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By: Lisa Floyd and Steven Floyd


One of the best ways to effectively incorporate coding into your daily routine is to ensure students feel that it is an authentic and meaningful learning experience.


In this task, we suggest having students code the Olympic rings.  The Olympic Games provide us with many opportunities to discuss the science/psychology/love of sport, culture, geography, goal setting, marketing…. there really is no end to the cross-curricular connections that can be made.


For this particular task, we provide you with guided materials (see below) to get students started and also some challenges to raise the ceiling for those who are ready. 


As you incorporate such tasks, you will become more and more comfortable with coding in your classroom, and as your students begin to learn the basics, you will continue to come up with new ideas to incorporate coding in meaningful ways.


The beauty of coding, is there really is no limit to what you can create.  As Mitch Resnick suggests, coding provides wide walls to appeal to all different student interests.


Lisa has included Scratch code for making the Olympic rings, but ideally, you will have students write their own code. You can see that Lisa made her own blocks to organize the code and to be more efficient, but this could be considered an extension.  She did not add some of the other possible extensions which might include the Olympic Fanfare, adding information about what each ring represents, etc.


Depending on the students’ past coding experiences, there is an opportunity here to say “go code the Olympic rings” without giving students much initial assistance… watch as they work together to determine the proper colours, math concepts required to code a circle, how the Cartesian plane on the Scratch stage works, meaning of each ring…individual strengths start to shine through and different skill sets (knowledge of sport, artistic abilities, understanding of math ideas) are valued in projects like this. Effective guided questions can play an important role in drawing out key ideas (What does each colour symbolize?  Why were the rings created?  What are the number of degrees required to code a circle?).


You might opt to share the guided materials with students or parts of them with a scaffolded approach (in the past we’ve printed separate “tips” on cards to give out as required).  A link to a shared doc has been provided so you may make a copy and edit as you see fit.  We consider ourselves Just in Time teachers as we walk around listening to discussions and ready to provide support as required.


Additional Olympic Games Learning and Coding Opportunities


The wonderful thing about using the Olympics Games as a context for coding are the number of connections that can be made to a wide variety of subject areas…


What about having your students:

  • code a map of the world, pinpoint countries involved
  • create a program that keeps track of medal counts
  • code the years the Summer and Winter Games are held
  • code their own opening ceremonies animation – fireworks, country flags
  • code a simulation of a bobsled course (use barriers and movement of sprites)
  • create an interactive poster with makey makey and Scratch highlighting specific countries, history of Olympics, specific sports (see Derek Tangredi’s videos for a how to:
  • consider environmental/economic impacts of hosting the games


Guided Materials for Olympic Games Rings:


Link to PDF

Link to Shared Document


Share with us on the Teach Ontario Community in the comment thread below and/or on Twitter (#TeachOntario) how you incorporate coding and the Olympic Games into your own classes.

We continue to update and refresh the material on the site. Previous content will always be available here or by clicking on the Content tab in the dark blue bar across the top of this hub's main page.


We are thankful to the wonderful educators across Ontario who have contributed and supported the materials on this hub. We have tried to provide both specific tasks, as well as big picture, implementation-based resources.  We always welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Lisa Floyd picture


You may find that the examples and instructions on this hub work perfectly for your teachers and students, or you may alter and "remix" some of these activities.


Our hope is that you're recognizing the wide variety of ways that coding and computational thinking can be integrated into our classrooms for the benefit of our students.


If you are just getting started on your coding and computational thinking journey, Steve Floyd pictureyou may want to check out the Coding and Computational Thinking Webinar that we hosted in January. The video is available here.


As a reminder, if you have questions or comments or if you would like to submit material to share, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are excited about the wonderful things going on in Ontario, and we're excited about the future of coding and computational thinking in our classrooms!


If you would like to contribute or make suggestions for this hub, please do not hesitate to message

Lisa & Steve through our TeachOntario accounts or by using the Ask A Question widget in the right panel of the page!


Steve and Lisa Floyd






Steve Floyd has 14 years experience teaching computer science and computer engineering in Ontario. He was the recipient of the 2017 CSTA Award for Teaching Excellence in Computer Science and has worked on a number of coding and computational thinking projects with elementary and high school teachers across Ontario. Steve is currently pursuing his PhD at Western University where he is investigating Computer Science and Computational Thinking in K-12 education. Steve is also an elearning course writer and developer and has worked closely with both the Ministry of Education and private companies to help develop digital citizenship and financial literacy apps for students.


