Coding Resources for the New Year

The Hour of Code activities are not just for this hour or day. They are available all year round. Login in and check them out at the official site (opens in new tab). You can even download an Educator Hour of Code: Lesson Plan Outline with links to videos activities and certificates. (opens in new tab)  has hours of code activities.  There is a one-hour tutorial in 45 different languages. You can also jump right into simple coding with the activities which are super fun and grouped by grade level. One of our favorites is the Dance Party. Kids code to make characters dance to their choice of popular music. It is rated grades 2+, but our kids loved it. There is also a chance to help the Grinch capture all the presents and return them to Whoville by learning to program a drone and a high tech sleigh. There are 20 short tutorial and practices with the drone, each a little more complicated than the previous one. Star Wars fans can build a galaxy with code. The list goes on.

BrainPop (opens in new tab) has partnered with Vidcode (an online coding curriculum)  to create Creative Coding with tutorials and coding projects. This is available to BrainPop subscribers, but you can get a free trial at the link below.  If you have BrainPOP, make sure to check out the Educators page.

CS Unplugged (opens in new tab) has activities to help you teach computer science concepts even when you are, that’s right, unplugged. Most activities are for students 5-10 years and cover topics such as binary numbers, sorting networks, error detection and correction and searching algorithms.  The topics have detailed lesson plans and curriculum integration ideas as well as programming challenges. It is funded by Google, Microsoft and The University of Canterbury (New Zealand).

Computer Science Field Guide (opens in new tab) is the high school version of the site above. It is definitely plugged in. It is a whole curriculum for teaching the course.  

The Guide is a 590 page downloadable pdf (opens in new tab), which is an online interactive textbook to support teaching computer science. Videos and activities are embedded, and every chapter begins with “What’s the big picture?”  explaining with examples why and and how the chapter’s concept is important to the study of C.S. Throughout the site’s 590 pages are reddish text boxes with teaching suggestions and yellow boxes with links to videos or interactive activities. Even if you already have the perfect online textbook, this is definitely worth a look. It has a Creative Commons license, so be sure to look at that.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (opens in new tab)  has women in the name, but it is not just for women. There are some resources for teachers to help diversify their computer science classes by recruiting more diverse, not just female, students.  Among the many resources are a PowerPoint in English and a downloadable poster in Spanish showing the possible career and education paths in computer science. The “Top Ten Ways Families Can Encourage Girls’ Interest in Computing”  article also works for boys.

If you are interested in learning more about organizations which  support girls learning coding, or you want to start a coding club at your school, check out these links:

Virtually an Author Visit (elementary-high English, Science, Social Studies)
Having an author visit is so exciting, and so worth it, but a little pricey. Some authors will Skype for less. But, if it is not in your budget, a quick, easy and free way to hear your favorite authors speak is to stream their talks posted on Library of Congress’s  National Book Festival site. The talks are usually about 24 minutes, with some being as long as 45-50 minutes. The authors talk about their books and their inspiration. Even if you or your students have not read the books, learning about science, history, mystery and graphic novels from these experts is fun and fascinating. You can’t ask questions, but in some posts audience members will ask the ones you are itching to ask.

The authors range from poets to writers of children’s Lit and YA like Rick Riordan ,  Jerry Pinkney,  Meg Medina,  graphic novels and adult fiction, biographies, science and political authors and more.  Click on the all videos  link to access all 84 videos from this year’s festivals. You can go back several years.

The Kids and Teacher site has some great links for the classroom.

In this year’s group of speaker videos, students can hear a Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, talk about her children’s and middle school books and how she overcame obstacles to reach her goals.

Social Studies students in American History/Government can hear Doris Kearns Goodwin tells stories of four favorite presidents and how each helped America weather turbulent times. I is easy for middle through high  school students to stay engaged because she is a great storyteller. And, every video has a transcript available, so if you need to review something really interesting an author has said, there it is. Students of science have a number of choices, but if you haven’t seen Margot Lee Shetterly,  the author of Hidden Figures, speak, this video is a treat.  She and the director talk about their work to the Librarian of Congress (LOC). Yes, there really is one.

The LOC also has a YouTube channel with something for everyone including younger readers. Try the Young Readers Center videos, a story time for children up to 5. 

If you have never been to the LOC,  take a peek at the one of the most beautiful buildings in D. C. in this virtual tour of the Jefferson Building of the LOC. You might want to use the  arrow keys instead of your cursor as the images moves quickly. Roll over the i for information.

Geography and Art Collaboration
The winter holidays continue into February. So, you can start this in December or as your students return from winter or holiday break. You can make it a quick assignment by assigning them a country and having them research how New Year’s Eve and Day are celebrated around the world. They can locate their country on a map and then briefly explain the new or familiar customs.  If you have more time, or want to cast a wider net, as our art teacher did, have the students choose from a list of winter holidays from Christmas to Kwanzaa to the Winter Solstice and beyond. It is a great way to integrate Geography into any curriculum. Have the students use your favorite programs to create holiday cards online and share a little bit about the country and their holiday customs with the class.

February/Upcoming Events:
Digital Learning Day: February 28, 2019. Digital Learning Day promotes the effective use of modern day tools afforded to every other industry to improve the learning experience in K-12 public schools.

Happy New Year!
Deborah & Lisa

cross posted at (opens in new tab)

Deborah Marshall is the Department Chair of Career & Technical Education and Lisa McKnight Ward is the librarian at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. Both are Nationally Board Certified, former Teachers of the Year, who have taught multiple subjects including AP and IB courses. They have over a decade of experience collaborating on technology-based learning. Read more at (opens in new tab)