How I Fit Coding into my PreK Schedule

This is a funny post to write as I listen to a presentation on my phone and scroll Pinterest on my tablet. For those who are counting, that's three pieces of technology that I'm trying to fit into a small stretch of time in my day. We'll worry about my personal screen time at a later date.


I've been asked in professional development as well as in conversations with other teachers about how I fit coding into the already packed PreK day. I think like most things in teaching it's just something you've got to take on slowly. I've been playing around with ScratchJr in the classroom since its release in 2014, so I've had time to experiment and see what works with my teaching practices. However, I've made a list of what I do so that you can pick and choose what you might take on for your own schedule this year.


Interactive Coding
I usually do this during morning meeting (or whenever you would introduce new activities for centers). If you do interactive writing, this is the same basic concept - the teacher is modeling a specific code writing practice to the whole group so that all students are able to clearly see what's happening. Choose one child-friendly objective and share it with the class, then demonstrate that objective through an authentic coding project. Even though you are doing the code writing, the kids should be giving input and the project should be related to student interests or something they're already learning about. Emphasize to students that they can try to reach this goal during their center time at the tablet center. This should only be done through a projector, since a large group of kids will not be able to see those little teeny coding blocks on a tablet screen. See my video demo here.

Coding Conferences
I do this during our longer chunk of center time (we have three center times during the day) and I only do it with a few kids per week, although my goal is to do more this year. I sit with students at the tablet center and we look at their current work on ScratchJr, talk about the objectives we've been working on in our Interactive Coding lessons, and I find a small teaching point to push them a little further in their work. Since I'm going to start writing conferences this year I'm hoping the Coding Conferences will fit more seamlessly into our center time. I record some notes or take a screenshot/video to keep track of student progress, but students are also encouraged to share their work with the whole class after conferencing.

Shared Coding
This usually takes place during music time, and most often we don't use any technology at all. Again, if you understand shared writing you will probably understand Shared Coding. Instead of sharing the pencil we share the coding blocks. The students help to sequence symbols - for music time I print out the symbols on cardstock. The project is usually something that is very familiar to the students, or something that is repetitive. This can also be used during story time if the story has a simple sequence or something that's repeated. My goal is to do this with ScratchJr on the projector and to call up students to place familiar coding blocks. I haven't gotten to that level of comfort yet in my teaching, but this year is looking good for it. If you want more specific examples of Shared Coding you can check out my post about coding on the carpet.
Coding Picture Books Since we have books that we're required to read as part of our curriculum, I usually save coding picture books for our science lessons (which we call Let's Find Out About It) or our social-emotional lessons, since many of the books are tied to problem solving and communication. Many of these are also fun if you have ten spare minutes for a read aloud at the end of the day.
Do I do all these things in one day? No way! Not only does my classroom have to follow the ECERS rules for screen time (my students only get 15 minutes a day) but also there are centers and activities that serve certain purposes better than a tablet can. I try to do each of these once a week, and then fit in extra coding conferences as time allows during centers. Coding is not everything, but I hope this will help you find ways to make it part of your classroom schedule.

If you are not sure how to start Interactive Coding or Coding Conferences in your classroom, I have added my conference notes forms and student-friendly objectives to my TpT store. Use them for an easy way to help students focus on coding goals and to track student progress!

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