Coding Activities for Young Learners

Teaching students the concepts of coding is such an important skill in today’s world. Teaching even our youngest learners these concepts is easier than one might think. To put it in the most simple of terms, coding is instructions given in order to complete a task. We use coding concepts in our daily lives without even thinking about it! We create daily schedules for students to follow, we lay out steps in projects, and we break down problems into smaller pieces, which is the skill of computational thinking.

I love the Code and Go Mouse from Learning Resources because of it’s simplistic design and ease of use. Kids love using the mouse and it’s fun to think of a variety of ways to integrate content curriculum with the mouse. I purchased mine on Amazon. You can’t beat that price, especially if you are low on technology resources.

One really fun way to use the mice is to build mazes on your floors with painter’s tape and build in obstacles that would block the mouse from moving further, which allows students to have to think about how they will get around that particular barrier. In this case, I created coding mats using Keynote on my Mac and then blew them up on our school poster maker. It’s important to make the squares 5″x5″ because the mouse travels a total of 5″ when it moves. Creating the squares to go the same distance really helps students visually understand how many forward spaces they need to travel.

Getting Started

To get started, talk to the students about what they know about coding. Talk about how coding is basically following a set of instructions (algorithm). They use these computational thinking skills when they get dressed in the morning, when they get ready for bed, when they make a sandwich, etc. Next, show students the coding cards (these come with the mouse). Those cards are the code they will follow when they program the mouse. Finally, introduce the mouse. We named our mouse Jack. Talk about how the buttons work and how they function. I usually show with a partner how the mouse works and I write an incorrect code so that we can demonstrate the process of de-bugging to find out where we might have made a mistake and then we try again.

Some additional tips:

  • I put students in groups of 4. Each student has a role for one round and then they pass the necklace with their role title to the right. This ensures each child has a turn to do each job. That being said, this is a collaborative project and they need to work together to create the code to get the mouse to where they want to go. They have to break down the problem with the coding cards (these come with the mouse). The roles: Object Chooser, Code Writer (programmer), Code Tester (button pusher), and Code De-Bugger. I put the cards on lanyards and have the students wear these. This really is a must because all of the kids want to push the buttons. 🙂
  • Rotate the mats so each group has a chance to use all 4 mats.
  • Use some type of marker (blocks work great here) to designate what object they are coding to get to.
Coding roles so each child has a job during the process.

Download Resources:

Happy Coding!

The Key(note) to Coding Version 2

There is a misconception when it comes to thinking about coding; some think it’s only for computer programmers and others think it’s too difficult. To put it simply, coding is giving a set of instructions to the computer to create an action. In this post, I will give the instructions that were in my first publication of this idea from my iTunes U Course (2015) as well as some fun updates! This project combines coding concepts and encourages students to understand basic coding concepts in ways that also spark their creativity. Students will use Keynote to create pictures out of basic shapes and learn the variety of ways to format shapes while taking note of the shape’s placement, size, color, and rotation. Once the picture is complete, students will write all of the “code” so that another student can replicate their picture. It would be very difficult to teach someone how to recreate a particular shape with precise measurements, but when given the exact “code” students are able to follow it and replicate the picture with ease. In addition to coding skills, students learn vocabulary for working and manipulating shapes, such as arrange, flip, size, position, and rotation. It’s perfect as a stand alone project targeting STEM or within your geometry unit as you discuss variations of shapes. This is designed for Mac OS because of the advanced tools in Keynote, however, students can use this idea as a guide for building and creating pictures with basic shapes on an iOS device as well. This is a great time to teach kids the design process and utilizing an engineering mindset as they will make mistakes, but through testing their codes, they will go back and refine and improve their code so that it’s just right for replication!

In my original iTunes U Course, I had students create tangram shapes. However, I didn’t want to limit students to just creating tangrams, so I changed this so students can create pictures of anything with basic shapes. This allows for a deeper level creativity. It is easier for students if they create pictures with 7 or less basic shapes as this helps with time creating the code as well as completing a partner’s code.

