Coding and Language Arts

Did you know you can use computer programming with language arts lessons?? Students LOVE using code to create their own animations and interactive stories!

Getting Started

First, make sure your students have a basic understanding of what an algorithm is and what computer programming is. Here is a video of a teacher introducing algorithms and computer programming to her class with an “unplugged” lesson (without a computer). Click here for more "unplugged" lessons to introduce computer science fundamentals. I usually start by asking students to raise their hand if they've played a video game before... and go from there.


My favorite website to introduce students to coding is Code.org. It has fantastic self-directed courses for ages 4-18, and it's FREE!!!! Students love learning how to code with Angry Birds, Minecraft, Frozen, and Star Wars! I have pre-k through first grade students start with course 1. It's perfect for early readers. I have most 2nd and 3rd graders start with course 2. I let upper elementary students choose between course 2, Star Wars, Mine Craft, or Frozen. It doesn't take long before students are hooked!


After students feel comfortable with building code on Code.org, I introduce them to Scratch. Scratch is a free web application that allows you to program interactive stories, games, and animations. It was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. I use Scratch with 2nd - 5th graders. There is an iPad and Android tablet app, ScratchJr, for younger students.

How does this work with language arts?

How-to Writing

Students can teach others a new Scratch code they've created. Here is a free 5E Model lesson plan I used with 2nd grade students. You can tweak it to work for your class.


Fantasy Writing

Students can create their own fantasy story or create a sequel or a different version of an original fantasy. You can choose to have students create their interactive story using Scratch first, or have them write the composition first. This would be a great ELA center!

Here's a video I found on YouTube of a girl sharing a story she created with ScratchJr.

Choose your own adventure

Create different outcomes or variables for a choose your own adventure story! Learn more about variables here.

Screenshot of a choose your own adventure story created by Scratch User veila123.

Narrative Writing

Create personal narratives, original stories, or story scripts for a play.

Screenshot of a project created by Scratch User cs160731.


Students can retell and animate stories or parts of stories they've read.

Screenshot of a project created by Scratch User cordlessea440.

Describe Characters

Create an animation of a character in a story you've read about. Include physical traits by drawing your own character, and include personality traits with animation, speech bubbles, and/or sounds.

Screenshot of a project created by Scratch User 16kennedyb.

Of course, It's up to you and your students' needs on the best way to implement these activities into your classroom. For writing, some students may like creating their interactive stories on Scratch first, and then writing the composition piece after. It works really well for some students that need that extra motivation to get started. You may also want your students to write the compositions first and then create their interactive story later in an independent or group ELA center. Either way, it's fun for your students to explore computer programming and see their stories come to life!

I am presenting on this topic at TCEA Tots for Technology, and at a summer training in my district. I embedded the slide presentation below. It has a few alternative options for student courses on coding and a couple really good articles about language arts and computer programming.

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