robots classroom

How To Use Robots in Elementary Classrooms

Two years ago, my school obtained a grant from the Sphero Robotics company that brought 10 Sphero Robots to our school. At first, we used them in math and science. However, this year, we expanded our use of robotics and acquired Ozobots, SPRKS, bb8s, and BeeBots. My elementary faculty impressed me with their ability to use these 21st-century robots in a variety of subject areas including language arts and humanities. Here are four examples of how A. Harry Moore teachers used robots to teach lessons in English, Language Arts, and Humanities classes.

Using Robots for Reading Comprehension

Last fall, I observed a lesson in which a kindergarten class read the story If You Give the Cat a Cupcake. While the teacher read the story to the students as a traditional table activity, after they finished, the teacher moved the class to a more open space in the classroom. The teacher placed a SPRK robot on the ground and paired it with an iPad via Bluetooth. Also, the teacher had various objects set up on the floor that related to the story: seashells, sand, grape juice, red sprinkles, and other objects. Next, the teacher began to ask a series of reading comprehension questions about the story, and the students took turns using the iPad to drive the SPRK robot to different objects in the room based upon the question that the teacher asked. An example of a question would be “if you give the cat a cupcake” what will he ask to go with it?” As the teacher posed the question, and the student drove the robot to the correct object (in this case, red sprinkles). Not only was this a great use of robotics to support reading comprehension but it also allowed the young students to practice their speaking and listening skills. Additionally, this lesson combined 21st skills – critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity – with a Key Subject using the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic – plus media, and technology.

Using BeeBots in an Elementary Language Arts Lesson

In the spring, I observed a lesson where the teacher read the story There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly to her elementary class. After finishing the story, the teacher transitioned to a tabletop activity in which she had laminated a series of pictures related to the story. Also, on that same table, the teacher had a Beebot – a robot designed for young children.

The teacher asked the students, “who was the main character in the story”? The picture of the main character, the old lady, was three squares in front of where the Beebot was positioned. The first student programmed the Beeboot to move forward three squares to reach the old lady and correctly answer the reading comprehension question while also practicing their coding skills. Each student answered questions about the story with the robot, the comprehension questions became increasingly complex based upon the academic skill level of the student manipulating the robot. It is important that we don’t just teach coding as an isolated skill or for one hour a week in the lab. This lesson was a good example of integration of coding skills within a content subject area and more of this needs to happen in our classrooms.

Using Bluebots to Teach Social Studies

The same teacher who used the Beebot to teach language arts used Bluebot to teach social studies. In this lesson, the students were learning about a “sense of place” because they were exploring the relationship between all of their home addresses in Jersey City, New Jersey. The teacher organized a map of Jersey City on a table with the home addresses of every student in the class. The first student had the Bluebot at the school and was given the challenge to successfully program the Bluebot so it would move to their home address as it was positioned on the map. Then, the second student coded the Bluebot to move from the home of the first student to their address on the map and so on. Not only was the lesson aligned to the New Jersey social studies standards, but it allowed the learners to think critically and solve problems that are steeped in real life content.

Using Multiple Robots for 21st Century Digital Storytelling


As part of NJDOE initiative called innovateNJ the A. Harry Moore students were paired with a school district in South Jersey in a town called Toms River. Demonstration teacher and NJCU Ed Tech Doctoral Candidate, Wendy Thompson, used this partnership to create a unique learning opportunity for her 4th and 5th grade students. The pictures below show the work of students SPRK the Robot, green screen technology and the iMovie app to design a story in which one of the students in their class in Jersey City “traveled” to Toms River.

The student took the time to research which bus routes would take them to South Jersey and used this information to guide their narrative.

In the words of their teacher: “this child-centered activity provided students the opportunity to show understanding of ELA skills using a participatory child-centered activity. It integrated technology in a cooperative multi-media experience allowing students remote interaction with peers at a distance using Google Hangouts.

Illustrated here is Room 407’s use of Sphero the Robot(right side) and SPRK the Robots (left side) acting as characters/students in the class. The BB8 Robot (featured in the center) plays the character of classroom teacher. The students used the green screen, DoInk, and iMovie to create a story.

Perhaps some of these different robots will inspire creativity in your language arts and social studies lessons.

For even more innovative ideas, come join us November 2-4 in Boston for our next Innovation Summit!


Featured image via Flickr

Written by Courtney Pepe

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction North Jersey, ADE, Doctoral Candidate, blogger, coder, surfer, life-long learner

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