Before you get started, you will need to add a third party tool for the color picker. This will allow you to be specific with the colors and students will add the HTML Hex RGB #. With this option, students can be creative with colors they choose for their pictures. It is important to note that students should use solid colors only, no gradient or image fills for shapes.

Here are the steps:

Step 1:

Using basic shapes, create a picture (train, car, house, anything…be creative). Once the picture is complete, “Select All” and move the picture to one side of the screen to leave room for the code you will create. *Important note: The size of the slide is important. For this project, I’d recommend all students use the same standard slide size.

Step 2:

Use this PDF to print or distribute through Google Classroom. In Keynote, students will click on the Format (paintbrush) tool and then the Arrange tool. This is where they will note the shape, size, position, rotation, and color of each individual shape. I think if a student focuses on writing the code for each individual shape, then it’s easier to keep track of when writing the code on their Keynote slide. I prefer to have students handwrite the code and then transfer that to the slide, as it creates less errors. Since precision is so important, it’s a good step in the process.

Step 3:

Insert a square and create a larger rectangle on the Keynote slide to type in the code. *Note: Type out the required elements once, and copy and paste to save time.

Step 4:

Once you are finished with your picture and you’ve typed out the code, export slide as an image. Upload to a shared photo album (Photos, Google Drive, Google Photos, comemories.com). Once students have a partner, they can download their partner’s code and start the process of creating their picture based off the code of their partner. Remind students to take notes if they have to “debug” the code as this is good feedback for the creator.

Remind students that they need to be exact, specific, concise, and pay close attention to detail.

Step 5:

Once students successfully or unsuccessfully complete the code, have them complete a reflection for their partner. You can download the reflection here.

Happy creating! This has always been one of my favorite projects!

Create Your Own Inspirational Posters

Anyone can go online and find a ton of really fun inspirational quote generators to create and print an inspirational poster. Additionally, how many of us go online and find our favorite quote and post it on social media? Are we really utilizing digital citizenship skills in how we re-use the work of someone else? How about we encourage our students to create their own from a blank slate with creative design in mind? In this post, I will lay out the directions for creating a poster using my favorite creation tool, Keynote.

Students can be the subject of the poster and display a quote that resonates in their life. They can create a poster to go along a research project on an important person in history and quote something remarkable they said during their life. They could honor an elder or family member and quote something they grew up hearing from that person. There are so many ways to approach this project.

Yes, And…

This project could be taken even further by adding an audio track of the student reading the quote with background music created in GarageBand. Export as a movie and now your inspirational poster has become a multimedia project with creativity and student voice at the heart!

Here are three examples to get you started. Notice that the background has been removed. There are a few ways to do this. You can use Instant Alpha in Keynote to remove the background or you can use an online tool remove.bg.

Getting Started

Step 1: Encourage students to spend time finding quotes that resonate with them. The kind of quote that makes you feel inspired. The quote that gives you the “feels.” If students are researching a person, find the quote that best represents that person’s purpose.

Step 2: Create a new project in Keynote. Tap on the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner and tap Document Setup (or on Mac, go to Format and click on Document). From there, change the size of the slide so your poster is in portrait orientation. On a Mac, you will reverse the two numbers to create a custom slide size. Note: this step isn’t a must…some students might want their poster in Landscape orientation.

Step 3: Think about the photo that will serve as the background. You can use a photo you’ve captured, create your own design by experimenting with the gradient fill for your background, or you can use am image from a royalty-free image website. My two favorites are Unsplash and Pixabay. Search for what you might be looking for and then download the picture. If you are using an iPad, you can utilize Split Screen and drag the photo over to your slide. This makes multitasking so easy! Insert that picture on the slide and adjust the size so it fits your screen. You can play with the opacity and adjust the color as needed once you have more elements on your slide.