Lisa Floyd is passionate about introducing students and teachers to the world of coding. She recently completed her Masters in Mathematics Education.  She is a Computational Thinking in Math and Science Education instructor at Western University’s Faculty of Education, for which she has received an award for excellence in teaching in the undergraduate program. Lisa is on a leave of absence from the Thames Valley District School Board, where she has many years experience teaching secondary Computer Science, Math and Science. As a thought-leader on STEM education, and Director of Research and Inquiry at Fair Chance Learning, Lisa is currently working with ministries and school districts sharing her passion for creative coding and digital making tools with students and teachers across Canada.

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By Jim Cash


One of the most exciting parts of my day as a resource teacher and co-teacher is to spend time with students who are in the midst of thinking through a problem and figuring something out.


One of the most effective thinking and learning environments is MIT’s Scratch environment. Late last fall, I was working with students in a grade 8 class. Some of them were taking on the challenge of building a working analogue clock in Scratch. Others were figuring out multiple methods by which circles and disks could be drawn in Scratch.


I kept checking in with various students but in this post I am specifically highlighting two students working together (as they... worked together to model an analogue clock). I kept detailed (digital) notes of my observations and conversations with students about their projects.


One of the girls in the partnership decided to start by finding a blank clock face image in Google images. It was imported as the first sprite in the project.


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She then started to look for clock hands in Google. When I returned to them, the other girl was drawing a red second hand in the sprite painting tool. They had decided to just draw the hands. At this point, I started a conversation with them and mentioned the significance of the small + symbol in the paint canvas. I reminded them that any transformations controlled by the dark blue (motion) blocks would use that point as the centre point. We also talked a little bit about how the hands move on an analogue clock.


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They started to code the second hand and, logically enough, used the point in direction block. For the value of that direction, they knew about the light blue sensing blocks that contained values for time and date (i.e., current ______ ).


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I knew at this point that the girls were about to face their first big issue. They assumed that the point in direction block along with the current second block would result in their second hand sprite pointing to the correct second. It didn’t.


Their thinking was logical but their understanding of exactly what the blocks were controlling and how was incomplete. The girls knew it wasn’t right because the second hand would jump back to the 9 and start slowly turning clockwise.


I reminded them that the value of the current second block could be displayed on the stage if they checked the box. Seeing this value is important information and it’s helpful to watch it change in real time (no pun intended!).


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It wasn’t until the arrow sprite returned to the 9 again, and they saw the ‘current second’ value start at zero again, that they started talking about some ideas. I noted that they had a look at the help for the point in direction block.


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One of the girls had an insight. She said out loud that they should first try to get the arrow pointing straight up at the 12 when the second was at zero. There were a few ways they could do this. They chose a mathematical way:


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Adding 90 to the value worked perfectly well at accomplishing one thing: pointing at 12 when the value of ‘current second’ equaled zero. For the rest of the this session they experimented with more values in what looked to be almost a purely trial and error strategy.


They were trying to get the second hand to point to the right second. No lesson I could ever design in advance would have set them up better for an exercise in proportional reasoning than this project, a project they started, owned, and designed.


But now, here I was at the most crucial juncture of my role in their project. They needed to make a connection to other mathematical concepts about circles and angles. My idea was to invite them to tell me all about the clock face circle. I asked them to describe it mathematically:

  • How many numbers were there?
  • How many tick marks?
  • How many seconds and minutes in one full circle sweep of the hand?
  • What are the angles of the numbers and angles of the the tick marks?


For these girls, at this point in their thinking, making the connection again that there were 60 seconds in a minute and that there were 60 ticks around the circle... saying this out loud led to a key question: ‘what is the angle between each tick mark?’


360 divided into 60 equal parts equals 6.


So the 60 tick marks are each 6 degrees of the total circle.


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Now their goal was to make sure this multiplicative relationship between Scratch’s current second, and the 6 degrees between each tick of the clock face, was reflected in the code. The trickiest part was making sure that the 90 degree rotation correction was added after the proportion was calculated.


