December in the Lab

The main focus during December in the Computer Lab was the Hour of Code though for most classes this was more than an hour. What did each grade do? Here’s a little peek into the action.


Kindergarten students spent some time on the Planet Smeeborg helping the fuzzFamily solve mazes using the Kodable app on iPads and Android tablets.

1st  Grade

1st Grade also used iPads and Android tablets to solve levels in The Foos app. They loved building with the Builder and growing and shrinking as the Ninja.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade also did some activities about Christmas. Kindergarten heard Jan Brett’s story, The Gingerbread Baby, and then they decorated their own Gingerbread person with a few guidelines: the eyes on their Gingerbread person were to have eyes the same color as their eyes, the number of buttons were to represent their age and were triangles if the student was a boy and hearts if the student was a girl. 1st Grade heard the story of the Nativity and then drew their own Nativity scenes.

2nd Grade

2nd Grade also used tablets and did some block-based coding in the ScratchJr. app. They first learned how to make characters move using a guided activity to drive a car (or other vehicle) across the screen. Then they learned how to make characters talk, both with speech bubbles and using their own voices. Finally, they created ScratchJr. Christmas cards and here are some examples:

If you’re interested in what their “code” looked like, check it out:

 3rd & 4th Grades

Both 3rd & 4th Graders solved levels and then created their own Minecraft level (if they got that far) in the Minecraft Tutorial. Keep an eye on their portfolios once school starts back up in January because they will be updating their experience and sharing their created Minecraft adventures.

5th Grade

5th Grade also used a tutorial but they did the Star Wars JavaScript tutorial including creating their own Star Wars game at the end. Check out Quarter 2 on the 5th Grade’s Google Sites after we’re back in school in January for reflections on the Hour of Code and links to their Star Wars games.

6th Grade

6th Grade started off the month doing some research on Computing Pioneers and Innovators. They will be finishing up some trading cards for these in January which will be shared on this blog and on the students’ Google Sites. 6th Grade then spent their Hour of Code time debugging problem programs in Scratch and documenting what they did using Google Slides. They will be sharing the process on their Google Sites in January.

In addition to debugging and documenting, each time a bug was solved a bug was drawn on the whiteboard.

7th Grade

7th Grade also started out the month doing research on Computing Pioneers and Innovators. They, too, will be creating trading cards and sharing these in January. The Hour of Code this year was all about moving from block-based coding into text-based coding. 7th Grade used a tutorial from Khan Academy and did some drawing with code using JavaScript. They will be documenting this process and sharing their final project in January on their Google Sites.

8th Grade

8th Grade also moved into text-based coding this year during the Hour of Code. They learned some Python using Trinket. They will be finishing up their posts about this in January once we are back in school and will be sharing their Python creations on their Google Sites.

The Hour of Code was just a kick-off to a larger Computer Science unit that classes will be doing during the 2nd semester.

Welcome to the 2015-16 School Year

Yes, we’re back for another year! All classes have been into the Computer Lab at least once and most have been in at least twice. We start off the year with some procedures and guidelines and then jump into some beginning of the year items. Here’s what we’ve done so far this year:


International Dot Day – Kindergarten has heard the story The Dot and are working on their very own dot pictures which we are going to bring to life using the Quiver app.

1st Grade:

1st grade just finished their self-portraits for this year and will be sharing them in a collaborative Google Slides presentation soon.

2nd Grade:

2nd grade has finished their self-portraits for the year and will be sharing them along with some writing soon.

3rd Grade:

Our 3rd graders will be working on self-portraits next week since they have only been to the lab once so far due to the Labor Day holiday and the Fall Fundraiser kickoff this week.

4th Grade:

4th grade completed the Technology Survey for the year and is working on a spreadsheet that they will use for the year to track their keyboarding speed. This is a big task because they need to work with multiple tabs on the browser along with an Excel spreadsheet.

5th Grade:

5th grade also completed our beginning of the year technology survey and is working on their beginning of the year keyboarding speed tests.