Step 4: Insert the subject photo.. Students can take photos of each other or students can use a photo they already have. Remember to use Instant Alpha or Remove.bg to completely take out the background. This makes the subject in the poster stand out as you can adjust the size, and format the photo to your liking. It’s really a great idea to take into consideration the Rule of Thirds when placing the subject of the photo. My good friend and ADE colleague taught me about the rule of thirds for photography, and I think it applies here nicely when thinking about where to place your subject. You can read more about Don’s work here on page 18.

Step 5: Now it’s time to type in your quote. Use a variety of text sizes and formats when inserting your text. What we learned when creating these posters is that it is easier to chunk up the text and create multiple text boxes so that you can format various words or lines of the text easily. If you don’t have a lot of fun fonts on your iPad, you can download Fonteer and get fonts for your iPad projects. If you are using a Mac, my favorite place to get fonts is dafont.com. Additionally, if you cannot install fonts on your computer, you can use an online font generator tool, which allows you to save the text as an image. Have fun playing with size, color, character style, capitalization, and outlining text. Keep in mind that less is more in this case as far as design is concerned.

Step 6: Once you have the text situated on the slide along with the photo, you are ready for adjustments. Play around with the opacity of the background image or the image of the subject. Add shadows, adjust the saturation…have fun with artistic expression here!

Step 7: If you want this as a poster, now you can export this as a PDF or an image. If you want to make this into more of a multimedia project, you can add a soundtrack with an audio recording to the slide from GarageBand. I have directions on how to do this in an earlier blog post here. You can export those slides as movies!

Step 8: Share your creations! Print them and put them in picture frames, post to social media, post them online and send them to parents! Create a book and include each child’s poster on various pages. Share the book to Apple Books and allow the world to see each student’s creations!

Happy designing!

Literacy+Keynote=Creative K-3 Learning

One of my favorite books is A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. I’ve read it to my classes every year at the beginning of the school year since I began teaching. When the iPad came around, it changed the game as far as what my students were able to do with creative activities that reinforced the book. I am so excited to share this with you and I hope that you and your students enjoy it! These guides are prepared for the K-3 classroom, but you could certainly take these templates and modify them to match literacy objectives for your grade level. The skills in Keynote are truly great for any age group of learners.

Here’s the Scoop:

I’ve created a literacy-themed Keynote template, which allows students at the beginning of the year to not only read the book as part of an ELA unit, but also dive into how to utilize the creative tools in Keynote. I would do this as a group with my class, giving them time each day to explore a new tool in Keynote. At the end of the unit, students should be able to take their knowledge and build their own templates or guides and be quite comfortable and knowledgable about formatting and options in Keynote.

Teacher Guide:

Teacher Guide: Click HERE to view the presentation. Duplicate it and you will have your own version. The teacher guide has lots of little tips and tricks that you can use as you guide your students through their own version.

Student Template:

Student Template: Click HERE to view the presentation. Duplicate this one and use Apple Classroom to send this file to your students and they will each have their own copy. Don’t have enough iPads for the whole class? This would make a great station in a center.

I sure hope you love these creative activities as much as I have over the years. With new iWork updates, this project constantly changes, which I love!

Happy Keynoting!

Create Pattern and Base 10 Blocks in Keynote

Don’t have pattern blocks or base 10 blocks in your classroom? No problem! Create your own virtual blocks in Keynote! You can also create these in Pages and Numbers, too! Would be a great way for students to illustrate their thinking by creating a book about their knowledge of numbers or math shapes in Pages and export as an ePub!

Pattern Blocks

Create pattern blocks with shapes. Did you know the green circle in a shape means you can manipulate the shape’s sides and thickness? Explore how selecting more than one shape will allow you to subtract parts of a shape to create a new one. The other feature I absolutely love is that when you are resizing a shape, you will see words like square and radius as well as the degree of an angle. This is great hands-on math exploration!

Base 10 Blocks

Create base 10 blocks with tables in Keynote. Copy/paste to create multiples and there you have hands on math for stations or any other math work while using iPad! This isn’t just for younger students, either! Students can demonstrate their knowledge of fractions and decimals by filling in cells in the base 10 blocks.

