Building Confidence with Coding in the Elementary Classroom

"This is the best day ever!"


That was the proclamation of the students in Mrs. Tameka Johnson's 3rd grade class as we rapped up our Code.org dance party earlier this spring. It does the soul good to hear such excitement about learning from our sweet students in Madison City. Our new move to 1:1 technology integration throughout the school district brings so many opportunities to provide our students with powerful and authentic digital experiences. And while the K-5 Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) standards provide a fantastic map for our teachers in regards to meaningful technology integration, they have also brought a new challenge to the classroom, that may initially feel intimidating to teachers: introducing students to the concepts of coding and programming. Our teachers in Madison City are busy to say the least. Building quality learning experiences, gathering and reflecting on data, and fostering relationships with students are just a few of the important tasks that keep our phenomenal teachers occupied. Our goal with the the integration of the DLCS standards is to provide supports and resources that help our teachers naturally connect computer science with what they currently do, and find meaning in those connections. This means providing opportunities to see meaningful computational thinking and coding taking place in the classroom, so that's just what we did! During the months of April and May, Pre-K - 5 teachers had the opportunity to sign up for a model coding lesson. Our lower grade students participated in "unplugged" activities, learning the basics of algorithmic thinking through arrow code obstacle courses and beebot programming. Upper grade students became coders using the CSFirst with Google and Code.org curriculum, working through engaging activities such as the Dance Party Code, the Artist Code, and Code a Google Logo. During the model lessons, students also discussed the importance of coding in our ever-evolving technological world, and how relevant coding concepts are to all career fields.

It was very powerful to see our students take hold of coding concepts and apply them to creative authentic projects. Our classroom teachers who participated in these model lessons also gained confidence and a new perspective on coding in the classroom. One classroom teacher shared this feedback, "The students absolutely loved the lesson. They were able to express themselves in a very creative way. As a teacher I loved seeing them come together and help each other as they discovered and explored all the options. I hope to find ways to incorporate more creative technology in the future." Coding experiences for our elementary students will continue next school year in an even more expanded form, as we create coding partnerships with instructional tech specialists, STEM teachers, and high school programming and software development students. The future of coding is bright for our global learners in Madison City!