It’s been over a year since we launched #CubeletsChat, our blog and email series for teachers by teachers. Every topic we write about comes from a question or conversation with an educator like you. Whether we’re highlighting some great resources for your sub binder or helping you dive deeper into the computational thinking skills that Cubelets can teach, #CubeletsChat is specifically for you. Whether you’re new to the Cubelets community or are an adept looking for next steps with Cubelets, hopefully you’ll find a couple articles that meet your needs along your Cubelets journey. For the Beginners: It’s easy to be intimidated by Cubelets when you first pull them out of the box. After all, they’re blocks…that teach computational thinking…but how? Continue reading
We all miss a couple days of school, whether it’s for professional development, sick days, or personal time, and that means we need to be prepared for a substitute to take over for a day. It’s a tough balance between keeping it light, yet academic. We can’t leave lessons that are too complex, otherwise we’ll need to reteach them when we return to the classroom anyway. Some years, our students can comfortably run the class themselves, continuing their unit of study following the structures we’ve practiced so well together, but other years, our substitutes need to do a lot of heavy lifting! That’s where the Cubelets lesson plans come in. If you’re saving Cubelets for a rainy day (or a sick day), keep a copy of the Meet Your Cubelets lesson plans in your sub binder. If you really love your sub, print out these #CubeletsChat blog posts about student protocols and tactile coding too, to give them all the tools they need to succeed. Continue reading
While having Cubelets for a whole class is the dream, a single group of Cubelets can be just as effective of a teaching tool. Because the Curiosity Set and Discovery Set are small, they are sometimes overlooked when teachers plan for their classrooms. But the size of the Curiosity and Discovery Sets can actually be an asset. Not only do they give more flexibility to smaller budgets (you can get five Curiosity Sets or nine Discovery Sets for less than one Mini Makers Pack), their sleek design and creative internal packaging are actually extremely helpful in keeping track of these valuable computer science tools. So how do the Curiosity and Discovery Sets serve you in the classroom? Continue reading
Every teacher has their own brand of first week of school activities. Some teachers start with a blank and empty classroom, then construct the space collaboratively with students. Other teachers spend the time playing fun ice breakers and learning names, while still others hop straight into the curriculum. I fall on another spot on that spectrum. My favorite way to start the school year is to use the classroom routines and protocols that I want students to be able to use later in the year as the structure for getting to know each other. This means learning Turn’n’Talk as a means of short interviews, or practicing turning in writing assignments after writing Introduce-Your-Classmate narratives. Continue reading
Depending on which combination of Cubelets you own, you may have different questions about how to store and manage your Cubelets. Our Education Packs, for instance, arrive in plastic tubs that each contain multiple groups’ worth of Cubelets. Some schools ordered many Cubelets TWELVEs (replaced by the Curiosity Set in 2019), which arrive in one cardboard box per student group, but the cardboard box requires Cubelets to be stacked on top of each other, so it’s hard to quickly scan to see if the Cubelets have all been returned to their proper places. So let’s talk about how you might manage the storage of your Cubelets.
Cubelets Containers: Plastic “Education Tubs”First and foremost, many schools and teachers come back asking for our Cubelets Containers (the same plastic tubs that all Education Packs ship in). To make quick-scan accountability easier, they’ll print out a Packing Reference Guide and tape it to the inside cover of each Cubelets Container: Continue reading
While many people think about back-to-school as taking place in September, most educators have already been hard at work by then, preparing lessons, taking inventory of supplies, and putting the finishing touches on their classroom designs. Adding a new STEM tool, like Cubelets, to an already jam-packed year can seem like a tall order. So, we sat down with Educational Designer Emily Eissenberg to get her insider perspective on this crucial period, and learn all of her best tips for integrating little robots into the classroom year-round.