6th Grade:

6th grade has also completed the beginning of the year technology survey and is working on their beginning of the year keyboarding speed tests. They have also been introduced to Google Classroom which will be used for turning in work in both the Computer Lab and their Language Arts class this year.

7th Grade:

7th grade has also completed the beginning of the year technology survey and their beginning of the year keyboarding speed tests. They have also been introduced to Google Classroom which will be used for turning in work in both the Computer Lab and their Language Arts class this year.

8th Grade:

8th grade has also completed the beginning of the year technology survey and their beginning of the year keyboarding speed tests. They have also been introduced to Google Classroom which will be used for turning in work in both the Computer Lab and their Language Arts class this year.

Speaking of the Technology Survey, did you know:

  • 71% of St. Martin’s 4th-8th grade students own a cell phone
  • Only 5% of St. Martin’s 4th-8th graders don’t have access to / or don’t use some kind of gaming system
  • The most popular use of the Internet outside of school is for playing games followed closely by watching videos

Don’t forget that you can check the Computer Lab Wiki for more details on what’s happening in St. Martin’s Computer Lab.

Scratch (& more) in 7th Grade

Shapes in Scratch

7th grade was part of the “let’s draw shapes in Scratch” crowd this year, too! Of course, they got less direction in how to calculate angles, etc. and had to go a bit further than just drawing some shapes. Rather than just designating which keys would draw specific shapes, 7th grade was required to ask the user which shape should be drawn or how many sides a shape should have and then they would draw the shape. The exceptions to this were the circle and some kind of “surprise” shape that they wanted to draw that wouldn’t follow the rules of a typical polygon. 7th also loves to make Scratch projects their own and most of them drew their own backgrounds and/or their own sprites and most used random numbers to generate the colors for the shapes that are drawn.

6 Word Memoirs

To end out the year, 7th grade each created an illustrated a 6 word memoir for their 7th grade year. The images they chose needed to be linked to their source and were to enhance the message of their memoir.

11-12 Computer Lab News: Week Ending 09/16

Thanks to the parents who stopped by the Computer Lab during Back to School Night. It was nice to chat with you. Here’s what we’ve been up to this week in the lab:

8th Grade: The 8th graders are continuing to work collaboratively on presentations about the Computer Lab Rules. They are working together in Google Documents writing scripts, raps and assigning tasks for their presentations. They will be actually giving their presentations next week.

7th Grade: To introduce MLA Formatting and review how to format a document in Microsoft Word, 7th Grade is working on a writing assignment that has them using correct formatting and their imaginations. They are describing what a day would be like if they woke up to no electronic technology – no TV, no car, no iPod, no Internet, etc. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that if you were 12 or 13?

6th Grade: 6th Grade is also learning about MLA Formatting and setting up proper formatting in Microsoft Word. They are picking a theme song and writing a paragraph or two to explain why that song is their theme song for this school year.

5th Grade: 5th Grade was read The Important Book and talked about the format of the information in the book. They are currently creating self-portraits in Paint and will then write their own important information about themselves in Microsoft Word. 5th Grade will also learn about MLA formatting and will use this formatting for their document.

4th Grade: 4th Grade is in the middle of an All About Me project where they are creating a self-portait using Paint and then researching information about their names and they day they were born. They will be putting their portrait and the research information together into a Microsoft Word document using an MLA format.

3rd Grade: 3rd Grade finished up their self-portraits in KidPix and then spent some time exploring Jumpstart 3rd Grade. Jumpstart 3rd Grade is educational software that students will use throughout the year when they finish assignments early.

2nd Grade: 2nd Grade finished their self-portraits in KidPix and spent some time in Jumpstart 2nd Grade which is an educational software program that they will use throughout the year. They have started creating a Microsoft Word document that includes their self-portrait and an acrostic poem they are writing about themselves. They are learning how to change fonts and font sizes and how to add pictures to a Word document.

1st Grade: 1st Graders worked on their self-portraits in KidPix. When they were done with that, they used Jumpstart 1st Grade which is an educational software program they will be using throughout the year.

