers

Ms. Moyers used Kodable in reading rotations to practice the communication and collaboration skills the students learned through the year, as well as a math extension to practice skills like counting.

Ms. Moyers' reading rotations consist of four 20-25 minute rotations. There are three or four students per group.

The stations are as follows:

  • Guided Reading/Word Study with Myself
  • Math Extension — Students practice the current skills they’re learning in math
  • Word Study Extension — Activities using their weekly word study features/words
  • Technology Integration

Ms. Moyers rotated Kodable and other programs into the Technology rotation. "As the year progressed, I allowed them to choose the program they wanted to use here, and most of the time they chose Kodable."

Math Extensions

When students needed extra practice with a math principal, Ms. Moyers often integrated it with Kodable. "Whenever a skill like skip counting or adding/subtracting was added into coding, I always introduced it to the whole group first." In one activity, students counted the number of spaces their Fuzz needed to move by ones, fives, or tens.

"Kodable helps us work on overcoming our fixed mindset."
Melissa Moyers

Developing a Growth Mindset

Students sitting in a circle on the floor playing Kodable together on a tablet

"I found that coding in the classroom has helped to strengthen my student's ability to problem-solve, but more importantly, to collaborate with one another effectively."

"It has also enabled some of my more meek and mild kiddos to open up and shine because coding is an area that they feel strong in, and they excel to show their peers."

"Kodable helps us work on overcoming our fixed mindset. We can't get fixed because there's a way to get out of any problem when we're coding: We can collaborate with a friend, or reset and try again, or try an alternate route. All of them keep going. That's unusual for this group because, at the beginning of the year, they did not know how to lose."

Open the Door to Collaboration with Kodable

About Ms. Moyers

Melissa Moyers

About Ms. Moyers

Melissa Moyers is a teacher in the Rockingham School District in rural Virginia. As a first grade teacher of 16 years, Ms. Moyers strives to build a love of learning in her students that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

"I see far too many little ones that want to give up before they even try, and I want them to know that making mistakes is part of the learning process," says Moyers, "It is always my goal to instill a love of learning in my students and to make them believe in themselves."

About Lacey Spring Elementary School

Lacey Spring Elementary is a Pre-K-5th grade school located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The school strives to prepare all 200+ children to be "creative thinkers and problem solvers, and for a technological future through the use of technology in the classroom."

As a rural, Title 1 school, providing all students with a device is a major achievement. The lower elementary students all have their own iPads, and the upper elementary students have their own Chromebooks. Students also have access to the school's STEM Lab. Although the STEM Lab was closed this school year for COVID-19 mitigation, the resources were available from a mobile cart that could be brought to each classroom.

Helping their students build a growth mindset is a priority at Lacey Spring Elementary School. Teachers provide 30 minutes of Community Circle Time every morning. In Ms. Moyers's classroom, "We do read-alouds, and talk about how to keep trying and not to give up. We have a 'toolbox' of strategies to use when we feel anxious or scared."

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