Monthly Archives: April 2016

STEAM it up!

In Spring of 2015, I was awarded a $3,000 STEAM focused grant in which students learned to code robotic Sphero Balls and use Lego Story Maker Kits to build scenes which they used in digital storytelling projects.  The Charlotte Hornets, Lowes and Fox Sports provided this grant to me as a part of their Teacher Innovation Grant.  I have been so thankful for these resources.  I decided to share my reflections on my work with my 2nd – 5th grade students in this blog post.


Students need opportunities to tinker, learn to code and create projects as a part of Project Based Learning (PBL). My two ideas to engage students in PBL gave them the opportunity to experience learning with the following eight components: significant content, a need to know, a driving question, student voice and choice, 21st Century Competencies, In Depth Inquiry, critique and revision and a public audience. They needed materials with which to build and to code. My project had two components: Coding with Sphero Robotic Balls and Digital Storytelling with Lego Storymaker Kits.

Students in my school have participated in the worldwide Hour of Code for the past three Decembers using resources at I wanted for students to have the ability to write the code to see a three dimensional object follow their commands. The resources at have been a good foundation for my students along with apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Legos Fix the Factory, however, I wanted to provide additional real world opportunities to create code. Students would work together to develop commands for the Sphero balls and cause them to run through mazes using coding apps on the iPads. I accomplished my goals of having my fourth and fifth grade students think like a computer programmer and articulate the process of coding the Sphero balls.
The Legos Storymaker project was innovative because it provided a way for students to design a beginning, middle and end of a story using Lego scenes then write about their stories. Students developed narratives and wrote text to go along with scenes from their Lego story settings. They published the narratives in creative ways through Google Slide Presentations and in Pic Collage creations on the iPads. I reached my goals of providing a creative way for students to construct a story in a collaborative setting and then be able to use the image of their Lego story as they wrote and typed about their stories.

In my role as the K-5 Technology Teacher at my school, I love to engage my students using innovative apps and projects that require researching and development of digital stories. The Sphero and Lego Storymaker Projects allowed me to take my students into deep thinking projects where in order to succeed, they had to communicate thoughts verbally and in writing, collaborate in teams, critically think as they brainstormed solutions and developed digital stories after building with Legos, and created projects that showed the world that they are 21st Century Learners.

I used the Sphero robots with 200 4th graders and 230 5th graders. The Sphero robotics ball project impacted students because it provided a way for students to see what it feels like to be a coder/computer programmer. There will be a shortage of computer programmers in the next 10 years according to recent data published at My exposure to coding through the Sphero robots excited students to learn to code in an inviting fashion. Getting to work in collaboration with other students to make a Sphero Chariot go through a maze also allowed students to problem solve using a Driving Question such as “How can you save the monster using your Sphero robot?”. Students began to realize the value of discussing commands for the Tickle app that would accomplish their group goals and reach a target where they were supposed to go through a maze that they had created and then “save” a monster. They were able to come to my class for additional classes to allow them time to develop their ideas, test their programs in the Tickle app and make adjustments to reach their goal.

I used Lego StoryMaker kits with 200 2nd Graders 230 3rd Graders. The third grade students brainstormed on graphic organizers their beginning, middle and ends of their Lego collaborative stories and are in the process now of typing their stories in Google Slides. Each student will also revise and self-assess his or her Lego story creation using the following rubric:

Assessment Rubric for Lego Fiction Story

Writing Process: Student devotes a lot of time and effort to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, reviewing, and editing). Works hard to make the story wonderful.

Introduction: First paragraph has a “grabber” or catchy beginning.

Characters: The main characters are named and clearly described in text and most readers could describe the characters accurately.

Creativity: The story contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader’s enjoyment. The author has really used his imagination.

Setting: Many vivid, descriptive words are used to tell when and where the story took place.

Pace: Individual scenes are easy to follow, make sense, and moves the story along at an appropriate pace.

Organization: The story is very well organized. One idea or scene follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions.

Dialogue: There is an appropriate amount of dialogue to bring the characters to life and it is always clear which character is speaking.

Spelling/Punctuation: There are no spelling or punctuation errors in the final draft. Character and place names that the author invented are spelled consistently throughout.

Proper formatting: Title, name, and paragraphs are present and used properly.

