Monday, April 29, 2013

Lesson Plan 3: Scratch Programming

Review last weeks lesson.  Did the students do any exciting projects with Scratch since last week?

Get into pairs of students.
Give student A a number written on a 3x5 card
Student B needs to guess the number on Student A's card.
range 1-10

Repeat the exercise with the range 1-100

Discuss the strategies used to guess the number.

Any person can guess any number buy using a process of elimination within 10 guesses.  By simply guessing the median of a range of numbers.  The responder then replies with one of three responses; correct, too high, or too low.  The guesser's 2nd guess is again the median of the remaining numbers, and so on.  

The computer will 'think' of a number (use 'random number'
Student will guess the number
range 1-10

repeat assignment range 1-100

discuss the implications of doing the assignment 1-1000

Extension activity:
Student chooses the number.
The computer guesses the answer.

Extension Activity 2:
Add code that counts the number of guesses required to find the answer.  At the end of the program the sprite should tell the player how many guesses it took.

Use "change n by"
Use a "say" line
Use a "join" line to make a sentence.


Last night Aunt Vickie came over with her computer (a Dell Desktop) so Caskey could recover a document for her.  She commented off hand that she should probably get a laptop soon.  Lainy Ann readily agree, "you really should.  That computer is too big to be carrying around everywhere."

LMAO  She is such a product of her generation.  I bet she would be shocked to know I had to type my papers on a typewriter.  She just assumes that all computer are for traveling.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rocket Academy: Before

It feels like vacation at our house.  It is Friday morning before we head off for Rocket Academy this afternoon.  It kind of is like vacation.  We are vacationing from tball, soccer, Girl Scouts, and kittens.  We are even leaving destructo-toddler at home with grandma.  It would be a vacation if there were a nice 1000-count down comforter to look forward too.  Unfortunately, we are camping.

Or fortunately, depends on how you look at it.  We have been running crazy doing too much.  Caskey has been out of town.  This camping trip will be with friends.  There is no cooking.  And there will be so many activities that the kids will entertain themselves.  Their best friends are coming with us.  I have big plans of sitting in the shade and making paracord bracelets.

I even let Lainy Ann stay home from school today.  That poor child has been practicing soccer and softball 5 hours a week, getting to bed late and playing games on the weekends.  Plus, sssshhhh, don't tell, she will be a big help in getting ready to go camping today.

So we set out on another camping adventure.  The last time we went camping Eleanor was 9 months old and refused to nap the whole weekend and Alexander got lost.  Since then the kids have grown by 2 years, we are leaving Eleanor at home, and I have taken BALOO training - so we are better equipped.  The best part about the whole weekend is that there will be plenty of activities - science activities.

Wish us luck.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coding for Kids Lesson 2: SCRATCH

Intro to Scratch

Download Scratch
Personal computer to run Scratch, see system requirements here:

Discuss Light-Bot and the process of telling robots which steps to follow
Discuss where Scratch came from.  Programmers at MIT created Scratch so children would learn to program.  It is free.

Familiarize the students with the main parts of the Scratch interface.  Use this link as a resources for the adult leading the lesson.  Intro to Scratch

Students will move the Sprite back and forth across the screen (50 steps, 180* turn, 50 steps, 180* turn) using scripts of more than one command.

Recognize that you can change the number of steps or amount of degrees.

Introduce the Green Flag and Stop Script functions.  Stop Script is a very important function.  It is necessary in all scripts to tell the computer to stop listening.

Using the pen feature students will draw a square (20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*)

Teach students to "clear" stage: 'face 90*' and 'clear'

Experiment drawing shapes using the following changes; 60*, 45*, 30* - reduce the number of steps the sprite moves in order to fit on the stage.

15-20 minutes of exploration drawing shapes.

Teach students to assign keys to actions "when x is pressed y happens"  Assign the following keys/scripts:
up arrow is forward
left arrow is turn left
right arrow is turn right
u key is pen up
d key is pen down
x key is 'clear'

Don't forget to use 'stop script'

Draw a happy face (2 circles for eyes, line for a mouth) - now make a triangle for a nose or an arc for a mouth.
Draw a bicycle
Draw a star
Draw a capital letter E

Encourage students to continue to explore Scratch at home.

We did not introduce importing Sprites, playing with sound, drawing background/Sprites, or playing with the paint feature.  These skills are currently taught in computer lab.  We focused only on the programming aspects of Scratch

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coding for Kids Lesson 1

Why is programming important?
What is coding?
Importance of everyone learning coding.  Use the example that even though most of us don't want to be authors or write novels, each of us has been taught to read and write.  The same is true for coding.  We all need to know basic coding skills regardless of what profession we choose.
There are 1 million jobs in America that are unfilled by Americans.

Students will give instructions to the teacher about opening a door.  It will be demonstrated that the instructions need to be specific, an exact number of steps, exact amount of turning etc.  I will explain that the robot in light-bot needs to be told exactly what to do.  

