Is this summer school or summer cleaning?

by caitlynpickens

This year we have all of the students ranging from those who just finished 5th grade to those who are about to enter high school – up to 49 registered students. How many showed up today? Well, 15. And only 7 of those were 7th/8th grade students who we will be teaching to program. That’s okay though, Jory and I will make the most of it.

The day started with Jay (who is usually the social studies teacher) having the students all clean off their own desks. As he handed out paper towel and sprayed their desks with 409, I hear one of my students from last year loudly complaining, “Is this summer school or summer cleaning?”

Every day they have to do about an hour of algebra in the morning for strengthening math skills. They hate it. But that means that we get our students after an hour of sitting still in the classroom, so they are excited to do whatever we have to give them.

We started the day with having them piece together an Iktomi story called Iktomi and the Squirrels. Iktomi, in case you don’t know, is a well-known Lakota legend character. He is a trickster and a shapeshifter, often taking the form of a spider. Iktomi stories generally consist of him getting into some sort of trouble and experiencing the negative consequences as a result.

We cut the story into pieces and had each student draw a fragment of the story out of the center of the table. They went around attempting to piece together the tale, each reading his or her part out loud. When we were finished, we talked about the main parts of a story – setting, characters, introduction, plot, climax, resolution, etc – and then had them attempt to write their own stories in their journals.

Writing their own stories didn’t go as well as we hoped. We spent a lot of time talking about different stories that they could write, different plotlines, but they all seemed hesitant to actually commit anything to their notebook. Jory and I need to brainstorm ways to get them to write their own stories, because I think they will prefer animating their own stories rather than a simple Iktomi tale.

Recess, and replanning:

We spent the afternoon introducing programming and the concept of writing an algorithm. Jory first outlined the idea using a peanut butter sandwich example. Basically, he brought a loaf of bread, peanut butter, a plate, and a knife to the table. He then said “I’m a computer. I want you to direct me to make a peanut butter sandwich.” The kids were all hyper since it was right after lunch. Immediately, someone shouts “Open the bag of bread!” So, Jory does just that: he rips open the bag of bread, and crumbs fly everywhere. Instantly, understanding flashes across all six pairs of eyes. They start to give Jory much more specific, thought-out instructions. In the end, they had a mangled excuse for a sandwich.

Then the students split off into pairs and wrote their own peanut butter sandwich making algorithms. They spent about twenty minutes doing this process. Then, we switched up all the partners. One person read their algorithm out loud to the class, and the other person acted as the computer following the instructions. The sandwiches were better than the first that Jory made, significantly so, but only one was considered edible.

For our last activity of the day, we had the students play Light Bot. Light Bot is an Armor Game, which instantly earned the students’ approval. They spent about half an hour working through the first three main levels. We noticed the most trouble using functions, which will be an important part of Alice, so we have to make sure to clarify what functions are and how they work.

In the evening, Jory and I went out to Sheep Mountain. I was really excited to share it with him. We drove all the way out there and trekked to the edge and then just laid there and enjoyed the air. It was amazing. On our way back out, though, we saw a *huge* snake crossing the road, which makes me super nervous to walk back out into the tall grasses again.

We stopped at Sharp’s Corner, the gas station, to grab some frozen groceries on the way back in, since we haven’t had access to anything other than a microwave for cooking. I was really sick (from traveling perhaps?) and ended up just taking some anti-nausea medicine that we found in a first-aid kit and going to bed.