Here’s a how-to video to get you started:

Click HERE to download the Keynote deck with all of the shapes and base 10 blocks created for you to practice!

Happy creating!

Everyone Can Create Pop Art

If you missed ISTE this year like I did, then you’re in luck! One of my favorite activities from the Apple Education Pop-Up Classroom was featured on the Apple Teacher Learning Center page! There are step-by-step directions in creating your own pop art masterpiece! I decided to play around further and created a pop art image, video, and gif! All you need to do to take the project a bit further, is change your number of Keynote slides and export as a video or gif.

The Apple Teacher Learning Center has a collection of creative lessons to inspire you to apply creativity in your classroom lessons. Included are lessons on:

  • Video: Storytelling with Clips
  • Augmented Reality: Building a Virtual World
  • Drawing: Animated Doodle Art
  • Photo: Moments in Motion
  • Music: Producing Podcasts
  • Resource: An AWESOME Activity Workbook

The Apple Teacher Learning Center also features new classroom ideas and activities:

  • Drawing: Animated Word Art
  • Video: Movie Magic
  • Photo: Photo Pop Art
  • Music: See Your Sound

Click here to visit the Everyone Can Create lessons and activities shared at ISTE.

Click HERE to learn more about the Everyone Can Create collection of inspiring lessons and activities to infuse creativity into every subject.

Happy Creating!

Big Keynote Update!

My favorite creative app (Keynote) just keeps getting better and better! I have been wanting this update for YEARS and I am so excited it’s finally here! Here’s the low down on my FAVORITE new feature of the update: the new ways to style text!

Here’s a list of possibilities just with the new ways to style text:

  • Alphabet books and fill letters with photos of what the letter begins with.
  • Scavenger hunts…Here are a few ideas: colors, shapes, numbers, etc.
  • Fill words with photos that represent the word (take photos or use royalty free images).
  • Fill words with textures (you can use the tile fill for this feature)

Add borders to letters!

The Return of Appsolutely April!

Hi there friends! I hope this new blog post finds each of you doing well. I hope you will still drop by for some fun tech tips and inspiring and purposeful technology integration ideas! During my break from blogging, I really had amazing experiences working with teachers and students all over the country as I coached and mentored them through their journey in connecting the dots between learning and creative uses of technology. It was a great journey; one for which I am forever grateful.

Through this transition, I have been developing a more comprehensive website, which highlights more of the work I do with educators, schools, businesses, and community members.

My website URL has remained the same, but the URL for future blog postings has changed.

Website: www.appsolutelyapril.com

Blog: www.appsolutelyapril.wordpress.com

Please check back or subscribe for emails so that you can get all future blog posts as I publish them. Also, check out my TPT store, where I will soon be uploading templates and other creations to promote creativity, design, exploration, collaboration, and curiosity as related to using technology with purpose and meaning as a tool in classrooms.

Create Custom Letter Shapes in Keynote

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I made this Everyone Can Create image when I got home from the World Wide Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in July. I left truly inspired and I wanted to create an image where I could showcase pictures of my friends and colleagues to highlight creative experiences from the week. Since I posted it in July, I have had many requests on how to create this, so I thought I’d share!

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I knew I wanted to create “picture frames” of letters and use those as shapes to mask images. There are some great online tools to do this, but I really wanted to create it myself and try to find a way to make it happen. I immediately went to Keynote and started playing around with different ways to complete this project. For the first part of this project, it has to be done on the Mac. Within the shapes menu, there is a very powerful tool called the ‘Draw with Pen’ tool. It is an amazing tool and you can pretty much create whatever your heart desires. Truly, the sky is the limit, just ask my good friend and “Master of the Keynote Draw Tool,” Ben Mountz. He’s made the most amazing images in Keynote using this tool. If you haven’t checked out his work, his Twitter handle is @BenMountz and I promise, you will be amazed.

