Tips to Connect ELA and Coding in Elementary

Teacher, Thea Clark shares her first grade writing lesson connecting ELA and Coding, and the sentence stems she used to inspire students.

Last month, an inspiring post popped up on our Twitter feed. Thea Clark incorporated a writing lesson with her Kodable activities with impressive results! The entire Kodable team was immediately enthralled with how she connected ELA and Coding for her students!

We wanted to know all the details of this First Grade lesson connecting ELA and coding. I talked with the instructional mastermind, Thea Clark about her inspiration and some tips.

Thank you for agreeing to share your thoughtful lesson with our readers! Tell us about yourself and your work at your school:

I am an instructional technology coach with Frederick County Public Schools in VA. My role is to help teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms with purpose and to use the technology to develop creative thinking, collaboration, communication, & creativity. This is the first school year that elementary teachers must incorporate the newly adopted computer science standards into their teaching. 

What inspired you to include an ELA connection with your coding lesson? 

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Teachers are looking for ideas for centers to use to keep students engaged during the ELA block. This school is using Kodable, so I planted the seed for them to practice writing about a Kodable experience. Making sure they get time to talk and reflect on their coding experiences is critical. This is how students develop their computational thinking skills. They cannot develop their skills if they don’t have time to process their thinking. 

Making sure they get time to talk and reflect on their coding experiences is critical. This is how students develop their computational thinking skills.

Can you tell us about the lesson? What specific steps did you take with your class to prepare? 

Students in this First Grade class, and across the entire school, have opportunities to work through the Kodable activities every week. In an effort to make the teaching of computer science more visible we discussed adding the writing piece.

I pushed into the classroom with the regular ed teacher. I frequently do this in this classroom so the students are familiar with having me as part of their ELA rotations.

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Since they are familiar with Kodable, it was an easy transition to writing. First, the students came to the area and we talked about some things they have done in Kodable already. Then, I introduced the sentence stems.

I was impressed with how many [students] chose to write about a struggle they had.

I was impressed with how many chose to write about a struggle they had. Many felt less threatened when it was framed in the context of when their fuzz had trouble. Through this productive struggle they make progress as computational thinkers. Many included where they needed to fix their mistakes.

The sentences stems are now hanging in their writing center so they can continue to choose this an option during writing time. 

Is this something you do with all grades? How do you scale it for others? 

My goal is to scale this out to all grade levels. With the success that the students had, I think it will be very easy for others to see the value as we all explore computational thinking with all our students.

I am fortunate enough to meet monthly with each grade level team. This is where we plan, discuss, and share experiences.

I gave each teacher a copy of the stems. We will make plans for where and how they can incorporate the writing piece in their weekly Kodable work. 

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What other subjects do you integrate with coding, if any? What tips or advice do you have for teachers looking to integrate other subjects with coding?

I ask teachers, “What content do you need to cover? How can we cover the content with a CS spin?”

Our goal with CS is integration and not another subject we need to teach. We have incorporated math, science, & social studies along with reading.

Unplugged coding became a great entry point and we can plug any content into the squares on the coding mat. We sequenced stories & solved math problems through the use of unplugged coding. We used Scratch and Scratch Jr. to show knowledge of content in science and social studies. I ask teachers, “What content do you need to cover? How can we cover the content with a CS spin?”

Do you have any advice or tips to share with other teachers getting started teaching coding? 

Coding and computer science can seem very overwhelming. Start small and remember teachers no longer have to be the “sage on the stage.” Learn with your students. Problem solve and grow together. Computer science brings a buzz and engagement to classrooms. Enjoy it!

See Ms. Clark’s Sentence Stems

See also, these mini lessons for coding classroom culture and classroom procedures from the Kodable team

Tips to Connect ELA and Coding in Elementary by
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