Classroom Story

Pam Craig uses CS First to bring creative writing to life with code

Pam Craig uses CS First to bring creative writing to life with code

Pam Craig is a 5th Grade Language Arts and Science teacher at Skyview Upper Elementary School in Trooper, Pennsylvania. She leverages CS First, Google's free computer science (CS) curriculum, to teach writing and the four C's (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) using code.

Why did you decide to use CS First in your classroom?

These days, students need to not only be literate, but also to be digitally literate–meaning able to use technology to access, evaluate, locate, communicate, create, and use information. For me, literacy includes coding. My district doesn't require students to learn coding, so I decided to integrate CS First into my Language Arts instruction. The Storytelling theme fit right into our curriculum–it lets students experiment with dialogue, setting, premise, characterization, and interactive storytelling using CS.

CS First makes it very easy to integrate coding directly into my ELA instruction, enhancing the writing and literary skills I teach.

What strategies do you use to teach CS First in your Language Arts class?

I prepare activities that allow students to practice Language Arts concepts before they apply them in code with Storytelling. I choose a few mentor texts -- usually short picture books -- for an interactive read-aloud with the students. For the Dialogue lesson, we analyze how we know who was saying what in the mentor text by looking at dialogue phrases such as "said Dad" or "Dad whispered." Students also brainstorm and organize their coding stories in interactive writers' notebooks, which helps them sequence the dialogue when they start coding in Scratch.

What strategies do you use to teach CS First in your Language Arts class?

What is your favorite thing about CS First?

I love how CS First allows students to engage in the 4 C's: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Creativity comes naturally as students are writing a story. Students think critically to problem solve and persevere in order to code their stories the way they want them. They become excited as their stories start coming together and want to bounce ideas off of each other. And communication is what CS First is all about: students communicate their story in code. As students progress through the class, they naturally begin collaborating to help each other. When something clicks, they call out, "I figured it out," or "I got it," and the other students run over to offer congratulations or high fives. These are the moments that teachers live for!

What advice would you give to a teacher who's using CS First for the first time?

Go for it! Just do it! Jump in and don't worry! Allow the students to work through it at their own pace and speed. You'll be amazed at how quickly your students learn and the things they will be able to teach you!

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