Coding is something that is rapidly joining the Australian Curriculum and has already been encouraged to use in the classroom.  We had a PD at our school about it recently and I had to present some ideas to get teachers and students started.  It's something new in education, but has been around in the real world for a lot longer.  I'll outline some base points and provide examples of easy to use apps, websites and activities!

What is Coding?

Basically it is the language that the computer speaks!  It is a list of commands and tasks that you tell a computer to complete.  (A good analogy is pushing the buttons on a microwave to cook/heat your food a certain way, or how you tell a character in a video game to do certain things.)


A friend that went to a Coding PD informed us that the big push is to become familiar with the vocabulary that is commonly used when coding. has a great Glossary that is simplified and with meanings we can understand.

Lesson Ideas without Technology

— Cristina Popescu (@Angelinointexas) February 9, 2015
Before you dive into using apps and websites and get coding, try using lesson activities without technology first.  This provides a hands on experience and a chance for everyone to think outside of the box.

At they have Unplugged Lessons designed specifically for this!  Great for all ages, very well laid out for easy reading, extra resources and, best of all, planned out for you!

This is, personally, a huge favourite of mine!  There are TONS and TONS of resources, activities and  games that the students actually really enjoy!

You don't have to sign up to use the website, but I highly recommend it.  Plus, why wouldn't you if it's FREE?

This is the teacher dashboard/home page.  I like that you can track to see how each individual student is doing, but I haven't pushed that much lately.  There are tons of lesson plans and resources, courses to do with the class, inspiring videos and more!  (The Professional Development is for United States, but it's becoming more worldwide everyday.  Hopefully we get some more virtual PDs or they come to Australia!)

The student games are perfect for ANY kid!  (My class is still stuck on Minecraft so they love that course.)  These are all coding courses, not games. I love these courses because they're encourage the "Trial and Error" method of problem solving.  They surprise themselves and get so excited when they get to do it.

Other Websites - This website focuses on a lot of programs that include HTML, CSS and more.  This is more for your upper grades, but my Year 4s are very enthusiastic about creating their own website one day! It's free for some course, but can require an upgrade at one point.  (I might just do this for my own benefit.) - This has great reviews, but it costs money after a free trial.  Similar to Code Academy and more advance for upper years. - GREAT site for those who want their students to have and run their own blog!  It's kid-friendly when building.  It's more for sharing your writing and such in a blog format, but I've seen them used to help promote writing in the classroom with positive results!

Coding Apps

CodeQuest is an app we've used in our class to help go over HTML and CSS.  It talks about each part, how they're written and what each code is used for.  (Kids can make their own mock up website when they reach the final level.)

LightBot is FABULOUS! This is the most popular and easy to use in my class.  We have wonderful teamwork results and the kids are really improving their problem solving skills.  Great way to introduce the programming vocabulary.

Scratch Jr is a great app that allows storytelling through coding.  I like to integrate this with retelling stories in literacy!

Other Coding Resources

Here are several other resources for you to check out!

Robots - Our school is getting a couple of these robots.  You create a program in the Edware app and download it to your Edison robot.  Then what your robot go! GREAT hands on resource.  It does cost money, but its about $60AUD (from what our coordinator told me) and I'd like to think that's affordable if you want to get one for your class.  (FREE international shipping!)


DK Computer Coding Games is a great reference book for when I want to venture out into making games on Hopscotch app.  I got Hello Ruby as an introduction to each lesson.


Goes with the DK Computer Coding book, but in video format.  (This is different than the book I purchased above.)
There's TONS of information out there, but I hope this was beneficial for you! Are you planning to get coding in your classroom now?
I'll start with the end in mind. 

Be a warrior for the kids you work with.

Sharing resources is great, don't get me wrong - but is that being collaborative? 

My current school leadership is very supportive of working collaboratively and we have designated planning times, allocated time to plan, support for team mentors, time for SIT (School Improvement Team) to meet, dedicated staff meetings to support all staff. PLC (Professional Learning Community) to work on curriculum, Team Mentors who timetable planning in our meetings and as the Leading Teacher for Mathematics and Digital Technology I get to meet with my Principal once a week, I am currently released to do that. 

Our Professional Learning is geared toward making improvements and supporting staff. 

Our school community is lucky. give a portion of what you do to someone without commitment or follow through when two or more people work together to complete a shared project with clear shared goals when you are equal partners working from the beginning to the end together with a high motivation to succeed together very similar to cooperation the opposite of competition

We talk about planning with other teachers all the time. 

We get together with planning partners, in teams, in a staff groups and in teams to work on a curriculum focus.

We say our teams have the same focus - we say our schools are working in the same direction as our curriculum suggests - we say we are working toward a common approach. 

We actually believe this is what we do. 

We are time poor and in one hour a week we cannot be collaborative from start to finish, so we end up dividing tasks into components and working on segments and then sharing. 

This is not wrong - it is the reality of our day, week, term, year!

We have planning days or planning mornings and we work so hard to get whet we get done, we cannot truly be collaborative in the true sense of the word. 

We try to work together, we try to put together planning documents and in the end we share!

In our time poor week we need to strive to be collaborative.

Start small - work closely with one teacher.

In our teams - most of us call these Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) we need to have scheduled planning time - not just sharing time.

Schools need to allocate time release for planning partners to plan - I'm lucky as my school does.