This is real thinking, powerful learning, and immersive mathematics, using the sprites and blocks in Scratch as objects to think with. Making a highly accurate model of an analogue clock in Scratch is quite challenging and there are many small mathematical problems that need careful consideration and thinking through.


It is also important to mention that I consistently see all of the mathematical processes (as listed in the Ontario math curriculum document) in action every time when I observe students working in Scratch. Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 1.47.44 PM.png


You can read connect with Jim on Twitter or learn more about his work on his blog:


Bio: Jim currently works in the Peel District School Board as a modern learning resource teacher. He is also a father, maker, learner, coder, blogger, musician, podcaster, and is always interested in sharing ideas and innovations to help young people develop as creative thinkers, doers and makers.


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By  Leigh Cassell

AMDSB Teaching and Learning Coach

Founder and President, Digital Human Library



Coding is today’s language of creativity.

~ Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College



In 2017 a talented and innovative team of ten elementary educators in Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) came together as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) to inquire about how to integrate computational thinking (CT) through coding across the curriculum. Our purpose was to help students learn by developing the skill sets they need to be successful today, and in the future. The process of our learning culminated in a curriculum-based resource designed to support teachers and students in K-12 with the integration of computational thinking through coding into their classroom programs.  


The full story of this project can be read here.



I code because it is another avenue for students to learn something new.
It is also a skill of the future. 

-Nicole Kaufman, PLC Team Member - Howick Public School



What initially brought us together was a common interest and curiosity around coding in education.  Why was it important for students to learn to code? As a result of our different levels of knowledge and experience, each member on the team had their own unique perspective. And our willingness to share openly led to rich discussions about why learning to code is valuable.


Our first collaboration was establishing Our Why:


  • Code is everywhere, and as contributing citizens of the world we need to understand how computers work
  • Coding is engaging, creative, fun, innovative, inclusive, differentiated, inquiry-based, and real-life
  • Entry points for anyone, anywhere, at any age, and/or skill level
  • Multiple right answers to a solution
  • Looking for mistakes is rewarding
  • Develop logical reasoning and spatial awareness
  • Build procedural thinking
  • Reinforce the application of the writing process in a new context
  • Coding can be integrated into to all subject areas in an interdisciplinary way
  • Computational Thinking = 21st Century Competencies
  • Empower students to move from passive consumers of content, to active creators of knowledge
  • *Canada will need just shy of 220,000 skilled tech workers by 2020, and our colleges and universities are colleges and universities are producing less than 30,000 (
  • If we don’t prepare students with the skills they need for today’s job market, who will?




Through this experience, I have learned that coding and computational thinking are critical literacy skills, for both 21st-century teachers and students alike.

-Kerri-Lynn Schepers, PLC Team Member -  Bluewater Coast



Coding provides students with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and allows them to see computers as more than recreational/gaming devices. The experience of coding offers students engaging opportunities to think critically, collaborate and solve problems. The procedural thinking and computational thinking skills that students develop through coding activities can be applied across the curriculum in any grade. Coding also allows students to understand that failure is essential to learning, and by continually debugging and remixing code, students develop skills like perseverance, tenacity and grit that contribute to the development of learning skills and productive work habits.




Working with this group of educators gave me the tools I needed to maximize the potential of coding to develop communication, perseverence, problem solving, and collaboration skills in my students.

-Michelle McDonald, PLC Team Member - NorthPerth Westfield



As we moved forward with our inquiry the next guiding question we wanted to answer was... WHERE DOES CODING ‘FIT INTO’ THE CURRICULUM?


Without solid curriculum-based evidence to support ‘Our Why’, how could we justify engaging our students, and other teachers and students in the process of learning to code? But first we needed to develop our own understanding of what it really means to code. New questions were raised as a result of our discussions around this topic which formed the basis of our research and work moving forward:


  • What is Coding?
  • What is Computational Thinking?
  • What are the curriculum-based skills a student would develop while learning to code? (all subject areas)
  • Who (what experts) can we connect with to inform our learning?




Being new to teaching computational thinking and coding in the classroom, I was impressed by my students desire to persevere and collaborate with each other to solve real problems.

-Terry Munn, PLC Team Member - Huron Centennial School



You can read about how we answered each of these questions and how some of these questions evolved into others in the full story.  Below are answers to some of these questions:


What is Coding?


