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Coding Through Picture Books

Lesson Plan

Cooksey: Coding Through Picture Books teaser

Beginner coders often need concrete examples of computer science concepts. Picture books provide a great beginning to the instruction of coding using many of the same concepts as literacy. This lesson focuses on teaching algorithms, or sequence of instructions, using picture books.

Note: This lesson is written for an in-person class setting; however, with modification, this lesson could be completed online or in a hybrid instructional setting.


Computer Science

English / Language Arts


Lower Elementary


Students will develop vocabulary associated with coding.

Students will identify the order of events in a story.

Students will connect order of events in picture books (algorithms) to simple coding games.


Books that feature events in an obvious sequential order:

  • No Dogs Allowed by Linda Ashman (Sterling Children's Books 2011)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (World Publishing Company 1969)
  • Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins (MacMillan 1968)
  • The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier (Scholastic Press 2018)
  • Twig by Aura Parker (Simon & Schuster 20180
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen (Margaret K. McElderry Books 1989)

Access to devices and the internet:

Overhead, digital whiteboard, or chart paper and markers.


Two class periods; approximately 40 minutes each period


Day 1

Begin by sharing the concept of a sequence of events, or procedure. For example: Each morning, I wake up, make a pot of coffee, get dressed, eat, brush my teeth, and gather my backpack for school. I do the same thing every morning. I can tell you what I do first, next, and last.

Have students share their sequence of events for common school activities such as entering their classroom, eating in the cafeteria, or getting on the bus to go home.

Begin reading the book, pausing to discuss events as they occur. After reading, summarize the book by retelling the story. Have students help you complete the retelling by summarizing the sequence of events. Write them on chart paper or a digital whiteboard. Remind students that the story must be told in that order for it to make sense. You should also add "sequence of events" and the definition to your chart paper or digital whiteboard. Retain notes for the next class period.

For an extension, have students read a story independently (or with help) or listen to an audiobook. Students can draw or write the sequence of events in their story. This can be done using paper and pencil or digitally.

Day 2

Review the concept of a sequence of events. Review the sequence of events from the previous day's story, and, if available, have some students share their independent work.

Introduce the word algorithm. An algorithm is a sequence of well-defined instructions especially performed by computers. Add this word and its definition to your notes from the previous day. The algorithm or sequence for putting on my shoes each morning would be to put a sock on my right foot, put my shoe on, pull the laces tight, and tie my shoe. I would repeat the same algorithm for my left foot. Another example could be how to travel from one place to another. For example, to get from your classroom to the library, you exit your classroom and turn left, walk 35 steps forward, turn right and walk 15 steps forward, then turn right again and open the library door. Walk five steps forward. Now you're in the library! Refer back to the book from the previous day and discuss the journey of the main character. What was the story's algorithm?

After reviewing the concept of a sequence of events and algorithms, introduce students to the coding website. For K–2 students, use codeSpark Academy. For 3–4 grade students, use Minecraft. Each website introduces students to the concept of coding and programming by first having them follow a set of directions to operate their game. Allow time for students to work through their games independently. Students may utilize pair-programming (working with a partner to solve problems) if they get stuck or need to debug (find out what's wrong) their algorithm. Add the term and definition for "debug" to your chart paper or digital whiteboard notes.

To monitor for progress, educators can track students using codeSpark via the Teacher Dashboard. If students are using the desktop version without logging in, they can play levels 1-9 only. Minecraft is supported by and will display a certificate of completion after the assigned levels have been completed. Informal discussions while students work through the levels allows for redirection and/or confirmation.


As an assessment, students can complete the Sequencing Activity workbook ( provided by codeSpark or reply to a Flipgrid post explaining their learning.


Get more ideas about creating connections between literacy and coding in Courtney Pentland's editorial, "Coding & Literacy: A Logical Partnership" and in her Middle School/High School lesson, "Coding Fractured Fairy Tales."

About the Author

Ashley Cooksey, MEd, is the Director of the Technology Learning Center for the University of Central Arkansas. She earned her bachelor's in Early Childhood Education and a master's in education as a library media specialist from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas. Cooksey is a blogger for the American Library Association, as well as being featured on several podcasts and vlogs.

Ashley is a passionate advocate for student voice, blended learning, creating a growth mindset in education, social-emotional wellbeing, and using social media to enhance learning and as a tool to advocate for public education. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @AshleyCooksey2 or Instagram @Ashley.Cooksey2. To contact Ashley, visit her website

MLA Citation

Cooksey, Ashley. "Coding Through Picture Books." School Library Connection, December 2020,

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Entry ID: 2258830