Posted: Mon, 04/19/2021 - 12:50 pm EDT
Are you an elementary school teacher who doesn’t have any experience teaching computer science? Do you want to provide your students with the opportunity to show their creativity and empower them with the necessary skills to be future-ready? If you answered “yes” to these questions, I want to thank you for your dedication and let you know it’s going to be an amazing journey!
My own journey started about four years ago when I was a middle-school math and science teacher. I didn’t have any formal education in computer science and knew very little about teaching coding to students. Just a handful of my middle-school students took CS as their elective class, and even fewer joined the after-school coding clubs. I later realized that if my students were exposed to CS at an earlier age, they might not have so quickly decided that that path wasn’t for them.
It wasn’t until I became an EdTech coach working with K-5 classrooms that I saw all the possibilities of teaching computer science concepts at the elementary level. It started with Scratch. I was able to find free lessons through the scratch.mit.edu curriculum, which led to all the other lessons and resources in teaching coding to the students. I asked teachers for 30-45 minutes to work with me in teaching basic open-ended projects that allowed students to have choice and voice over their Scratch projects. It felt a bit uneasy for myself and my fellow teachers. but we could see the engagement, joy. and perseverance of the students as they learned through exploration and play. Honestly, there were more times than I could remember where I could not get the students to stop working and on their coding projects. Collaboration, debugging, and sharing happened organically as students worked together to create their own Scratch projects.
This eventually led to core computer science content projects and physical computing with Makey Makeys. We hosted Family Code Night for families and community members to join the learning so that they could continue supporting their children in learning at home. This past school year, we joined the VexIQ Competition for the Elementary School Level and won the State Championship for the STEM Research part of the competition. I couldn't have imagined that we would have been able to accomplish so much in four years!
Below are some resources to help you along your journey in teaching computer science with your elementary students.
My top 5 resources for teaching coding with my students:
Michelle Choi Swensson is an Instructional Technology Facilitator and teacher on a special assignment for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Michelle believes that the best way she can support teachers and grow in her profession is to learn continuously, collaborate with a diverse group of learners, and creatively communicate the new learnings with other educators.