Code is the language that a computer understands. Coding, in the simplest of terms, is telling a computer to do what you want it to do. This begins with breaking a task down into logically sequenced step-by-step commands for the computer to follow. Coding allows users to investigate, problem solve, explore and communicate through discovery, and it is a way to express ideas creatively.

Coding requires computational thinking, which is embedded throughout the Ontario Curriculum. As a result of this, educators can incorporate code into learning for all curriculum areas. The task can consist of journals, interactive stories, literature retells, video, websites, e-mail correspondence, artwork, drama and dance routines, and so on. ~ EduGains, Coding in Elementary


What is Computational Thinking?


One of our challenges with the PLC project was to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding of computational thinking. After piecing together the big ideas from our discussions, here is what we came up with:


Computational thinking is a set of skills that can be developed by all people, whether you use technology or not, and whether solutions to problems require technology or not. Computational thinking is about how humans think about the world and its’ problems, and how we can solve those problems in a structured way. Computational Thinking is about ideas that inform our technologies, and that lead to the creation of new technologies. ~ #EveryoneCanCode Team, 2018



When my students and I were learning to code no one ever had the perfect answer but we were making mistakes and creating wonderful things.

-Nicole Kaufman, Howick Public School



Why Should Students Learn to Code?


It’s not about everyone becoming a coder. As we transition in understanding from learning to code to coding to learn, we recognize that “coding” is about teaching kids to first see the world with empathy, find problems within it that are important to them, and design solutions to solve those problems and help others.

~ Leigh Cassell


Coding provides students with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and allows them to see computers as more than recreational/gaming devices. The experience of coding offers students engaging opportunities to think critically, collaborate and solve problems. The procedural thinking and computational thinking skills that students develop through coding activities can be applied across the curriculum in any grade. Coding also allows students to understand that failure is essential to learning, and by continually debugging and remixing code, students develop skills like perseverance, tenacity and grit that contribute to the development of learning skills and productive work habits.



My biggest take away from our Coding/Robotics PLC was the idea of failing forward, and how the engagement level of the students I work with was unlike any I’ve seen for quite some time.

-Trevor Hammer, PLC Team Member - Program Department


Students who learn CT across the curriculum can begin to see a relationship between subjects as well as between school and life outside of the classroom.

- Google for Education



Where Does CT/ Coding 'Fit Into' the Curriculum?


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Computational thinking skills can be integrated into any subject area...


Ontario’s Renewed Math Strategy focuses on seven mathematical process skills/expectations —the actions of doing mathematics— which include problem solving, reasoning and proving, reflecting, selecting tools and computational strategies, connecting, representing, and communicating. These mathematical processes are embedded in coding tasks and developing computational thinking skills.


From a literacy perspective, coding tasks require students to revise and edit their work, write and follow a procedure, decode and comprehend text, and communicate their learning.  Learning to code requires that students work collaboratively, persevere to overcome challenges, while developing Global Competencies, and learning skills outlined in Growing Success.


Computational thinking skills provide students with a foundation and a mindset to understand their world today, and actively contribute to the world of tomorrow. Teaching students to think computationally is about moving technology projects beyond using tools and information toward creating tools and information. ~ Computer Science Teachers’ Association


Getting Started with CT and Coding:  A Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence As a teacher interested in computational thinking skills, coding and/or robotics, you have multiple entry points and an endless supply of information - all of which can seem rather overwhelming at times. The Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence resource was created to support teachers and students as they move through the various stages of learning to code, to coding to learn.


Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence


Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence Companion Doc




“Coding gives you the basis to understand the world of today and control the world of tomorrow.

There are few more rewarding experiences one can have.”

~ Jeff Skoll, Founder, Participant Media





leah cassell.jpg


Leigh Cassell loves kids. She is an adventurer, innovator and partner in learning with teachers and students around the world. Leigh works as an AMDSB Teaching and Learning Coach and she is Founder & President of the Digital Human Library. Leigh’s expertise centres around integrating technologies effectively to inspire in others a love of learning, creating global connections for teachers and students, shaping new literacy skills, helping students develop 21st Century Competencies, and preparing students to succeed as next generation learners.