Kindergarten: Did you know that September 15th is International Dot Day? Over 13,000 students world-wide participated in this event and our Kindergarten class was part of it too. They listened to Peter Reynold’s Book, The Dot, and then learned how to draw dots in KidPix. Students then created their very own dot pictures in KidPix and signed them which is tough to do with a mouse! If you came into the Computer Lab during Back To School Night, you saw these on display but if you missed them, here are Kindergartens’ dots!

Welcome to the 2011-2012 School Year

Cute BeeThe first week of school is done and the Computer Lab was already buzzing with activity. All grades reviewed the Computer Lab Rules and then had a little time to actually do something on the computers too!

Kindergarten: Kindergarten students are always so excited to come to Computer class. We spent some time talking about how to hold a mouse and played on some web sites to practice moving the house and clicking the mouse.

1st Grade: 1st Grade also reviewed how to hold the mouse and click and double-click and played a few mouse games too!

Do you want to play some mouse games yourself? Try your hand at the MiniMouse Games.

2nd & 3rd Grade: After the rules review, 2nd & 3rd graders jumped in to KidPix and started drawing their self-portraits. These should be done and on display in the Computer Lab for Back To School night.

4th-8th Grade: These grades spent time reviewing not only the rules but the Online Responsible Use Contract also. This is due back this week. If your child did not bring one home for you to sign or review, you can print one to sign and return. Students in these grades also took an Internet Usage Survey and I will be sharing the results of this at a Parent Internet Safety Night and on this blog. 8th Grade didn’t spend as much time talking about the rules because they are hard at work on their first assignment which is to create group presentations to tell me what each of the rules should look like in the Computer Lab. They have heard the rules every year so now it’s their turn to teach them!

I will be sharing completed work in our Bizzy Bee Scrapbook and you can see more details about what each class has been doing on the Computer Lab Wiki – just click on the beehive for your child’s grade. Don’t forget to stop by the Computer Lab during Back-to-School Night if you have a Kindergarten through 5th Grade student. I’d be happy to show you where your child sits in the lab and talk to you about what we have planned for the year.

Welcome to the 2010-2011 School Year

Wow, September is almost over and this is the first chance that I have had to update this blog. We’re already busy in the computer lab and all grades have completed their first project of the year in honor of International Dot Day!

Dot Day 2010

After enjoying the book, The Dot, all students created their own dot (or dots). Dot Galleries for Kindergarten through 4th Grade are now available on the Computer Lab Wiki – you can view them individually by going to the Techno Star Scrapbook page and selecting each grade. The galleries for 5th-8th grades will be added soon!

In addition to celebrating International Dot Day, students have also been learning and doing other things in the lab:

  • Kindergarten & 1st Grade have done some mouse exercises to learn or practice mouse skills
  • Kindergarten through 5th Grade have drawn (or are drawing) self-portraits using KidPix or Paint.
  • Middle School is busy reviewing how to format Book Reports and Science Labs and how to create Crossword Puzzles in Excel.

Starting in October, 4th through 8th Grades will be getting their very own class blogs where they will be updating what is happening in the lab themselves!

Computer Lab News 7th Grade: Weeks 30-End of Year

The end of the year was busy and productive for 7th Grade. I hope that they learned a lot this year in computers and will continue to practice their keyboarding skills over the summer. Take some time to watch your 7th Grader when they are using the computer to see if they’re using the correct technique when they are typing – be it gaming, IMing or whatever. Encourage them to always use correct techniques and this will become second nature to them. As an incentive, if the class is typing at a speed of 40WPM or higher with good technique there will not be a need for specific keyboarding classes next year!

For Earth Day, 7th Grade watched and then discussed the presentation, The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. As a follow-up to this presentation, each 7th Grade student created original artwork and then created a ribbon piece on the PlanetFesto ribbon to celebrate the reasons they love the earth and to commit to doing something to help perserve the earth.

7th Grade also viewed the 8th Grade Think Before You Post presentations and voted for their favorites in 3 different categories. The winning 8th Grade students were presented with awards at their Graduation Breakfast. 7th Grade also spent some time correcting errors in three poems about Spell Checkers. Often we all rely too much on the spell check feature in Microsoft Word and these poems point out that this tool will not catch every error you make in something you write. Try these yourself? Can you find all the errors?

