Coding & Literacy

When I was teaching Year 5 I noticed that many students in my class (predominately boys) were reluctant to write imaginative texts and many others (predominately girls) would groan when I told them we’d be learning to code or doing anything computer-related. It certainly was a divided class! I saw this as an opportunity to create a project that linked coding with writing to engage students and improve academic outcomes, growth mindset and attitudes.

Project Launch

When launching a project, it’s important to ‘hook’ students to get their interest. We explored games of all varieties, including outside games, computer games and video games. This was great fun! While doing this, I took note of the similarities between games and narratives: characters (often ‘good vs evil’), a clear objective or goal, a quest, problems or obstacles etc. the list goes on! ​

Modelled Examples & Rubric Creation

Before I get students to create a written piece in a particular genre, I create one myself. I wrote a high-quality example for students to refer to throughout the project. In this project, this also meant that I needed to code a computer game myself. I used Kodu and enlisted the support of our school Tech guru to ensure it was really awesome! I definitely learnt a lot! My students had all read narratives before so creating a high quality computer game with the platform they would be using was critical – it sets high expectations and students can see the difference between what they know how to do and what is possible, making it easy for them to set their own learning intentions. The modelled example was also used to co-create an assessment rubric with students

The Writing

We worked through the planning, drafting and editing process step by step. Here are the slides used throughout the project.

Students had individual writing goals that we set together after a pre-assessment narrative writing piece that we did before starting this project. In addition to the whole class instruction (the slides above), students signed up for workshops that related to their individual goals. See the ‘Tracking Progress & Assessment’ subheading below for more information.

The Coding

​Students wrote their own learning intentions for coding. We spend our Makerspace sessions improving our coding skills and creating our computer game week by week as we wrote it. Here are the slides we used throughout the coding part of the project. 

Student written learning intentions for coding lessons

Tracking Progress & Assessment

Students tracked their progress throughout the project. I wanted to make progress and learning visible without the obvious low level and high level students that often happens when you use a linear progression. I created ‘Writing Paths’ which showed increasingly complex skills in different areas of writing along different paths. This way students could be quite far along on one path eg. the ‘vocabulary path’ and not as far along on another eg. the ‘sentence structure path’. This was hugely successful. Students were motivated and enjoyed seeing themselves progress. It was also a visual reminder of their goals so they could refer to them when deciding which writing workshops to sign up for. The photo makes it much easier to understand! Each path is made of a different Kodu block too so it linked in well with our project.

Curriculum Links

– Narrative structure
– Descriptive language and vocabulary
– Character development
– Sentence structure 

Digital Technologies
– Design, modify and follow simple algorithms
– Understand, define and apply variables, sequences, loops and conditionals 
– Develop digital solutions as simple visual programs

Critical & Creative Thinking
– Using a range of learning strategies, particularly peer instruction
– Experimenting with different ways to solve problems