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By Peter AnelloUntitled.jpg




As a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator, I likely have one of the best jobs that anyone with the slightest interest and passion for technology could ever have and I absolutely love it!


Being able to help staff and students learn the latest skills and pedagogies related to technology in education some days feels like I should be paying to do this instead of getting paid - it can be that fun.


"You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it." - Papert



Welcome the micro:bit

I was lucky enough to spend three morning blocks with a grade 6/7 class over the span of five school days in October, introducing students to the micro:bit.


Day One


We discussed algorithms and programs, and how computers need these to complete even the simplest task. Scanning the room, students for the most part knew what the difference was.


We watched the Brain Pop video ( and completed the Dice Race activity (


Each group was then tasked to describe all steps to play the game and writing these steps down.

To capture student understanding and wrap up day one, I used Flipgrid (for the first time!). It is an amazing and easy way to capture student voice in the form of video; so powerful.


Day Two


The next day I introduced the micro:bit ( Students worked in pairs and we completed a couple of introductory activities to get familiar with makecode (


The die roll simulator ( was definitely a challenge, which I had anticipated.


Day Three


At the end of day two, I was worried that by jumping right into conditional statements with the group I would turn some students off with the idea of coding. Thankfully as we started up on day three, there was no worry at all.


Some students were excited to show me and each other what they had programmed, with others asking for help with some basic concepts of code. It was

exciting to see this all take place, especially after four days since the last day I was with them.


We consolidated the activity by having students share their programs. It was a great opportunity to see how some students' programs were slightly different than others and with close inspection, performed similarly.


To make use of these die simulators that the students had created, we then moved to play a game of SKUNK ( I had never heard of the game, but Lisa Floyd had shared this game with me (she learned of it from the math team at TVDSB) in conversation as I was sharing my plans with the class with her.




My biggest takeaway from this activity was that students aren’t provided enough opportunities to explore the world of coding and how it can be integrated into their classes. Teachers are trying to ‘fit it in’, but with such a rigid schedule of curriculum to follow, most tend to keep with what they’re comfortable with.


"I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge." - Papert


That’s where I come in!


Coding/programming naturally has a low-floor, high ceiling. Being a newer concept for most, I honestly feel that once teachers are provided an opportunity to see the many affordances that computational thinking can provide for their students, it’ll be a no-brainer that they’ll want to implement it.


See the fuller version of this blog here.


Peter Anello is a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator with the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board. He blogs about his experiences with Computational Thinking, Coding and other Educational Technology topics at

beyond the hour of code

Many school boards in Ontario have geared up for the global Hour of Code event this week during Computer Science Education Week. Superior-Greenstone District School Board (SGDSB) in Northern Ontario has taken a unique approach with supporting and encouraging K-12 learners to not only participate in the Hour of Code, but to go beyond and to build on this initiative with their annual “Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge”.


Stacey Wallwin, SGDSB’s Technology Enabled Teaching and Learning Contact has led the challenge each year and it has proven to be successful in increasing awareness about the importance of computational thinking and encouraging widespread participation within the board.

Wallwin believes that coding is becoming a new digital literacy that teaches students to not only code, but to be computational thinkers while practicing and demonstrating 21st century competencies such as critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, learning to learn/self-directed learning, global citizenship, communication and collaboration. “We are preparing them for the increasingly digital and globally-connected world beyond our Superior-Greenstone borders. We want our students to be the creators of technology not just consumers,” she explains.


Wallwin emphasizes that teachers are not expected to be coding experts in her classrooms. “We want them to begin the journey as co-learners with their students. We don’t ask that they be coders, we ask that they be learners!” She has been amazed at the mindset students develop as they practice computational thinking.  One grade 2 Beardmore Public School student commented on the frequency of errors, growth mindset and subsequent learning: “You mess up all the time because you don’t know, but you debug.”

We asked Wallwin to share how her school board implements the “Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge” and she was more than happy to do so.  She has shared the rationale for her approach as well as details on how the weekly challenges were implemented.  The ultimate goal is equity of learning and to ensure all SGDSB students have the same opportunities  to engage with computational thinking as students in other boards.


Check out the Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge here, including a link to each of the challenges.


