Bugg Report: Coding in Music during CSEdWeek


This week we are immersing computer science across the elementary curriculum at Bugg Elementary in Raleigh, NC. Each day we will be teaching new and existing lesson ideas that engage students in their regular classroom content areas with a coding twist. Students will use CodeSnaps to explore their mastery of content in fun, engaging lesson ideas. We will culminate each day in a Bugg Report to capture the day's lessons and share some of our #HourOfCode / Computer Science Education Week adventures. So follow along!

Day 1: Music

Music, like computer coding, has an underlying linguistic and structural logic that often goes unnoticed. Distinguishable patterns regularly appear in the music we listen to, including the top 40 hits, where songs so often follow a basic algorithm of alternating verse and chorus, a bridge section for some variation, and a return to the familiar chorus. These similarities between music and coding – both linguistic and structural – make music theory, including musical form, a natural instructional tool for computational thinking.

To that end, today’s class was filled with sound: engaged students buzzing and SINGING. We designed two activities for integrating music and coding: Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Hokey Pokey. The Hokey Pokey activity was an unplugged (no technology required) activity. Students rehearsed the Hokey Pokey as a group and then took turns writing the instructions for one another in the form of a program to be followed by their fellow students.

Robot ("Itsy Bitsy Spider") resting on the spout before executing program.

Students singing along as Sphero executes their Itsy Bitsy Spider programs.

The other activity had students dissecting the Itsy Bitsy Spider for instructions to direct the spider. Students broke the story down into individual components to translate the Itsy Bitsy Spider into a program the connected Sphero (“Spider”) robot could follow. Students would write programs and then sing along as the robot executed their program.


  • Younger Students: Students programmed with an instructor as a group. The instructor solicited responses from the group to drive selection of code blocks directly in the CodeSnaps app. Students worked as a team to provide the steps the spider takes to construct their program for the robot. Once the steps were complete, students gathered around to watch Sphero execute their code as they sang along.
  • Older Students: Students worked in small teams of 3-4 students to build programs using the CodeSnaps tangible blocks. Older students required increasingly less instructor guidance to complete the activity. They were directed to practice running through the code with a partner to highlight mistakes and work through any stuck states that arose. When code was complete, the instructor scanned the students’ code using the CodeSnaps app and executed the Itsy Bitsy Spider programs.

Learn more about integrating coding into Art, Music and PE from this great post and explore additional plugged and unplugged activity recommendations.


About Author

Scott McQuiggan

Scott McQuiggan leads SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an interdisciplinary team focused on the development of no-cost educational software in the core disciplines at SAS. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2009, where his research focused on affective reasoning in intelligent game-based learning environments. His research has been published in more than 30 journal articles and refereed conference proceedings, and been recognized through several best paper nominations including Best Student Paper Award at the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction.

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