Assessment Citation:


I have shared my lesson ideas on Twitter where I am a part of a global Professional Learning Network using my Twitter handle of @edu_maples. On Feb. 17, 2016, I shared an Animoto video ( that I had created in honor of Digital Learning Day showing my third graders involved in building with the Lego Story Maker kits and creating stories about their Lego scenes on iPads within the Google Slides app. On Dec.8, 2015, I shared on Twitter a link to a You Tube video ( which I made of fourth and fifth graders programming the Sphero robots using the Tickle app to navigate the Spheros through mazes which they had created. These videos show many examples of how students learned to code, to collaborate, to creatively think and plan and to design their own innovative paths with the Spheros and to design Lego stories.

Kindergarten and First Grade students did not participate in these projects, but they are very excited about doing them next year as I repeat the projects that I did this year. They could see the Legos kits out around my class and the Sphero robot balls which caused great excitement for them!

Learning to code Sphero balls allowed 4th and 5th grade students to work in teams to build Sphero chariots that they maneuvered through mazes using iPads using the Tickle app while revising their work through trial and error. They had to critically think as they problem solved in groups and programmed the Spheros to reach their destination. Students communicated with small groups as they built Lego Story Scenes using the kits. They built their scenes in groups of three and decide on the plot of the story, characters, setting, etc. using special spinners to help guide their thought process. They uploaded photos of their scenes to their Google Drive Accounts and inserted the images into individual Google Slide Presentations which they used to plan a fictional story on a graphic organizer.

The third graders are in the process of finishing the typing of their Lego Stories and revising/editing with a Lego Story Rubric. I am also still working with CMS Technology leaders to get the StoryMaker software downloaded onto the computers and iPads at my school. Second and Third graders published Lego Storymaker projects in Google Slides and in the Pic Collage app even though my original idea of publishing on the StoryMaker software did not occur just yet.  I had planned originally on having third graders upload their images to the Lego StoryMaker software, but have had some difficulty in getting it uploaded on to CMS School computers. I am in the process of working with CMS engineers to figure out how to make this happen. I think that there are multiple ways to share their Lego scenes so using Google Slides and Pic Collage have been perfect ways to have students share their scenes and create written stories. I plan to use the StoryMaker software in the future.

In order to accommodate all of the 4th and 5th Grade classes and allow them ample time to learn to program the Spheros, I had to work with each of the 4th and 5th grade teachers to have students come to see me for additional class times. I worked with the PE teachers who allowed me to use their gym space for students to have more room to spread out and create obstacle courses for their Sphero balls to move through. I also realized that since I only see each class for 40 minutes every 8 school days, I had to give third graders time to play with the Legos and generate their group stories then invite them back for extra class times. I had to show them how to take pictures with iPads and upload the images to their Google Accounts which is a multistep process. Once the images were in their Google Drive accounts, they had to plan their stories and begin the process of adding text boxes, speech bubbles, transitions, etc. I had to have them plan their stories with me in follow up classes which prolonged the project.

Students have been extremely engaged with planning their stories and using their plans to type. I have been excited to see their enthusiasm for this project. In addition, I realized that students in 2nd grade would not need to have to upload their Lego story scene images to Google due to how long it took 3rd graders. I had them build one scene then upload the scene to the Pic Collage app on the iPad which they then used to type descriptive phrases and arguments about why someone would not need to destroy a bird’s habitat and not cut down trees that were depicted in their Lego scenes. They have been able to successfully follow all directions and save their images to the Camera Roll of the iPad all in the 40 minutes when I see them.

I think in the future, I will have the third graders plan their stories immediately following my class when they return to their homeroom classes using graphic organizers while their collaborative stories are fresh on their minds. Allowing them to “play” with the Legos and use the Lego StoryMaker Spinners that came with the eight kits has been a great way to allow creativity to flourish. I have heard many students show their excitement and enthusiasm for developing their Lego story which provided momentum as they became writers of their individual stories. I love that students didn’t just have to draw pictures on a graphic organizer, but had been able to think with group mates about the content of a fictional story and build it with Legos. Students in 2nd and 3rd Grade loved to get to tinker with the Legos and use them as a basis to communicate later in writing in their Google Slide Presentations and in their Pic Collage Digital Storytelling projects.

I made a video and uploaded it to You Tube in hopes of having the Tickle App award our school with a drone which students would use to program. The link to the “Hour of Code with Tickle App and Spheros” video is here:


I created an Animoto video to highlight how my third graders used Lego Story Maker kits as a part of the 2016 Digital Learning Day!


I created an Animoto video to show second graders being Makers and Thinkers as they used the Lego Story Maker Kits and the Pic Collage app to design posters of why we should not cut down trees. This occurred during the week of Earth Day 2016!

I have included a final collection of images which showcase how students in third grade have created Google Slide Presentations about their Lego scenes. Click on the hyperlink below to see the Animoto video with images!  

Lego Digital Storytelling