Tell us a little bit about the classrooms you used to teach in. What grades have you worked with? Any subjects you specialized in?I taught fourth-grade (every subject) and then became the district K-6 science content specialist, so science is my gig. I’m a nerd for all things education, though, so I’ve designed curriculum for all subjects and coached teachers in every content area!
What was your favorite part of getting ready for a new school year? Were there any tools you found particularly helpful during this process?I loved gearing up for the “classroom culture” aspect of a new school year. I really stand by the motto, “Go slow to go fast,” so I specifically designed my first few weeks of school to be focused on routines and protocols that I wanted to use consistently throughout the year, but anchored them in get-to-know-you content. My favorite protocols are from Making Thinking Visible [by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison] and Make Just One Change [by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana], and our classroom routines flexed with each year’s schedule, classroom layout, and executive functioning needs. Continue reading
Cubelets are at their most effective when all students are engaged and continuing to build their skill sets. However, as with any tool, some students will pick it up quickly, and others may need extra help. When teaching with Cubelets, it’s helpful to use the following rules of thumb about interventions and extensions for your robot challenges.
InterventionsFirst and foremost, to help students who struggle with designing effective robots, start by limiting the number of Cubelets they have access to at the beginning of the design challenge. If students only have n+1 Cubelet (one more Cubelet than they need to successfully build their challenge), they will be better able to focus on the challenge at hand. Continue reading
Classroom management is well-served by practiced routines. I’ve already written down some of my best tips in an earlier #CubeletsChat post, but even more questions about supporting well-managed Cubelets classrooms have poured in. We could spend an entire college course talking about student routines. They improve classroom management, increase student respect for peers and classroom materials, and there’s the importance of students practicing responsibility. But you know all of that, so we’re going to cut to the chase. When you are deciding which routines make sense for your Cubelets classroom, remember the greatest asset we have in our classrooms is our students. Students can accomplish an astonishing amount of work in very little time (partially because there’s just so many of them!). With a short conversation, a lot of practice, and regular reinforcement, students of all ages can responsibly gather materials, report questions or problems to you, and return materials to their proper home. To establish routines, keep three steps in mind:
- Know what routines need to be established. These can be created by the teacher or the students, but routines should be intentional.
- Plan time to practice new routines. When it comes to practicing routines, accept nothing less than perfect and make sure students can get it right more than once in a row!
- Be ready to reinforce routines. You know it, I know it, we all know there are bad-routine days: field trips, upcoming school breaks, full moons. Routines that are clearly defined are easier to practice.
Our Cubelets Lesson Plans all use a common format. This format is our version of an Inquiry Framework. We intentionally modified this framework from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to represent how student mindsets change throughout the learning process. At the beginning of a lesson or unit, students are filled with wonder and excitement. Ideally, they’re asking tons of questions and intuitively predicting the solutions based on their background experiences. Then, students engage in the core learning experience. This is the investigation or engineering design challenge that will gently lead students to answers (and often many more questions!). Finally, students try to explain their new learning in their own words. They reference background knowledge from prior to the lesson as well as new information they gathered during the investigation or design process. Students share their explanations with each other and use their classmates as sounding boards to tweak and refine their understanding. Sometimes they even go back to investigate or redesign again! The very last step is less of a student mindset and more of an educator mindset. Taking the time to accurately gather formative data throughout a unit helps teachers more quickly identify students’ synthetic models and adjust student groups to better address common questions. This Inquiry Framework is most valuable because it can easily be translated into inquiry investigations or into guided release of responsibility lessons. It can stretch to the length of an entire unit or squeeze everything into one individual lesson. Its flexibility is what makes it so useful. Every teacher, in every subject, can see themselves in our framework and also identify places to grow professionally. Continue reading
One of the things I love about my role at Modular Robotics is collaborating with educators all around the world. And you know what? We all run our classrooms a little differently! This variance makes it extra tricky for me to write content that meets everyone’s needs, so that’s what this blog post is all about. Let’s review some of the most common classroom structures where I find Cubelets: Continue reading