Learning to Code in Lower School: Developing Skills, Igniting Passions

The younger you can expose children to coding, the better, believes Lower School technology coach Debra Finger. That’s why she begins teaching students the fundamentals of coding in first grade. In addition to learning algorithmic thinking and how to solve a problem step-by-step, introducing coding at such a young age helps students build perseverance, patience, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

“Coding is challenging, but fun. My students get so excited when they can solve challenging problems,” says Ms. Finger, who loves when students get so absorbed in their work that they’ll spend an entire class period trying to crack a single problem.

In first and second grades, students develop their skills by working on increasingly complex puzzles and problems using activities on®, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and a leading provider of K-12 computer science curriculum in the United States. The drag and drop block coding games introduce students to the basics of coding as they attempt to move through grids, first using arrows, then by introducing directional commands (north, south, east, west), and precise instructions for movement (turn right 90 degrees, etc.).

Starting in third grade, students use Tynker™ to build code as a way to tell  stories and share their learning. As students move up to fifth grade, the stories become more complex, with more scenes and sets of actors required. Rather than introducing new content, the coding activities are integrated into the learning students do in other curricular areas, like social studies and literature arts.

Students’ early exposure to coding through fun activities and puzzles builds a strong foundation for more complex coding work done with programs like Scratch in the Middle School, and Python in the Upper School. But beyond learning skills, Ms. Finger hopes the coding curriculum in Lower School inspires students to explore new passions.

Fourth grader David S. discovered his love of coding when it was introduced in first grade. “I love it because coding is my hobby and I like exploring codes.” Second grader, Mateo R. loves coding, too. "I love challenge puzzles and also bonus puzzles because they challenge your brain and they are really fun!" His classmate Ayla M. agrees. She likes coding because she “just likes to figure out puzzles and gets excited because [she] keeps getting them first try without even using the Step button!"



The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.