The last project completed by 7th Grade was a careers project. This began with the 7th Grade running their own virtual business using Coolmath’s Lemonade Stand Game and tracking their results. We then discussed running a business and their ideas about future careers. They then used the online tool Drive of Your Life to identify career areas that might interest them based on answers to a series of questions. This site is based in Indiana so some of the salary information isn’t correct for California but it does give the students ideas about how salaries of different jobs relate and it’s a fun way to explore careers. Using Drive of Your Life they were required to explore at least 6 possible careers that had to include at least three which required 4 years or more of college plus one that required at least some education or training after high school plus at least one that wasn’t on their recommended list. As they completed this drive they completed some activities using Word to keep track of the careers they were choosing and what their choices meant. After they had completed Drive of Your Life, each student created a single slide in PowerPoint with the career of their choice. They recorded information about this career including: Education Required, Salary Expectations, Working Conditions, What you actually do on the job and Why they chose that career. These were then combined into one presentation:

It may seem rather early to think about careers in 7th Grade since they are only 13 years old but their grades, attitudes, work ethic, etc. in 8th Grade will have a major impact on the choices they will have for high school and that can impact where they will be able to go to college.  Even though most of the 7th Graders will probably end up changing their minds about their careers more than once before they complete college, it’s definitely not too early to start thinking about what they need to do in school to prepare themselves for whatever career they eventually choose.

The last thing that 7th Grade did for the year was to fill out a survey about the projects and activities they completed this year during computer class and the things that they hope to learn next year. As you can see from the results below, Keyboarding Boot Camp was not a popular activity (DoYL is Drive of Your Life), however at least some of the students (who did vote for it as their least favorite) realized that it was one of the most useful activities they did this year and some even requested that they learn to type better next year!

What were the requests for next year? Here’s a sampling of what was requested:

  • I would like to learn to be a faster, more accurate typer.
  • I would like to learn how to type faster.
  • What I would like to learn in computers next year is how to type perfectly with no mistakes.
  • I would like to learn how to make a website.
  • Less typing and more computer safety.
  • Designing video games or programming stuff and how to build a computer.
  • Making videos would be interesting.

Computer Lab News: Weeks 21-29 – 7th Grade

7th Grade just completed a 12-class Keyboarding Boot Camp. The goal of these classes was to improve keyboarding technique which will in turn improve keyboarding speed. The average increase in speed during the 12 class session was 17.52%. Some 7th Graders have learned extremely bad keyboarding habits and it is a struggle to correct these. Grading for these classes was based on correct technique and not on speed so it was a challenge for those in the class who have bad habits ingrained. I would encourage you to encourage your child to practice keyboarding at home even though these series of lessons are complete. As with anything, the more you practice, the better you get. Your child will only have to type more as they continue with their education and the better they are at touch-typing, the easier this will be. Here are some keyboarding lesson sites they could use at home if you do not have specific keyboarding software on your computer:

  • – Lessons, Graphs to track progress, typing games. This site requires registration and can be ad free for a $5 one-time donation. You can customize the look of your background and some other features.
  • – 27 lessons. This site requires registration.
  • – This site has lessons, games & speed tests. We often use this site in class to test speed.
  • PowerTyping – Simple typing lessons where you can type to music to encourage rhythmic typing. Records your WPM on each lesson and assigns a grade.
  • Sense-Lang – A simple site with lessons starting with the home row. This site also allows you to paste text from anywhere and practice typing using that text. This is a nice feature since it practices real typing rather than just random words or letter combinations.
  • NimbleFingers – This site has online typing tests and a typing program you can download called Word Wacker. This is a free to try program.
  • E-Learning For Kids – May be a little young for most middle schoolers but it is a fun animated course.
  • Dance Mat Typing – Fun Characters and songs to introduce Touch Typing for children 7-11 years old from the BBC. This might be a little young for most middle schoolers but it has fun characters. No speed feedback until all lessons are completed.

