Bee-Bots: A Junior Classroom Essential
Written by Guest Writer Cassie Paganis
I recently had the pleasure of using Bee-Bots in my P-2 classes. These exciting programmable robots have now become a ‘must-have’ in my classroom. They are a great tool to teach junior students the fundamentals of coding and are an excellent way to engage students in daily tasks across the curriculum.
When introducing the Bee-Bots to my students all they wanted was a chance to explore what they could do, from making them turn in circles, moving them through the grid and even racing them in our school hall. I encourage you to just let the students play and explore the very first time you show them Bee-Bots – their questions, comments and observations will be enlightening.
After using the Bee-Bots several times, I found that the students worked best in pairs or groups of three to complete activities. Before programming the Bee-Bot, the students always had to discuss and create the algorithm using arrow cards.
This gave the students an opportunity to determine if their algorithms needed debugging and identify any patterns.
Some of my favourite activities using Bee-Bots:
Retelling Stories – Transform your time honoured retelling of a story into a fun and interactive experience. Students placed a variety of images from picture story books under the transparent mat and used the Bee-Bot to move to each image, pause at that image and give the student the opportunity to explain the significant part of the story. (Tip: this activity can be paired with a video recording as an assessment tool or to be shared with parents).
Sequencing and Ordering Days of the Week and Months of the Year – Students placed day or month cards under the transparent mat and using task cards students answered a variety of questions about the days of the week and months of the year. Once confident in their answer, students used arrow cards to create an algorithm and programmed their Bee-Bots to travel to the answer corresponding to the questions.
Estimation – Students created a start and finish point and estimated how many moves forward it would take for the Bee-Bot to get from start to finish and tested their estimations. A simple but fun activity targeting the mathematical concept of estimation in an engaging way.
Mapping and Location – An area in which there is so much you can do and lends itself beautifully to Bee-Bots. My students used images from the story of Little Red Riding Hood to create a map for Little Red Riding Hood to get to Grandma’s house. Their aim was to use the Bee-Bot to visit the forest, meet the wood cutter and avoid the wolf to get to grandma’s house safely.
We did not have enough mats to use with our Bee-Bots so we created our own using a large laminating machine (much cheaper than buying them!). Creating the mats was an easy process. Simply run empty laminating sheets through the laminator (we used an industrial laminator) and using a meter ruler and permanent marker draw a grid on the sheet with squares 15cm x 15cm in size. We’ve also heard of schools using clear plastic from Bunnings or Spotlight.