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Coding and Literacy: A Logical Partnership

Editor's Note

Pentland: Coding and Literacy: A Logical Partnership

When I first started thinking about working with students on coding, I was a little intimidated. My memories are filled with college friends who were learning to code in Linux or COBOL and had very large and complicated looking manuals. If I go even further back to my elementary years when the Apple IIe was first introduced to us in 4th grade, I remember the complex steps of coding pixelated images that were saved on floppy drives. Or, today, if I accidentally hit a button in a program I am using, a seemingly arcane window appears filled with HTML code.

This month, we take a look at resources that make coding more approachable; and, utilizing traditional narrative structures, we'll connect coding to literacies across the grades.

Resources to Support Your Coding Activities

Setting students up to work independently through the activities in Hour of Code is a great way to introduce them to the concept of coding. Hour of Code is full of engaging activities that are mostly user friendly. I freely admit that I do find some of them a little harder to grasp than others, but the beauty is that you and your students can pick activities that fit your comfort level, or however far you want to push yourself out of your comfort level. Last year, I worked with K–6 students with a variety of activities on the site with varied success. Kindergarten was the hardest, but when the students and I worked together as a large group (instead of individually), we were successful.

Although the activities in Hour of Code are a great way to introduce coding, I wanted to see if there was a way to connect coding to other library skills. Then, I remembered the virtual session that Ashley Cooksey did for the Nebraska School Librarians Association in the spring of 2020. Ashley shared some great ideas for connecting coding to literacy for elementary age students, including using narrative structure. Story structure is a natural fit with coding because both follow set patterns to achieve their outcome.

I love the way the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University connects traditional literacy skills with the newer literacy of coding in "Coding as Another Language":

(https://sites.tufts.edu/devtech/research/coding-as-literacy/)

By connecting storytelling with coding, we can help our students bridge the gap between these two literacies.

Connecting Coding to Literacy

In this month's elementary lesson, Ashley Cooksey applies the same skills needed to understand the sequence of events in a story to also understand how algorithms are used in coding. Students then gain experience in coding through activities on code.org or codeSpark Academy, depending on grade level. Many of the activities shared through the Hour of Code site could also be used in this lesson.

For the secondary lesson, I wanted to continue with the literacy theme because how a story comes together is similar to writing code. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do something fun with coding robots. I have seen other librarians use robots like Dash and Dot or Sphero with students, but I had the most experience with Ozobots. Instead of using stories written by others, I wanted students to craft their own narratives to use with their robots.

My first idea was for students to create a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type story, where depending on your choice, the robot would take you down different paths. After some contemplation, I realized I wasn't quite sure how to pull that off. I'm still hoping to figure it out, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

Instead, inspiration hit when I saw someone post something about the Fractured Fairy Tales segments from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. What if students used their Ozobots to tell a fractured fairy tale of their own creation? There are a wide variety of picture books available to use as examples of how to adjust traditional stories. Students can use their knowledge of story elements like character, setting, and plot to craft their fractured tale. Then, they can use the Ozobots to tell the story by using the codable actions (you can adjust this depending on what robots you have access to at your school).

No matter your approach, connecting coding to literacy is a logical partnership for any grade level. There are a many great resources available if you'd like to learn more about using coding with your students.

Coding Resources

School Library Connection Webinars

  • "Coding in the School Library": Join librarians Kelsey Gourd and Calypso Gilstrap as they discuss mindsets and methods you can use to successfully integrate coding instruction into your library curriculum for students of any age.
  • "Solving Problems with Coding in the Library": In this sequel to their popular first webinar, Kelsey Gourd and Calypso Gilstrap dive deeper into practical projects that you can try with your students, no matter your own personal experience with computer programming.

School Library Connection Features/Articles

Recommended Fractured Fairy Tale Picture Books to Pair with Coding Activities

No Dogs Allowed by Linda Ashman (Sterling Children's Books 2011)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (World Publishing Company 1969)

The Three Little Superpigs by Claire Evans (Scholastic 2016)

Ninja Chicks by Rebecca J. Gomez, Corey Rosen Schwartz (Scholastic 2016)

Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins (MacMillan 1968)

Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar and Troy Cummings (Scholastic 2015)

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier (Scholastic Press 2018)

The Three Silly Billies by Margie Palatini and Barry Moser (Simon & Schuster 2005)

Twig by Aura Parker (Simon & Schuster 2018)

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen (Margaret K. McElderry Books 1989)

Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers 2014)

The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (HMH Books for Young Readers 2011)

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt (Scholastic 2015)

About the Author

Courtney Pentland, MEd, is the Curriculum Connection Editor for School Library Connection. She is the school librarian for North Star High School in Lincoln, NE, adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Library Sciences program, and a board member for the Nebraska School Librarians Association. She earned her master's in secondary education and master's endorsement in K-12 library science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

MLA Citation

Pentland, Courtney. "Coding and Literacy: A Logical Partnership." School Library Connection, December 2020, schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/Article/2258829.

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https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/Article/2258829

Entry ID: 2258829