We recently had the pleasure of conducting a workshop at the North Carolina Reading Association Conference in Raleigh, NC. Following the release of our latest app, CodeSnaps, we demonstrated how to incorporate coding and robotics into K-5 ELA instruction. Reading teachers from across North Carolina attended the workshop and brought a wonderful energy to the day. "I learned to code at a reading conference!" said one of our participants--exactly the reaction we were hoping for!

During the workshop, participants were challenged with navigating a Sphero robot through a maze using various ELA concepts. Here are the details.


Example course: words that start with a consonant versus words that start with a vowel.

  1. Create a grid on the floor similar to the one pictured here. We used a grid with 16 squares, but it can be bigger or smaller.
  2. Choose the ELA concept you want to use. This is where you can get creative! Participants in our session created courses using:
    • Word families
    • Participants setting up their courses.

      Correctly punctuated sentences v. incorrectly punctuated sentences

    • Long vowels v. short vowels
    • Words that start with a vowel v. a consonant
    • Verbs v. nouns
  3. Use index cards or sticky notes to lay out the maze. Make sure there is a successful path from your start to finish line.

Working in groups of 2-4, students will:

  1. Participants collaboratively writing code.

    Identify the path from start to finish.

  2. Gather measurements and other specifications for navigating the course.
  3. Use printed coding blocks (free) to write the commands for the robot.
  4. Scan their program with the CodeSnaps (free) app.
  5. Test their code by running the robot through the grid on the floor.
  6. Make adjustments to their code, if necessary.

Other ELA + Robotics Ideas

After the maze activity, we came back together as a group and brainstormed other ideas. Here are a couple:

  1. Word Train: example set up.

    Word Train. Create a zig-zag line on the floor like the one pictured here. Place index cards with common prefixes along the first stretch and common suffixes along the final stretch. Have students work in groups to create words by programming Sphero to traverse the course stopping (or changing color) on one prefix, one word, and one suffix along the way. Added programming challenge: use color changes to further identify the word components.

  2. Story Jumble. Lay out a straight line of tape on the floor. Add intersections that lead to various events in a story. Have students put the story

    Story Jumble: example set up

    together by programming Sphero to land on each story event in the correct order. Added challenge: have students read each event aloud when Sphero lands on the square!

We encourage you--reading specialists--to make your tech facilitator's head spin by asking him or her to borrow you school's Sphero for the day. You won't regret it!

What other ideas do you have? Get creative with your courses, and share your experiences with us on Twitter (@saseducator) or Facebook!

You might enjoy reading these other blog posts about coding and CodeSnaps:
Thanks to CodeSnaps, my students are now obsessed with coding!
Why Kids Need Coding and Debunking the Myths
Ready-to-Go Coding Lessons and Materials
CS is Everywhere: Coding in Your Art/Music/PE Classroom
Dance Class and CodeSnaps: Performing Together!
Need Weekend Plans? Code with your Kids!


About Author

Lucy Kosturko

Lucy Shores Kosturko, PhD manages product development for SAS Institute's K-12 educational initiatives, a suite of cross-platform offerings promoting data literacy, artificial intelligence and computer science. After graduating with a B.A. in psychology and computer science from Rhodes College, she earned a M.S. in computer science and PhD in educational psychology from North Carolina State University. Lucy lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and two daughters.

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