Tuesday Tricks: Work in Code

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January 17, 2012 by k. liz

I have been wishing recently that I knew enough about HTML coding and such to build out a successful website and make my blog bend to my own rules. But, alas, I do not. I do however, love codes and cryptograms. I decided this week to incorporate my love for codes and such into the classroom with my illiterate kindergartners. I may have mentioned before, but when I took this job, I failed to think through the ramifications of teaching students who were not able to read and write. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable, but it does take on a new aspect of challenge.

This month we are studying “Little Inventors”. I decided to incorporate real inventors and inventions into one of my lessons and wanted my kids to memorize the sentence “(inventor) invented the (invention).” My kids can’t read, so I let them choose their invention, draw a picture, and we printed out pictures of all of the inventors. They then matched up the inventor with their invention and glued the picture onto their paper. After this, they lined up and we worked on this over and over and over . . .

After I had drilled them with the sentences and we had practiced pronouncing the word “invented” in every voice imaginable, I decided they needed something to anchor their words to. So, up went the code – piece by piece. And student by student I drilled the words into their heads. It wasn’t the most necessary activity, and I know that the students were only practicing 4 separate words, but it was really good practice for them to memorize something in English, and also to practice connecting symbols with words.

Here is the code that I used: the blank indicated the inventor that they had chosen, the circle stood for “invented”, the theta symbol stood for “the” (that took quite a bit of practice), and the box with the question mark was the invention that they chose.

This is not an activity that lines up with any objectives or specific needs in the classroom, but it is a really good activity for developing necessary skills in young learners. This aids memorization, but also helps the learners to connect images with ideas which is what they will need to employ when they begin reading. Also, as I noticed, it gives them a sense of meaning and importance to a task that might otherwise be boring to them.

I utilized the code by throwing it on the board one word at a time, drilling the pronunciation and memorization, and stopping with one sentence. The goal was that the students could produce a sentence that was linguistically correct, but that also demonstrated their knowledge of the subject.

Here are a few ideas for how to adapt this activity for your classroom:

  • Use code frequently, and build out symbols for the words that you use most often. This can be used in a class that can read, but is trying to develop fluency and speed.
  • Let your students help you build the code, or let them build it in groups and then try to teach it to the class.
  • Provide your students with several coded symbols and then have them create sentences and/or stories with what you have given them. This will require a bit more flexibility on your part as you may need to provide some additional symbols or pieces to make the sentences accurate.
  • For a class that is literate, substitute code for words when trying to get the students to memorize.
  • Use coding as a game – present the code one day and then have the students race to decode a message the next day.

Leave a comment below on ways that you have used coding in your classroom!



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