Those high energy days just before Winter Break can lead teachers to search for fun, but still educationally meaningful, activities. I was fortunate to be skimming Twitter when I saw the @EdTechTeam tweet about a holiday coding activity. Students use variables, encapsulation, sequences, and objects to create a custom holiday emoji.
Talk about a home run! My fourth-grade students had completed the Hour of Code the previous week and were eager to continue exploring coding. My students had also been working out how to add emojis to Google Classroom comments from their Chromebooks. I knew the coding with emojis and a holiday theme would hook my students.
One challenge I face with digital learning and projects is how to share work with our school community. I knew the emojis were going to turn out very share-worthy! I’ve tried a few different strategies for sharing work, and I haven’t found a method that was both easy for students to post to and easy for parents to access. Someone added a funny gif to a class Padlet the previous week, so I decided to challenge students to share their completed emojis to a Padlet shared across the grade level. Then, parents could visit the Padlet and see student creations.
I created an assignment in Google Classroom with the link to the Made with Code activity and our Padlet Emoji Wall. I provided very minimal instructions: Make your emoji here, post it here. As students completed their science activity, they moved on to the emoji coding. I’m a fan of productive struggle, and the staggered start allowed me to observe how students attacked the task. I was impressed with my students’ persistence as they clicked and muttered to themselves. My student teacher and I each showed one student how to get started and a few basics. Then we watched as the others learned by watching and explaining to each other as more students began the activity. When one student figured out something new, like moving the facial features by changing the x and y-axis, they excitedly ran to the other tables showing everyone what they had done.
My student coders enthusiastically shared emojis in development, and they occasionally asked a “how to” question. I gave my favorite unpopular answer, “I don’t know. Figure it out.” The next challenge arose as students tried to figure out how to post the emoji to the Padlet. Copy and paste didn’t work, but they could upload an image file. A few minutes later, they were either screenshotting or saving the emoji image and posting it to the Padlet.
Another interesting observation I made was the difference between my first class to post to the Padlet and my second and third classes. Each class added more details and features to their emojis. I believe later classes had a higher level of confidence going into the activity when they saw the earlier emojis, making it easier for them to jump in expecting success.
The final step for our project was to share our creations! I removed student last names and closed the Padlet to additional contributions. I then posted a Class Dojo Class Story sharing the link to the coding activity and the Padlet. I received great feedback from parents. I was delighted to read several messages from parents sharing that their students have been talking non-stop at home about “coding and computer stuff.”
As educators, we can be fearful of students seeing us as anything less than perfect. It can be scary to challenge students with technology with which we are not yet comfortable. I want to encourage you – BE BRAVE! You don’t need all the answers, and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” or my favorite, “Figure it out.”