As part of these lessons, 7th Grade played various keyboarding games at the end of each class. They enjoyed some of these and may like to play these at home to practice their keyboarding skills:

7th Grade also participated in World Math Day in the Computer Lab on March 3rd. World Math Day is an International event with students from around the world competing against one another in mental math games to try to set a world record for the most correct math answers in a 2 day period – 2 days because the event ran during the time that it was March 4, 2009 anywhere in the world. 7th Grade answered 3,841 questions correctly during World Math Day and each 7th Grader received a participation certificate from this event. Here are just a few statistics from World Math Day:

  • 204 Countries represented
  • 12,647 Cities/Towns participating
  • 38,058 Schools participating
  • 1,952,879 Students participating
  • 452,682,682 Questions correctly answered

Last but not least, the 7th Grade Altered Snowflakes and Poetry presentations are now shared on the Travel Scrapbook on our wiki. Check these out when you get a chance.

Computer Lab News: Weeks 17-20

Wow, it’s February already and here’s what we did in the lab during January!

KINDERGARTEN: Kindergarten worked on learning more letters on the keyboard focusing on the letters “E” through “G” this month. Kindergarten once again concentrated on all things winter and the Winter Wonderland Project. The students watched some of the videos created by other schools involved with this project and they had fun seeing the pictures and singing along to the songs. For their contributions to the project this month, each Kindergarten student created a Penguin Glyph and completed a Penguin Math Book. You can see the finished projects on Kindergarten’s Winter Wonderland page. The book My Brother Loved Snowflakes was read to Kindergarten and they are currently creating their own snowflakes using KidPix in tribute to Wilson Bentley.

1ST GRADE: 1st Grade also spent most of their time this month working on winter things for the Winter Wonderland Project. The students watched some of the videos created by other schools involved with this project and dictated comments to be left for the other schools which were posted on the project wiki. For their contributions to the project this month, each 1st Grade student created a Penguin Glyph and completed a Penguin Math Book. These will be added to 1st Grade’s Winter Wonderland page very soon. 1st Grade also enjoyed the book My Brother Loved Snowflakes and drew their very own snowflakes in KidPix. In addition to the winter projects, 1st Grade also continued to work on their Adventures in Keyboaring completing letters “E” throught “G” this month.

2ND GRADE: The Winter Wonderland Project was also the focus for 2nd Grade this month. They started off the month by reading the Lookybook Penguins Everywhere. Then, they too completed Penguin Glyphs. In addition to just creating the glyph according to the directions, 2nd Grade learned how to rotate items in PowerPoint and to add clipart to their completed glyph. Each 2nd grader was assigned a type of penguin and had to find out how tall the penguin is, how much they weigh and what they eat and add this information to their glyph. You can see the completed glyphs and penguin information on 2nd Grade’s Winter Wonderland page. 2nd Grade is finishing up the Penguin Math Books this coming week and those will be shared once they are complete.

3RD GRADE: 3rd Grade also watched and commented on videos done by other schools in the Winter Wonderland Project and completed Penguin Glyphs. 3rd Grade also reviewed how to rotate items in PowerPoint and how to add clipart to their completed glyph. Each 3rd grader also included information about their assigned type of penguin on their glyph. This will be shared on 3rd Grade’s Winter Wonderland page very soon. 3rd Grade has also joined another collaborative project, The Monster Project. As an introduction to this project, 3rd Grade watched a video about adjectives and listened to the book, Many Luscious Lollipops. After reviewing what an adjective is, 3rd grade then created an Adjective Web about their favorite food.