Stacey’s bio:


Stacey Wallwin has been an educator with Superior-Greenstone District School Board in various capacities throughout her career. She is currently the Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact (TELTC)and District e-Learning Coordinator (DeLC). She is a passionate reader and life-long learner who believes that anything is possible when we keep our learners at the forefront of everything we do. She leverages the power of technology to break down the geographical barriers that isolate learners in her board, to connect learners and ideas and celebrate the joy in her schools.


Stacey is most grateful for all her colleagues, and mentors who have generously shared their wisdom, best practices and classrooms with her over the years, and most importantly the students who continue to push her thinking and big ideas. She is grateful to be a part of the coding conversation, and acknowledges that it is only through her relationships and professional connections that she has been empowered to support others.

She enjoys time outdoors on the shores of Lake Superior, time with her nephews, and ship watching on Lake Huron. She is a self-professed boatnerd!


You can follow Stacey’s learning on Twitter @WallwinS and her ship watching adventures on Instagram: @swallwin

Visit her blog, Learning, Sharing and a Leap of Faith, at:

Coding Queries

Posted by Feb 1, 2018

We asked three Ontario educators three questions
related to their experience with coding and computational thinking.


Donna Forster is a Student Program Support Teacher with the London District Catholic School Board.

Jamie Mallais is a teacher with the Superior Greenstone District School Board.

Ryan Matthews is an Instructional Coach with the Thames Valley District
School Board.

What was the main reason(s) that you began coding/computational thinking activities with students?


Donna Forster: I was looking for ways to engage students at lunch time in the hope of reducing behaviours that occurred during that block of time and I was aware that students were unsure of what computer science was, even those leaving our school in grade 8. At the same time, the Prime Minister of Canada the Education Minister and the whole world was communicating the importance of computational thinking, coding and opening up to the idea of "measuring what matters". I wanted the students from my school to have a "leg up" on what was/is obviously "coming down".

kids coding


Jamie Mallais: I started coding with my students because of the math connections. I wanted to use practical and interactive tools to help cement understanding for specific content. It had the added benefit of helping the students think in terms of variables (if I change this line of code, what will change in my outcome) as well as making math more fun and less intimidating. We made connections with geometry, angle relationships, and linear equations.


Ryan Matthews: I saw coding as an opportunity to challenge my students in ways I wasn't able to before. I saw them engage in a task with an unwavering determination to see the task through. As I became more comfortable with the ins and outs, I began to see just how many ways coding/CT could used to amplify our curriculum.


What were some memorable moments, quotes or experiences from your time working with students in coding/computational thinking activities?


DF: In general, I noticed spatial reasoning, spatial thinking, and spatial language use. I also noticed students using the tools to develop mathematical thinking. Specifically, we looked at Spatial Sense and Geometry. I noticed our students step up and become leaders. I noticed students being more engaged, and I noticed some wonderful and memorable quotes from our students:

  • "Mrs. Forster your code is wrong" - Kindergarten student
  • "I'm so proud of myself. Guess who is smart now"" -Grade 8 student
  • "I'm a programmer" - Kindergarten student

kids codingJM: I've watched students work together and collaborate to trouble-shoot a problem with their programs. Students have physically acted out their programs to break down the steps and vocalize their thinking to share with their peers. I've also watched students stick with a problem and keep working to solve it when traditionally they just give up or skip to the next problem.


RM: We were in Scott McKenzie's (@ScottMcKenzie27) class doing a patterning activity with Arduinos. I challenged a group to code some LEDs to mimic stop lights. We worked through what a typical stop light and then the group went at it. I told them I didn't think they could do it    A few minutes later they called me over to check out their code. I was greeted with a "Booyah, we did it, in your face!" The enthusiasm and excitement, all related to problem solving, was awesome and we caught it all on video. I saw incredible focus, determination (stick-to-it-iveness), curiosity and learning within these coding tasks. It was really eye-opening.


What suggestions would you give to someone who is thinking of introducing students to coding/computational thinking activities?


kids codingDF: Do not be afraid to start. Just DO IT! Learn with your students. Have fun. Reach out to others for help (secondary school, other students, twitter, workshops, books), do on line tutorials (scratch, scratch junior, hour of code). Be humble. You are never too old to learn something new.


JM: DO IT! Don't be afraid to try it - you might not know everything (or anything) to start, but learn beside your students and let them develop their computational thinking abilities. Or, let your students be the experts and teach each other.