We can make connections outside our school to see what others do and how we can strive to do better. These two lovely ladies, with me in the above photo (I'm in the middle), teach in two different towns and we catch up when we can and it is always interesting to see how other schools manage workloads and curriculum

Through instagram I have met these lovelies - and as we widen our network we begin to understand that every school faces the same issues and we are all working towards being a better teacher and being the best we can be.

Check out other blogs - pinterest, instagram (any social media) are full of ideas that can be used to motivate your planning. 

This blog and our facebook are great motivators too!

We need to evaluate what we do - what we deliver and give feedback about our planning. 

Again - I am lucky as I team teach with a great teacher - Stacey.
We can talk about what we do, re assess on the run and change our planning to suit our kids.
Stacey and I motivate each other to look new things together  - this is our our third year and our second team teaching. 
We have built our knowledge around Six Traits Plus One, Literature Circles, Reciprocal Reading, Words Their Way, Daily 5, Inquiry v Investigation, Science Topics, Design Tech and Digital Technology - to name a few!!!!!

It is exhausting to collaborate but is also amazing!
Take the plunge and be a warrior for the kids you work with.
Book Week 2016 is nearly here! Book Week is one of my favourite school events on the calendar, and this year I'm the Book Week Coordinator at my school. I thought I'd share some ideas and activities for Book Week.

Hi, it's Jem from Jem's Bright Buttons. I love books; that's my classroom bookshelf in the picture above - and that's not the whole bookshelf! Book Week is a great opportunity to celebrate reading! I think it's really important that all students are exposed to lots of opportunities to read, explore books and other texts, and respond to them.

The Book of the Year is announced on the third Friday in August, and Children's Book Week starts the following day. This year Book Week is Saturday 20th August to Friday 26th August. The theme this year is:

It's a great theme with lots of possibilities.

At my school we will be having a Book Parade on the Monday morning. All staff and students are invited to dress up as a character from a book (we accept pretty much everything though!). This year, because it's close to the Olympics, and because we are holding it in the first week of our Inquiry on the Earth & Space Science curriculum, we will be encouraging students to dress up as sportspeople or as something to do with space. We sit together outside (if the weather is ok), play fun music, and each grade parades around in a circle to show off their wonderful costumes. It's a very well supported event! And it's so much fun!!

As the Book Week coordinator at my school I share a list of possible activities for teachers to complete in their literacy times during Book Week. This means that teachers choose what will suit their students, and it can be less disruptive to an already very full curriculum. Below are some of my suggestions/ideas. Some of the ideas link to the theme, but I also think Book Week is just a fantastic opportunity to celebrate literature and reading in any way possible.

  • Mystery readers – invite some parent volunteers to come into your classroom at an appropriate time to read their favourite book, or a book you’ve suggested, to the class
  • Book Swap – run an ‘in-class’ Book Swap. Students bring in some books they no longer want (with parents permission), and swap their books for others that have been brought in
  • Read Dreamtime stories and connect the stories to the Australian land (linking with the theme)
  • Students could make their own mini story books and read them to students in a different class (emphasising that everyone is an author)
  • Read a different shortlisted book to your class every day (or one of your favourite books every day). Shortlisted books can be found here
  • Link literature and your Inquiry/theme/topic by reading and exploring books about the Inquiry/theme/topic
  • Read back through previous award winners or shortlisted books (can be found here); read well-known stories by Australian authors
  • Ask students to draw the front cover of their favourite book and make a display
  • Make an anchor chart of different ways we read and different things we read (read the text, read the pictures, retell the story; read books, magazines, newspapers, catalogues, websites, games, etc.)
  • Ask students to bring in a book that their parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent loves, and share them with the class
  • Play ‘Celebrity Heads’ with well-known book characters
  • Get students to write ‘Who am I?’ clues for their favourite book characters
  • Have groups of students practice and perform well-known stories, or readers theatre activities
  • Have an extra ‘independent reading’ time every day during Book Week for students to enjoy books; allow them to pick different books, or different text types; spend some time reading and sharing books from the school library
  • Have an in-class reading challenge – who can read the most books in the week? Who can read the widest variety of texts? Who can read to the most number of people?
  • Hold a class discussion about stories: what are they? Where do they come from? How do you know if they’re true stories? Are there different types of stories? What do stories tell us? How do we tell stories?
  • Write a rhyming poem after reading Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas (find a YouTube video of the story here)
  • Make a comic strip to retell a favourite story, a Dreamtime story, an Australian story, a fairy tale, etc.
  • Use toys or paper puppets to construct a scene from a favourite story, photograph the scene, print the photo, and have students write about what happened before the scene and what will happen next
  • Ask students to write a story about Australia
  • Look at wordless books (like Window or Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker) and have students tell the story in their own words
  • Write a journey story about visiting somewhere in Australia
  • Complete the My Dead Bunny word search (find it here)
  • Film/photograph any of these activities and share them on Seesaw or ClassDojo, or another parent communication tool, like your school newsletter

You might like to do some directed drawings of Aussie animals like Sheri from Early Years with Sheri did with her class:

For some other great ideas check out these three posts from The Book Chook: Focus on Storytelling, Educational Activities, and Resources.

I hope these ideas might spark some fun, enjoyment and love of literature and reading during Book Week 2016!! I'm definitely looking forward to coming up with my costume, and making our reading lessons for the week all about the love of literature.

Thanks for reading!

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