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An Easy and Creative Way to Teach Coding to Elementary Students

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Participate and share : Poster

Sunday, November 29, 11:00 am–12:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Jessica Krieger  
Lauren Velegol  

Elementary students are creative and imaginative. It’s important to teach them coding in ways to foster these skills. We are high school students who have created an inclusive, collaborative coding curriculum. Learn about coding, resources and how to teach our curriculum in your classrooms.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: It will be helpful if attendees have a Khan Academy and a account. It's vital that attendees bring a computer of some kind.
Topic: Computer science & computational thinking
Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: Computer science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
Creative Communicator
  • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this session is to discuss with learning professionals about the methods used to reach younger students when it comes to programming. There are many STEM activities to choose from, and we found that students responded best to ones with specific outlets for their creativity. Participants of this session will gain knowledge of useful techniques when teaching elementary students programming and learn a variety of JavaScript programming and animation skills. After the session, the participants will: learn JavaScript programming, have increased knowledge concerning techniques for constructing and teaching a programming class to elementary students, obtain a wide variety of resources available to convey programming concepts helpful for beginner programmers (elementary students), understand how to utilize creativity and individuality to make programming more approachable to elementary students, speak with us on how to adapt a programming lesson plan to better fit the needs of a specific classroom environment, gain access to a supplemental portfolio with our teacher videos (for additional review to teach the curriculum), presentations, and handouts, and have a baseline knowledge of Computer Science concepts to teach students in grades 3-5.

Lesson plans
Day 1: We introduce ourselves, give a 15 minute lesson on what Computer Science is, engage the students in a discussion of how programming is used in our world, watch an inspirational video, learn basic concepts of programming a Rectangle, a Background, and a Fill in JavaScript, and introduce the mini project, “Build a Robot.”
Day 2: On the second day, we do another short lesson and engaging discussion on the history of Computer Science and programming languages, we review the skills learned on day one, the students learn how to program ellipses in JavaScript, and finally, the students combine all of the skills that they learned to complete the mini project: “Build a Snowman”.
Day 3: For our third session, we start off with reviewing our concepts learned during the previous lessons. Next, we teach a mini-lesson and provide a demonstration of Stroke, strokeWeight, noFill, noStroke, psuedocode (note-taking and organization for programmers), text, and textSize. The students then use these new skills to improve upon and make their “Build a Snowman” projects more detailed.
Day 4: During the fourth session we introduce the final project and encourage students to collaborate with others to think of ideas for their individual projects. Students spend this day inquiring about various other skills they want to implement into their projects and getting as creative as possible when designing their final piece of code.
Day 5: During the fifth session, the students continue working on their final project as we teach how to program and include images, lines, triangles and how to animate their objects to move in JavaScript and encourage them to implement these new skills into their final project.
Day 6: During the last (optional) session, students perfect their final projects, continue to develop animation skills, complete a survey which tests their perceptions of themselves as programmers before and after our sessions, and share their final projects with the class.

Instructional electronic resources used: For our sessions, our students used Chromebooks for Javascript animation programming.

Evidence of success: To test the success of our program, we gave 70 students (grades 3-5) that completed our coding sessions a survey that tested different variables of student gain from our program. We first tested the student’s perceptions in their coding ability before and after we taught our 5 sessions in the Spring of 2019. The average confidence level (on a scale of 1-5) before our sessions was at a 3.41 and the average confidence level (on a scale of 1-5) after our sessions was at a 4.16. This is an increase in confidence level by around 0.75 (on a scale of 1-5) or a little over 22%. The p-Value for this hypothesis test is 1.767*10^-5. From our p-Value we concluded that there is strong evidence against the null hypothesis (that the increase in confidence noted was due to random occurrences) and we can thus reject it. Therefore, there is a statistically significant increase in STEM confidence as a direct result of our coding sessions. We then tested the student’s desire towards going into a STEM career (on a scale of 1-5) with the same 70 student sample size. The average desire to enter into a STEM career (on a scale of 1-5) before our sessions was 2.31 and the average desire to enter into a STEM career (on a scale of 1-5) after our sessions was at a 2.84. This is an increase in desire to enter into a STEM career by around 0.53 (on a scale of 1-5) or a little over 23%. The p-Value for this hypothesis test is 1.42*10^-3. Our p-Value suggests strong evidence against the null hypothesis (that the increase in desire to enter a STEM career noted was due to random occurrences) and we can thus reject it. Therefore, there is a statistically significant increase in desire to enter a STEM career as a direct result of our coding sessions. We can conclude from this data that the results of our program would be comparable for students in other classrooms in similar districts.


First we will spend 30 minutes viewing examples and brainstorming ideas for getting kids inspired and excited about coding. This portion of the workshop will include sharing some videos we’ve found are successful in inspiring the students, discussing basic computer science concepts and how to teach these in fun ways, and talking about ways to engage students in discussions on Computer Science. Attendees will all be given access to these resources through a presentation that we created to teach our students. The next 30 minutes will be spent learning how to use which is a great first day activity, especially for students who have never programmed before. Attendees will have active participation in this activity and can complete as many levels as our time slot will allow. Last year at our workshop, we found that the teachers and coordinators who came really enjoyed this activity and many of them also had inquiries about which courses they could use for different ages. We will also spend this 30 minute time slot answering those questions. For the next 105 minutes, attendees will be learning the bulk of our curriculum: basic javascript syntax with the Khan Academy compiler (rectangles, ovals, fills, background, comments, animation) and will be learning ideas for how to incorporate basic JavaScript skills to specific classrooms. Attendees will leave the workshop with the skill of JavaScript animation. We will teach the attendees this skill by treating this portion of the session as a basic coding “class” so that they can experience what their students will feel when they are taught JavaScript animation. Attendees will complete 3 mini projects (robot, snowman, and a color detail project) and a “final project” of their choosing so they will need computers or laptops to be able to complete the code. They will also be able to ask about specific ways of teaching the JavaScript. For the last 15 minutes we will be answering questions and discussing with attendees ideas for the future. Throughout the session, attendees will collaborate with each other to look at possible ideas for projects and to admire each other’s programs.

Supporting research

Brown, Ryan; Brown, Joshua; Reardon, Kristin; Merrill, Chris. Understanding STEM: Current Perceptions Technology and Engineering Teacher, v70 n6 p5-9 Mar 2011
National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Committee on Highly Successful Science Programs for K-12 Science Education, Board on Science Education and Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Mossing Samantha, (2013), The Importance of Creative Thinking and the Arts in Education,

Foutz, Tim. "Teaching Coding to Elementary Students ? the Use of Collective Argumentation," ASEE annual conference & exposition, v.1, 2019.

Tharayil S., Borrego M, Prince M, Nguyen K., Shekhar P., Finelli C., Waters C., “Strategies to mitigate student resistance to active learning”, March 2018,

Myers, Blanca. “Women and Minorities in Tech, By the Numbers.” Wired, Conde Nast, 28 Mar. 2018,

“Statistics.” Statistics | National Girls Collaborative Project,

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Jessica Krieger, State College Area High School
Lauren Velegol, State College Area High School

Lauren Velegol is a high school student at State College Area High School. Lauren co-started a coding program for Elementary School classes in 2016 where she developed a coding curriculum facilitating creativity and inclusion. In 2017 she co-presented at American Society for Engineering Education on their curriculum and work teaching students to code. In the summer of 2019, she co-presented a poster and conducted a workshop here at ISTE. Lauren is a winner of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award. In her free time, Lauren also enjoys dancing, debating, and has multiple math practice test books published on Amazon.

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