RM: I would suggest trying out whatever you are going to ask your students to do first. I feel that in experiencing it, you will get a better sense of whether the task is appropriate for your students (in terms of the challenge and learning). Dr. Gadanidis gave me the best advice when it comes to coding that I think of often when designing tasks. He said to not let the coding get in the way. Simple coding, complex coding


Follow-up questions for educators:

  • How do coding and computational thinking activities give students a "leg up"?
  • What role does equity play in terms of providing coding and computational thinking tasks for all of our students in all of our schools?
  • How does coding provide an interesting and valuable entry point into the investigation of mathematical concepts?
  • What role does resilience play in coding tasks?
  • Is it possible to transfer this "stick-to-it-iveness" (copyright Ryan Matthews) to other areas of learning?
  • How do coding and computational thinking tasks facilitate collaboration?
  • Are there specific students who, while normally quiet and introverted, seem to come out of their shells and “teach others” when engaged in coding and computational thinking tasks?


Donna Forster works as a Special Education Teacher for the London District Catholic School Board. Donna Forster headshotShe considers herself a lifelong learner and is always looking for new things to try. Most recently, she has been learning coding and robotics in an intergenerational learning environment where students teach teachers and teachers are students of students.


Ryan Matthews is an Instructional Coach with the Thames Valley District School. ryan matthews headshotHe is passionate about the purposeful integration of technology to both engage and empower his students. He still considers himself a novice when it comes to coding but is learning more and more every day. Ryan is regularly exploring both Scratch and Arduino applications for new ways to integrate each into the curriculum.


Jamie Mallais is currently teaching mathematics, Jamie Mallais headshotsocial science, and continuing education at Mantiouwadge High School with the Superior Greenstone District School Board. She is passionate about using and incorporating technology in her daily life along with her teaching practice and is a part of the SGDSB Technology Champions Team.

By Steve Floyd

Literacy is about more than reading or writing -- it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture.

Those who use literacy take it for granted -- but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today's world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of "literacy as freedom."

UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003-2012



The integration of coding in Language Arts provides students with an opportunity to develop skills and competencies across a variety of strands including Oral Communication, Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy. Well developed coding and computational thinking tasks provide students with a context whereby they engage in areas that include, but are not limited to:


  • Developing Ideas
  • Organizing ideas
  • Extending Understanding
  • Clarity and Coherence
  • Producing Media Texts

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised




The following activity involves students representing stories using draggable blocks of code to control characters and events that take place on the screen.


The following document may be useful to use during class activities.


As students engage in these activities, educators may find opportunities to prompt students and to extend student thinking or activities.


Teachers are expected to plan activities that blend expectations from the four strands in order to provide students with the kinds of experiences that promote meaningful learning and that help students recognize how literacy skills in the four areas reinforce and strengthen one another.

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised


1. Present students with an appropriate story.


story clip


2. Have students decompose the story into smaller parts. Decomposing the story allows students to analyze each part on its own and is an important planning and design step. This decomposition can be done individually, in small groups, or together as a class with the story projected or written on the board.


story clip

screen capture of scratch jr. program



3. Have students choose an appropriate background (setting) and sprite (character). Both Scratch Jr and Scratch allow students to change backgrounds and sprites (a small image that can be controlled in a computer program). The selection of these program components requires students to consider the story elements carefully. A classroom discussion here works great.


4. Have students program the sprite. Ensure that students pay close attention to detail: Freddy walks to his bed, hops three times, then falls and bumps his head on his fourth hop.


screen capture of scratch jr. program


5. Have students share their programs with each other and add elements. Students may enjoy discussing the similarities and differences between their program and the program created by their classmate. Students may also enjoy adding sounds, speech bubbles or additional elements to extend the complexity of their programs.



6. Provide students with a second story to program.

screen capture of scratch jr. program

stacked commands in Scratch Jr.

This time, allow students to decompose the story and select program elements on their own. Again, they can share their finished product with their classmates to discuss similarities and differences.


7. Extend the activity allowing for creativity on the part of the students.

    • Allow students to write their own story for the class to program (they will have to carefully consider the background, sprites and actions that can be programmed).
    • Allow students to write a story and program it on their own. Then have them share the finished program with a classmate. This classmate can view the program and write what they believe to be the story. Students can then compare the “developers” story with the “viewers” story to see similarities and differences.


