Friday, May 18, 2018

How to Code a Sandcastle

Title: How to Code a Sandcastle 
Author: Josh Funk 
Illustrator: Sara Palacios 
Publisher: Viking/Penguin 
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

What I Think: I'm so excited to use this when we celebrate Hour of Code next year! Our district has been doing Hour of Code districtwide for about five years and next year we have plans to expand this and integrate coding experiences throughout the year. I love how How to Build a Robot helps us think about coding outside of computers. While I sometimes work with the code on my blog, I don't have as much experience with coding that lets me see how coding can be part of other parts of my day. But this book helps me see how I can start looking for times when I can code my day and it also gives me the opportunity to think about this with students. 
     At the end of the book, you can read Pearl and Pascal's Guide to Coding where they explain code, a sequence, a loop, and an if-then-else. I've been thinking a lot about teaching students advocacy. From as simple as, if you aren't sure about something, raise your hand to ask a question, we could talk about if-then-else. I love this! Students could come up with different scenarios and think through what they could do in those situations. You could brainstorm as a group and then ask students to write their own if-then-else scenarios. Sometimes this explicit discussion of what to do in different situations helps students know what options they have in different situations. This is kind of silly but here's an example. When my 7-year-old runs to the car ahead of me and tries to open the door before I've unlocked it, he used to pull and pull and pull on the door handle to get the door open. Finally, I told him, IF he gets to the car and tries to open the door and it's still locked, THEN he should look into the passenger side window and wave at me so to remind me to unlock the door. It worked like a charm. All I had to do was explain to him what I wanted him to do instead of what he was doing. Again, this could definitely work in a school context. Students could brainstorm what to do if: they have to go to the bathroom, need a drink of water, don't understand a math problem, need help spelling a word, etc. Again, this is perfect for discussing any kind of strategies we want students to be aware of IF they encounter a certain situation. 
     As a mentor text, How to Code a Sandcastle also offers a perfect opportunity to look at problems in a story. As students stretch their stories out more, they can start to think about how stories have some kind of problem or conflict that the main character has to work through. Pearl and Pascal encounter four small problems that they have to solve in the story. It's great to pay attention to this as a reader because it helps us understand and retell a story but it's also important to pay attention to as a writer because many stories have a problem or conflict. Once readers notice that this story has a problem, they can start to look for the problem in other stories and make connections in this way while also or before thinking about the problem in their own stories.
Snatch of Text:
"But today, I've got the perfect plan. I've brought my trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal.

He'll do whatever I tell him - as long as I tell him CODE. It's not a secret code - it's special instructions that computers understand."  
Writing Prompt: Write a code for something in your own life. You can write out the steps, identify a loop, or even write an if-then-else code.

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