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I used one of my favorite block fonts and inserted a text block. I resized the text and changed the opacity of the text block so that I could trace over it using the draw with pen tool. You could certainly do yours freehand, but I need a little more practice than the average person because drawing is not one of my talents. 🤣

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The way the Draw with Pen tool works is that you add points to draw line segments. When you join the points to the original point, you create a closed shape. From there, you can edit the shape to create curves. Once you have your shape, click on it to see the editing points. A square indicates a sharp line, while a circle indicates a curved line. The more you play around with this tool, you can learn the advanced features, including creating a bézier point, which pretty much means the points and the curve change intuitively along the path. If you draw a shape and use a secondary click, you will have these options: sharp point, smooth point, bézier point, or an option to divide the path.

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Once you have all of the letters drawn for what you want to create, then I’d suggest duplicating the letter shapes so that you have more than one of each letter. Using the object list is a really nice feature when creating your own shapes.

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Once the letters are created, you can do the rest of this project on Keynote for iOS.  In the picture below, I filled the letter E with an image. I used the slider to fit different parts of the photo inside the E and I moved the photo around to get it just right.

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Finished project for my son’s baseball team.

You could most certainly extend the use of letter shapes by animating them in Keynote and exporting them as videos. My first thought went to how amazing it would be to have younger students animate and insert voices for letters to demonstrate knowledge of letter sounds. How fun would that be! I’d love to see what you come up with and all the various ways we can turn letters and words into art!

Have fun creating!! #EveryoneCanCreate

PS…I will be taking a break from publishing blog posts. I hope that you go out and continue creating and I encourage you to find awesome people to follow on Twitter! Thanks to all my readers for all your support and feedback over the years! Cheers!!

Archive and Showcase Learning Experiences in a Keynote Portfolio

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As most of you know by now, Keynote is my favorite tool for so many creative reasons. Let me share with you another reason I love Keynote. I love to create non-linear presentations. Non-linear simply means that the Keynote slides will not advance in sequential order. In these types of Keynote decks, you insert links that guide the order of the Keynote presentation. In this project example, if students begin the year by creating the ‘shell’ for their ongoing portfolio of work, then they simply add to it throughout the year. They can create buttons that allow the presentation to go in the order of their choosing and add links to various content areas or learning topics.

Think of the story of learning this type of project tells! It’s powerful evidence of learning and success!

Why not just use a portfolio based app that archives student work, you ask? My answer is because creating it like this is just another way students can become creators of their own work. This is especially great for even our youngest students in learning the basics of web design as they can ‘pretend’ this is their very own website. A website functions similarly; there are buttons that take the user to other pages. Students choose their design from scratch, add linking buttons that will create the action they want. There are no privacy concerns because the only people who would see this are people that have access to the Keynote file.  They can showcase their completed Keynote portfolio to a classmate, or family member with great pride knowing that this is all their own original creation. This would be an amazing artifact to show parents at the end of the year!

To make it more meaningful, when students add work to their Keynote portfolio, they explain what the project was, if they enjoyed it, and what they learned from it. It’s a very powerful reflection tool.

Students can embed video, projects from other applications, screen shots, and so much more to truly bring their digital portfolio to life. Students can use shapes as buttons and add links to various pages in their portfolio as well as add links to external sites. My suggestion is to help students build a shell for their work. Suggestions include:

  • Title slide with buttons, which includes links to the various content areas.
  • Create a slide with the title of each content areas.
  • Add as many slides as you need under each content area.
  • Add buttons to your slides with links that allow the user to go back to other pages.

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Title slide with buttons to link to these content areas

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Content areas (Think of this as chapters). Each of these have a link that goes back to the home page (title page).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What each content area on the title page looks like once each of the rectangle shapes have been linked to slides or external slides. The blue arrows indicate there is a link, but the arrows disappear once the user hits play and interacts with the presentation.

 

Putting it all together (Video):