4TH GRADE: 4th Grade began the new year by checking out who had taken their Christmas Tongue Twister challenges and then they listened to and commented on the December Voices of the World projects from the other schools. St. Martin’s was in charge of the January Voices of the World project and we had fun making our video of the song Make New Friends. You can check it out on our Voices of the World page. We can’t wait to see what the other schools do with this. Since January was a short month due to the winter break some of the schools are still working on this. 4th Grade isn’t involved with the Winter Wonderland Project since this is a K-3 project but they did spend some time working on projects inspired by this project. Wilson Bentley was introduced to 4th Grade through the book Snowflake Bentley. After this was read, 4th Grade used a template in PowerPoint to create a timeline of Bentley’s life and decorated it with appropriate clip art. 4th Grade then used PhotoFiltre to digitally alter Wilson Bentley’s snowflake images in the style of Rick Doble. The cinquain style of poetry was then reviewed and 4th grade created a slide in PowerPoint which contained their snowflake image(s) and a cinquain poem that they wrote about snow or winter or Wilson Bentley. They learned how to record in PowerPoint and they recorded themselves reciting their poem. A show of all of their snowflakes and poems will be coming soon.

5TH GRADE: Ask your 5th Grader about GMT or UTC and they should know what those are and be able to tell you the difference between California time and GMT. This month in computers was all about time for 5th Grade as they began working on the Time Zone Experiences project. 5th Grade started out the month with an introduction to the project and to Greenwich Mean Time. They were also introduced to how to edit a wiki and what a “wiki war” is. After taking a short quiz about time and a survey about when they go to bed and wake up, each 5th Grade student was assigned a Greenwich Mean Time. They have been working on editing our  wiki to add information about what time that is in California time and what St. Martin’s 5th Graders would normally be doing at that time of day. They are also using KidPix to draw a picture about what would normally be happening at that time and are adding that to their page on the wiki too. You can watch our progress on our Time Zone Experiences page. Once they have finished their pages on our wiki, they will be updating the Time Zone Experiences project with their information too.

6TH GRADE: Just before the Christmas break, 6th Grade began working on a research project about Christmas Around The World. Each student was assigned a country and had to make an outline in Microsoft Word about what Christmas is like in that country. They then created a PowerPoint presentation from their outline and used that information to create visual slides about Christmas in their country. Once their slides were complete, they narrated each slide. After their presentation was complete, they uploaded it to St. Martin’s account at Slideboom and then added their Slideboom presentation to our Christmas Around The World page. This project meant learning a lot of new skills and reviewing some previously learned: Outlining in Word, Creating a PowerPoint presentation from a Word outline, Recording narration on a slide, Making a sound play automatically on a slide, Transitioning slides, Uploading to Slideboom, Editing a Wiki. There a still a few students that haven’t quite finished but most of the completed presentations are available on our Christmas Around The World page. In addition to this project, 6th Grade also worked on their January Reflections for the A Room With a View project and reviewed some of the other school’s pictures and comments in this project.

7TH GRADE: 7th Grade spent the first week of the month completing their Human Genetics Final Reports an Cyber Bullying Glogs if those were not done. On Inauguration Day, 7th Grade watched a Dateline NBC video called Hope, Change & Symbolism and discussed how far the country has come. They also discussed what they thought the themes of President Obama’s Inauguration Speech was. The format of a formal letter was reviewed and then each student wrote a letter to the President. These have been mailed for any student that wanted their letter sent to the President. 7th Grade ended the month working on a project inspired by the Winter Wonderland Project. The book Snowflake Bentley was read to introduce 7th Grade to Wilson Bentley and then 7th Grade used Excel to create an illustrated timeline of Wilson Bentley’s life. After the timeline was complete, they then used PhotoFiltre to digitally alter Wilson Bentley’s snowflake images in the style of Rick Doble. Two styles of poetry were reviewed, cinquain and haiku, after which 7th Grade created a slide in PowerPoint which contained their snowflake image(s) and a poem that they wrote about snow or winter or Wilson Bentley. They learned how to record in PowerPoint and they recorded themselves reciting their poem. A show of all of their snowflakes and poems will be coming soon.

8TH GRADE: On Inauguration Day, 8th Grade also watched the Dateline NBC video called Hope, Change & Symbolism and discussed how far the country has come and what they thought the themes of President Obama’s Inauguration Speech was. The format of a formal letter was reviewed and then each student wrote a letter to the President. These have been mailed for any student that wanted their letter sent to the President. The rest of the month has been spent writing scripts for the first Social Studies podcast. The segments of this are currently being recorded and will be shared very soon.