Giving Dash Some Markers: Exploring Coding Options For ALL Students

This week is the Hour of Code. In the past couple of years, I’ve participated in various ways with my students, and as I mentioned in a recent blog post, I wanted to do so again this year. When it comes to coding in the classroom, I’m constantly thinking about how to make it accessible to all students. I believe in the value of a challenge, but sometimes I wonder if coding can be too challenging for some students, and as such, cause frustration. This is something that I don’t want. I couldn’t help but think of a tweet from yesterday by Doug Robertson: a teacher in Oregon.

As I saw last week with Dash and Dot, coding is definitely possible in Kindergarten. I started to think though about those students that weren’t getting as involved or were struggling when they did. What might they need to meet with success?

This is when I thought of an idea that my teaching partner shared with me. She told me that she saw a picture on the Wonder Workshop Website of Dash holding a marker and drawing on a piece of paper. Many of our students love to draw, and some are interested in exploring the elements of design, but struggle with using some of the more common art tools in the classroom (e.g., crayons, markers, and paintbrushes). All of our students love technology though, so what if we paired art and technology? I couldn’t quite figure out how to make Dash’s attachment work, but I could figure out how to use markers, tape, and paper, so we made do with my own modified version.

This afternoon, interested students helped me tape three markers onto Dash — one on each side — and cover the floor with some butcher paper. We then used the Path app to make Dash move and create pictures on the paper. I decided to facilitate the learning at first, but then I stepped back, and the students negotiated sharing the iPad and taking turns drawing the various types of lines and problem solving when Dash got stuck.

It was great listening in as students talked about different types and lengths of lines and various shapes that they could make with the robot. After I compared the image on the screen with the one on the paper, students also started to do the same. The conversations coming from the coders on the carpet, drew over other students that were eager to learn how to make Dash draw. Reluctant artists got excited to create art using technology, and all students met with some coding success!

How do you engage struggling coders with coding? How do your students respond to these various options? I’d love to hear about different things that you do!


4 thoughts on “Giving Dash Some Markers: Exploring Coding Options For ALL Students

    • Great idea, Doug! I wish that I saw this comment before I sent home the chalk drawings from today. I could argue that “process matters more than product,” but hey, photographs of the final product would be great! 🙂


  1. Hi Aviva. I love how you connected your new robots, hour of code, and art all together.  This is definitely a Universal Designs for Learning type of activity, allowing for entry at all sorts of levels. It reminds me of how we are often better skaters when we are playing hockey than when we are simply focused on skating. The coding here isn’t the focus and yet it develops in the context of the fun to make Dash move, draw, and create. Awesome.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sean, and the very kind words. I love thinking of ways to focus on the curriculum expectations/areas, while also helping students learn how to code. Linking these areas of focus with student interests is also important to me, as this inspires the students to want to engage in this learning experience. I’d love to hear ways that others link coding with various subject areas.


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