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Coding Fundamentals
Unit Applying VEX 123

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Connection to VEX 123

Applying VEX 123

In the Coding Fundamentals Unit, students will use the Coding cards and Coder to make the 123 Robot execute discrete behaviors. As students progress throughout the Unit, they will engage in first identifying how robots follow a discrete set of instructions, in the form of symbols or commands, to perform certain behaviors in a particular order. They will then use the Coder cards in a particular order for the robot to navigate a particular course.

Students will conclude the Unit by exploring how to troubleshoot a project by the way of “debugging.” Students will need to compare a project to the intended behaviors of the 123 Robot in order to identify where the error is.

Students will use spatial reasoning skills to mentally map how the robot should move in the Unit. Students will need to use directional words as they use the Coder cards (e.g. drive 1, turn right) to plan the outline for their projects, and will also use gestures as they communicate with their group and their teacher. In this manner, students are able to develop their spatial reasoning skills through coding challenges.

The 123 Robot is great for young learners ready to explore a variety of concepts throughout all subject areas. In this Unit, students will use the 123 Robot and Coder to practice sequencing. The Coder cards for the 123 Robot are physical examples of a programming language. This helps students organize their projects and see the connection between the programming language (using the Coder and Coder cards) and the behaviors completed by the 123 Robot. Having a physical manipulative can help students make practical applications of abstract ideas like programming and sequencing.

In Lab 1, students will learn the steps needed to communicate with the 123 Robot through the Coder. Students will be given Coder cards and test the behaviors of the 123 Robot. They will apply their knowledge of programming the 123 Robot to create a dance move. During the Active Share, students will share the steps of their project and the dance move that the 123 Robot completes. In Lab 2, students will further their understanding of behaviors by sequencing the Coder cards for the 123 Robot in the correct order to navigate a class treasure map. 

Throughout both Labs, students will gain spatial reasoning skills. Students will be able to sequence the steps to get to the treasure into parts and demonstrate their understanding by coding the 123 Robot to avoid obstacles and reach the treasure.

These Labs will give students an idea of how they are going to engage with STEM Labs in their classroom setting, as well as an introduction to the conversational nature of the learning process of the 123 Robot.

Students will use spatial reasoning skills to mentally map how the 123 Robot should move in the Unit. Students will need to use directional words as they explain during discussions how they think the 123 Robot will behave, and will also use gestures as they communicate with their peers and their teacher. In this manner, students are able to develop their spatial reasoning skills through guided exploration and inquiry.

Using Coder Card Posters in Your Classroom

Coder card posters can be one element that reinforces the concepts, vocabulary, and learning that is taking place with VEX 123. Coder card posters can also be used to ground a Learning Center or classroom space and help define the learning that will take place there. Students and teachers can use these posters for reference during class, and as a shared visual aid in discussions and learning experiences. See the Using Coder Card Posters in the Classroom VEX Library article to download these printable posters as PDFs.  

Use Coder card posters to highlight specific Coder cards, or refer to cards as you are teaching. Students can use these posters to review terminology as they are working with VEX 123. Possible uses for the Coder card printable posters in your classroom include:

  • Bulletin Boards - Print and display the Coder card posters on a bulletin board to reinforce learning with VEX 123, and carry the coding theme throughout the classroom. Reference posters as you implement lessons and encourage students to use posters as a visual aid during discussions. Have them identify cards on the posters as they describe the behaviors of the cards to the class.
  • Student Manipulatives - Print and laminate a set of posters for each student group to use as a reference while working in STEM Labs and completing 123 Activities. Students can first identify the behaviors that they want their 123 Robot to complete, then they can look at the behavior descriptions on the posters to identify the Coder cards that match those behaviors. 
  • Learning Centers - Print and display in a learning center as a handy reference tool to provide support to students as they complete activities independently. Once students determine the behaviors that they want the 123 Robot to complete, they can use the posters to identify the right Coder cards to use in their project. Giving students the tools to find information on their own supports student agency and independence in their learning.
  • Reteaching - Provide a set as a reference for teachers and other support professionals to use for differentiation and support reteaching concepts such as sequencing. Print and laminate a set of posters for support professionals to have on hand as a shared visual aid so they can answer questions and guide students as they practice sequencing commands and building projects. 
  • Extending STEM Labs - Encourage exploration of Coder Cards for Lab extensions. Provide a set of posters for students to have on hand to identify the Coder cards that they will need to complete extension activities. 
    • Have students use the Coder card posters to compare and contrast the different cards and create a project that completes a STEM Lab challenge in a new way. 
    • Have students use the Action, Sound, Look, Time poster to identify cards to add to their projects to have the 123 Robot perform an action to celebrate completing a STEM Lab or Activity challenge. 
  • Use as the basis for brain breaks and games. Print and laminate set for students to use to play a game where they act out the behaviors for select Coder cards.
  • Reinforce Key Vocabulary - Use to encourage vocabulary usage to help students learn the names and behaviors associated with each Coder card. Cut out the Coder cards and behavior descriptions, and have students play a game where they match the Coder card to their associated behavior.

For more information on using posters in your classroom and to access additional VEX posters, see the Using Posters in Your Classroom VEX Library Article.

Teaching Coding

Throughout this Unit, students will be engaged with different coding concepts such as robot behaviors, decomposition, sequencing and troubleshooting. The Labs within this unit will follow a similar format:

  • Engage:
    • Teachers will help students make a personal connection to the concepts that will be taught in the Lab.
  • Play:
    • Instruct: Teachers will introduce the coding challenge. Ensure that the students understand the goal of the challenge.
    • Model: Teachers will introduce commands that will be used in the creation of their project to complete the challenge. Model the commands by projecting VEXcode 123 or by showing the physical Coder cards. For Labs that include pseudocode, model for students how to plan and outline the intention for their projects.
    • Facilitate: Teachers will be given prompts to engage students in a discussion about what the goals of their project are, the spatial reasoning involved in the challenge, and how to troubleshoot unexpected outcomes of their projects. This discussion will also verify that the students understand the purpose of the challenge and how to properly use the commands.
    • Remind: Teachers will remind students that their first attempt of their solution will not be correct or run properly the first time. Encourage multiple iterations and remind students that trial and error is a part of learning.
    • Ask: Teachers will engage students in a discussion that will connect the Lab concepts to real-world applications. Some examples could include, “have you ever wanted to be an engineer?” or “where have you seen robots in your life?”
  • Share:
    • Students have an opportunity to communicate their learning in multiple ways. Using the Choice Board, students will be given a “voice and choice” for how they best display their learning.