Coding and computational thinking activities such as this allow for a variety of additions, substitutions and extensions. Often teachers, and even students, will head off in a variety of different and valuable directions fuelled by curiosity. I would encourage educators to embrace these opportunities.

The first time, begin by following this lesson as instructed. As the lesson progresses, pay attention to student discussions, successes and challenges. You will then be prepared to alter the lesson in an effort to ensure that it meets the needs of future students.


By Scott McKenzie


I have a confession --

I stopped taking math classes after grade 10 because it justScott Mackenzie headshotseemed too hard.

I liked math but just didn't seem to understand the methods and processes we were expected to follow.

I have another confession --

I have no background in computer science or programming at all.

I simply believe students should have the opportunity to learn how to program, and so began teaching myself a few years ago.

Now math is my favorite subject to teach, and I love integrating coding into my program wherever it seems to work well.

I am sharing an open-ended math and coding challenge I developed involving a Sphero robot. Students had to work through the challenge collaboratively and problem-solve with all their math skills to build and create a maze for the robot to navigate. It was a great experience for everyone involved.

In the challenge (outlined in the center panel of the page) the students were presented with on the day of the competition, you'll see that there are lots of insertion points depending on the math knowledge, and coding abilities of the students.

Every team had an opportunity to build a maze and were successful at the end of the day. They dug deep with their math knowledge, and tried to be creative, thinking mathematically through both the design and building of their maze. They used computational thinking skills as they planned and made connections between both math and coding. Watching students work through this process was a fantastic experience. In the right panel of the page, you'll find a video clip of the day of the competition.

The students themselves worked collaboratively and I too worked collaboratively to design this challenge for both teachers and students. I had the opportunity to work with Mary Sue Merideth, and John Lee from our Learning Services department at the Waterloo Regional District School Board. I also worked with my Elementary Information Technology consultant, Becky Rouse. I learned so much through the experience, and was honoured to work with such talented, and passionate people.

What have I learned? Students will crave challenges if we give them scaffolded problems that they can work through to build upon their skills. They quickly develop confidence in their ability to figure out more complex challenges, and will work for a sustained period of time to meet a goal.

Would I do it all again? Yes! This year we are going to do the same competition again, but will be incorporating a new, advanced challenge- Can you code two or more Spheros to work together in a shared chassis to race around a track? It seems like a difficult challenge, but I'm confident that teams will find a way to succeed!


Scott’s Bio:


Scott McKenzie has been an educator with the Waterloo Regional District School Board for 18 years. He currently teaches Grade 3/4 at New Dundee Public School. He regularly shares his learning with technology at various conferences and in OTF webinars. He was honoured to speak at TedxKitchenerED in 2014.


Scott is a strong believer that all children should feel successful at school, and utilizes technology to meet the needs of all learners in his classroom. This past year he worked on a project integrating coding and robotics as tools to deepen student comprehension in Mathematics and Language Arts from Grades 1 through 6.


Questions, want to connect with Scott? Twitter: @ScottMcKenzie27Blog:


Also checkout:

Mazecraft PowerPoint

Let's Try the Sphero Challenge

Sphero Coding Challenge Video

CustomLogo (1).jpgBy Peter Beens

President of the ACSE


The Association for Computer Studies Education (ACSE) is a non-profit province-wide professional association dedicated to supporting Computer Studies (ICS) and Computer Technology (TEJ) education in Ontario. Our mandate is to provide multi-faceted support for educators and students by providing a unified voice for Computer Studies and Computer Technology teachers, improving information sharing across the secondary level, facilitating dialogue with colleges and universities, facilitating dialogue with business and industry, creating new opportunities for teacher training, and supporting the development of teaching resources. To join our mail list or learn about our annual conference, please visit us at


Note: with “coding” becoming so prevalent in elementary schools the past few years, we are beginning to expand our mandate by including relevant K-8 presentations in our annual conference. See the link above for details.


Additional Note (from Steve Floyd): I have been a part of the ACSE mail list and an attendee and presenter at past ACSE conferences. This is a wonderful organization and I would encourage all teachers interested in coding, computational thinking, computing and computer studies to visit their site and consider joining their mail list and attending their conference.