Using Sphero to Teach Elementary ELA

Those of you are fans of this blog have read about how I have used Sphero as a educational tool in my math and science classes during 2014.  Sphero is an educational friendly robot with many companion apps plus website that features a bunch of Common Core aligned lessons as well as STEM/engineering inquiry based projects that can be connected to the Next Generation Science Standards. 

However, one of my favorite international educators is fellow Apple Distinguished Educator Alberto Pian, who is from Italy.  When Alberto and I first started to compare and contrast our use of Sphero in our 21st century classrooms on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, he told me about how he was using Sphero to teach in humanities classes.  He used Sphero the Robot to have the students create anthropomorphic characters in iMovie as part of an anti-bullying campaign.  This is a sample of what the student work looked like:

Speaking with Alberto about his work over the summer led me to imagine how I could use Sphero to encourage my students to write.  This fall I had the good fortune to work with a group of 3rd graders twice a week and focus on reading and writing.  This month we were working on the following Common Core Grade Three Writing Standard:

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
One day I decided to bring in Sphero the Robot to help my kids with their creative writing.  I find with the elementary age group that the most difficult aspect of writing can be getting them started.  Well, play is a powerful tool:  it was a powerful tool that allowed them to put pen to paper.  There are a series of apps that you can use with Sphero, but for this particular exercise I had my students use the app Sharky the Beaver to help them with their writing process.  Here is a link to the app in the iTunes Store:
This particular app uses Augmented Reality technology where a digital computer generated image is superimposed in 3d.  While the students manipulate the robotic ball around the classroom, the iPad screen tells another story.  There is an image of a Beaver that needs to chase the gold coins.  While the students gleefully took turns playing I gave them a brainstorming paper.  I had them fold the paper into four sections 1- characters 2- setting 3- problem 4- resolution.  They used the manipulation of the robot in the classroom environment and the Augmented Reality to write their own stories from scratch with the four aforementioned elements of a story.  What amazed me was that each story was completely different and my young students were able to go into vivid detail in their writing.  There was something about the kinesthetic experience of manipulating Sphero within their classroom environment that sparked their written expression skills.  I know that Sphero is something that is associated with STEM so I had to share this wonderful ELA Common Core aligned experience with the robot and my young learners.
Sharky the Beaver

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