Students will go to and play Light-bot.  They will work at their own pace.  After the majority of students get to level 5 we will stop and explain functions.

Functions are sub-threads or instructions within the instructions.  By using a function you are telling the robot which set of instructions to use next.  

Students will continue to work at their own pace.  Three of the students passed level 10, the rest were between level 7-9.  

Class was dismissed.  No homework was assigned.  Student were encouraged to continue to practice at home.  

Extension Activities:  
See who can finish a level with the least amount of spaces used.
See who can finish a level with the least amount of extra movements - most directly.  

Next Lesson:

Thursday, April 11, 2013


DRAFT *** Just to get the links out here for friends and family to see the resources we use.  *** DRAFT

For a variety of reasons, as a family we have chosen to send our children to public school, but I don't feel that our children are being challenged sufficiently at school.  As a result we "After School" our children.  Taking my children's weaknesses and strengths into consideration when choosing materials and curriculum.  After much research we have decided to focus on the following areas of study; vocabulary, reading comprehension, logic, and programming.

I have included links to the materials we use.  For years we purchased "workbooks" at Costco or the book store to give the children more challenging activities - but I have found that they were too easy, even when they proclaimed they were grade level.  The worst of these offenders were Kumon, Sylvan and D&K.  I would spend $10-$17 for books that were too easy for my children.

I spent some time trolling Homeschooling message boards and asking everyone I could about content rich, challenging workbooks. Something the kids could work through on their own after school, or in the car or at the soccer field. 

The following books are what we use to build our after-schooling library.  I try to purchase the books in bulk - thinking forward for a few years to save on shipping.  I feel the cost of the books is moderate, usually less than $20/ea.  I don't purchase the Teacher's Guide and opt to spend my money only on the workbooks.

I love this series of workbooks.  Each lesson is approximately 8 pages; the first two list the new vocabulary words (about 20 words) and definitions.  The following pages instructs students find the right means, replace a vocabulary word in a sentence, apply the meaning, find a synonym/antonym/homophone, and finally read a paragraph that uses the vocabulary words and answer reading comprehension questions with the vocabulary words.

This is an accelerated level of workbooks.  My daughter started a grade-level below her current grade level because she struggles with vocabulary.  These books are high content and worth the cost.

I read an article recently that stated there were thousands of SAT words for students to learn and that they should start young.  Knowing the Latin roots of words will help students to figure out new words as they are exposed to them.  

Each lesson tackles a new root and defines the accompanying words (about 10 words).  The next several pages allow the students to practice the use of the words in context, finding synonyms/antonyms, defining the words, and inserting the words into a paragraph.  After 3 lessons there is a review in which the student identifies the root and matches it with is meaning.  

Reading Comprehension
My only complaint about this workbook is that it isn't long enough.  There are only 24 passages in the entire book per grade level.  I like my children to complete this book twice a week and this book does not allow for that.  However, the text is content rich focusing on the history of a popsicle or a biography of an immigrant.  These books are grade level appropriate and my first grader was able to complete the work independently.  

This vocabulary is significantly easier than the Wordly Wise series.  However, the focus is on the Latin roots and I feel that makes up for it.  There are 16 lessons per grade level.  

Math for the Gifted Student published by FlashKids
Most mathematics workbooks simply focus on practice practice practice.  There are enough of those worksheets online.  This book focuses on problem solving.  Its full of word problems and math puzzles, think Sudoku, but grade level appropriate.  It is 200 pages, with an answer key in the back, of full color graphics.  I was able to purchase the appropriate grade level for my children.  

When I first became a teacher one of my mentors gave me this book in mimeograph form.  I spent a lot of time trying to copy it and finally gave up and purchased a newer version of the book.  This is a content rich book that packs a lot of punch, the lessons build on each other starting with analogies, finishing shapes, syllogism, if/then statements, and inferences.  My only complaint is that there aren't more levels of this book.

Mind Benders (logic)

Balance Benders

Making Connections
Content rich stories full of comprehension practice

Reading Detective
Great workbook that focuses on inferences and finding evidence in stories.

Programming is all done online with codeacademy.  We will focus on Scratch, C++ then Python, in that order.  There are lots of online resources for using Scratch.  You can also buy this book, Scratch for Teens.  

Scouting - for hands-on activities.  The list of Belt Loops and Badges available for Cub Scouts will usually focus our summer activities.  During the summer I focus on one outing per week, 2 hours of homework each day (during nap time) and usually science experiments or building projects once a week.  Gotta earn those Belt Loops!

I am always looking for more great reading comprehension and logic books.  If you have any you love - link me.  Its time to start planning our Summer Schooling Curriculum.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Becoming a Mother

‎(For all the mother's (including pregnant ones) in the world, this one is for you! - Author Unknown)

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family." "We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.
That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her
baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming
children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself.
That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks.
I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child.
I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.
I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.

I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.