While you may think coding doesn't have a place in the literacy classroom, you may be missing an opportunity to pair coding during your reading and writing instruction to improve students' reading and language comprehension.
Before I begin, I want to let you know that this information can also be viewed or listened to in video format. However, be sure to grab my coding freebie and check out even more mentor text posts from my Reading Crew friends. The links are at the end of this post.
What is Coding?
Technology and technology education has been on the rise for years. Many states have created a computer-science curriculum for their high school students and encouraged coding and STEM in the classroom. Since coding is such a big part of our world, students need exposure to this growing industry.
Coding is putting an algorithm into a computer system to make something. Experts in the coding world can take these “codes” and create complex video games and multiple animations.
Coding jobs are in high demand, but there are not a lot of students graduating with computer-science degrees. Therefore, schools are scrambling to expose students to coding and STEM.
Unfortunately, unless you have a class designated for STEM and coding instruction, this instruction is not encouraged in the regular classroom. However, I have found one solution that will be a big hit with your students while teaching reading skills and improving students' language comprehension through coding.
Pin to Remember
What is Language Comprehension?
I've talked a lot about listening and language comprehension before, but I want to explain again why it is so important. Based on the Simple View of Reading, for students to comprehend text, they must first have the ability to transform print into spoken language and the ability to understand spoken language.
With so much focus in the classroom on phonics, I think we miss the importance of language.
To develop students listening and language comprehension, we need to spend a lot of time focusing on the three things below:
- Build Background Knowledge
- Vocabulary Development
- Focus on Sentence Structure
As an educator, you know the importance of read-aloud in the classroom. But have you ever thought to pair books to coding? Believe it or not, coding and literacy have a lot in common, especially related to the structure of text and code.
For example, stories have characters, settings, problems, solutions, events, and much more. Coding has these same things.
In today's example, I will use the story Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner as the mentor text. I love using this story because it has a circular ending. Using the book is an excellent opportunity to teach students this literary concept and relate it to loops in coding.
With this language and coding lesson, students will learn:
- Basic coding techniques
- Animate scenes from the book Snowmen at Night
- Be able to analyze other books for circular endings
- Create their own digital stories with coding.
Start with Building Background Knowledge
While this story is great because it pairs coding with literacy, I don't start with the technology right away. To begin, I build background and vocabulary knowledge. For some students, they may have never seen snow before.
Therefore, this might be an excellent time to show videos and pictures of snow and snowmen. You might even have students make snow.
Then I ask a few background questions like:
- Have you ever built a snowman?
- What did you use to build your snowman?
- Predict what might happen in the story based on the cover.
I try not to stop too much during the first reading because I want them to enjoy the story. Therefore, I only stop to help students make predictions or pause to discuss vocabulary words.
For example, I might ask students to predict what they think snowmen might do at night or explain what something like “tuckered out” means.
Diving Deeper into Literacy and Language Comprehension
Once we have read the story, I remind students of our focus: understanding how the beginning and the end work together to create a circular ending.
To compare the story's beginning and end, we create an anchor chart and explore the following:
- Words and Phrases
Then using an anchor chart, we analyze the beginning and the end of the story. Ask students what they notice about the beginning and end of the story. They should see that both are pretty similar in the author's language.
This repeated language is an excellent segue into the coding part of the lesson, where we focus on the idea of loops.
Next, I like to use an unplugged activity where students pretend to be snowmen at night. Students create dances being sure to incorporate loops into their dance using the dance and coding vocabulary cards. This activity can be placed in a center for more dancing fun.
Integrating Coding into Literacy
My favorite app to integrate coding and books is Scratch, Jr. Unfortunately, it is only available on the iPad. This same technique can be used in Scratch online. Once students understand the text, start building their story In Scratch Jr.
You can have them retell the story or create their own story. I find it's best to retell until students learn how to use the app. Therefore, understanding the app and coming up with a unique story might be overwhelming.
- Students choose or draw the character.
- Students choose a setting or draw a setting.
- Create two scenes (events); the beginning and end of the story.
- Animate their scene being sure to use at least one loop.
Once students get the hang of using the app, start analyzing other stories with circular endings. Put students in groups or pairs, give them a book to code the beginning and the end. Students can determine if the story has a circular ending.
Here is a free challenge to try with your students. Sign-up below:
If you'd like to check out all of my coding lessons, click here or on the image below.
Coding is the way of the future. We are becoming more and more technologically advanced every day. Combining coding and literacy is just one way to incorporate coding into your classroom, and this lesson is the perfect start. From here, the coding possibilities are limitless.
Have you tried infusing digital storytelling and coding into your classroom? I'd love to know what you do.
And be sure to check out other mentor texts from my Reading Crew friends.