There's no time like the present to get started with programming! Learning to code at an early age is not only fun and engaging, but it also provides a solid foundation for a wide range of disciplines. A great elementary school coding curriculum is one which covers a range of topics both directly and indirectly related to computer science, including coding itself, math, science, and art. Learning to program doesn’t just develop the skill of coding—the benefits for young learners range from developing critical thinking skills to exercising their creativity! Read on to learn more about how to get an early start with coding.
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Computer science for elementary school students
Aspiring programmers can start their coding journey by taking classes offered at school! With the right classes, students can develop important skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Classes such as coding, math, science, art, and writing are all great options for elementary students who are interested in computer science. These classes will not only provide a solid foundation for programming, but they’ll also help students develop skills that will be useful throughout their education and in their future careers.
1. Coding Classes
This one is a bit of an obvious one, but it’s also the most important! These classes will teach students how to talk to computers and make them do what you want! They’ll learn how to use different programming languages, like Scratch or Python, to create their own programs, games, and websites. It's like learning a new language, but instead of talking to people, you're talking to a computer!
2. Math Classes
Computers don’t understand the same languages we understand; instead, computers understand numbers. Taking math classes will help aspiring programmers be able to get a computer to efficiently do what they want it to do. For example, these classes can help learners understand the concepts behind creating cool graphics and animations in games. They’ll learn how to work with shapes, patterns, and numbers to make their programs look and work like magic. They’ll also learn how to use concepts like coordinates, vectors, and matrices, which are important for things like game physics and artificial intelligence.
3. Science Classes
Speaking of physics, science classes will teach students the principles behind how things move and interact in games, robots, and real-world situations. These classes teach students about motion, force, energy, and mechanics, and how to use them to simulate movements and interactions in games, design robots, and other mechanical systems. Math and science go hand-in-hand with programming, so students should be sure to take as many of these classes as they can!
4. Art and Design Classes
Art classes help teach students how to make their game, program, or website look appealing. They’ll learn the skills needed to create visually pleasing interfaces, choose colors and layouts that make sense, and make sure everything is easy to use. Creating a useful or fun piece of software is great, but without a user-friendly interface, many people won’t be interested in actually using it. So aspiring programmers should be sure to develop their artistic talents, too!
5. Writing Classes
Writing classes will teach students how to explain your ideas to others and make them understand what you're trying to say. They’ll learn skills that will help them write code documentation, user guides, and other types of technical content. For programmers, it's important to be able to explain code and ideas to others, whether it's to their classmates or their boss. Remember, not everyone understands how programming works, so being able to communicate how a program works in simple, engaging language is a critical skill as a coder!
Explore the best programming languages for elementary school curriculum
There are countless programming languages out there, all focusing on one specialty or another. To help you narrow it down, here are three great languages to start with, in order of difficulty!
Scratch is one of the most popular starting points for young programmers. It offers a block-based programming interface, meaning beginner coders can focus on the core concepts of programming rather than the complexities and nuances of text-based coding. It can be used to create a number of fun programs such as video games and animations, and finished projects can be shared with and played by friends and family in a web browser. Plus, Scratch comes preloaded with a wide variety of graphics and sounds to play with right off the bat!
Swift is a programming language created by Apple which can be used to develop software for Apple products like iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. Alongside the creation of Swift, Apple also created Swift Playgrounds, an app designed to teach young coders how to program in Swift by way of solving puzzles with code. This gamified approach is a great way to take a step into the world of text-based coding, with the long-term goal of being able to write professional-level programs for the Apple ecosystem.
Python is a very popular programming language, and with good reason! It’s used in a wide range of disciplines, from video game development to artificial intelligence. It’s one of the most common languages to learn for those who are interested in a career in computer science. There are a ton of resources available to learn how to do whatever you’d like to do with coding, and because of its popularity, chances are whatever you want to do can be done with Python! It’s a text-based coding language, meaning that it’s more suited to more advanced students, so it might be best for young students to wait until they’ve mastered a block-based language like Scratch first.
Elementary school computer curriculum
Create & Learn offers a number of age-based curricula to help guide students through their coding journey. Each curriculum features a foundational, intermediate, and advanced path to follow, and students can pick and choose which classes to take based on their interests. Each live online class features content crafted by experienced professionals, so no matter which class a student chooses, they’re sure to learn something new and valuable!
The K-2 curriculum starts with foundational classes designed to introduce young learners to core coding concepts in the kid-friendly environment of ScratchJr. Here, they’ll learn these concepts by building interactive stories and games, allowing students to be creative and imaginative. More advanced students can also take classes on digital art and science to further expand their skills.
Best class to begin with: ScratchJr
The curriculum for grades 2-4 starts with the block-based programming platform Scratch to teach students the basics of programming with fun games and animations. They’ll learn how to use their problem-solving skills to bring their projects to life, as well as apply their creativity to build projects of their own design! Students can then branch out to science, art, robotics, and more as they work their way through the curriculum.
Best class to begin with: Scratch Ninja
The curriculum for grades 4-6 also starts out with Scratch, focusing again on core coding concepts while engaging problem-solving skills and creativity to create a number of game and animation projects. As students progress through the curriculum, they’ll take classes on art, science, engineering, and even artificial intelligence! The end goal for this path is learning to program with Python, one of the most popular and flexible programming languages in the world. It’s a great start for any aspiring programmer!
Best class to begin with: Scratch Ninja
Free coding classes for elementary school students
Looking to give coding a try without committing to a longer course? Students can try out our free coding classes for elementary school students looking to get their feet wet, and continue on with a great curriculum if they’re interested in learning more!
Our free Scratch class teaches kids the basics of coding using Scratch’s block-based platform. Students will build a fun project with the guidance of an expert teacher, learning how to use certain blocks to create different behavior in their program. This is a great starting point for any child interested in learning to program!
Best for: Students just getting started who want to make games or animations
Minecraft is more popular than ever, and it can even be used in an educational context! This free, live introductory class starts students out with Redstone, one of the most powerful elements in Minecraft. Through a series of fun activities and puzzles, students learn how different Redstone blocks can be used to power other blocks around them in different ways. They’ll be taught the skills they need to start creating more advanced structures which mirror real-world electrical engineering in the world of Minecraft!
Best for: Students who love Minecraft and are interesting in programming and engineering
Roblox is another very popular game, and for good reason—Roblox is like a magic playground for kids who want to learn how to code! This introductory class teaches students how to install and activate Roblox Studio, then goes through a step-by-step tutorial on how to build an interactive game with different shapes, colors, and materials. By the end of the introductory session, students will have their very own Roblox game to share with friends and family!
Best for: Students who love Roblox and want to make games, and have previous experience with Scratch coding
Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting fields of study today, because it has the potential to create intelligent machines that can think, learn, and make decisions like humans. This free session covers some fun cutting-edge AI applications. Students will participate in group discussion as well as interaction with the teacher as they build a hands-on project to begin their journey learning about artificial intelligence.
Best for: Students who are interested in getting started in the exciting world of AI
Whatever your interests in the world of coding, Python is often a great choice of language to accomplish that goal! This free class is great for students who are ready to transition away from block-based coding systems like Scratch, and dive into the world of text-based programming. In this class, students learn how to create a fun animation using Python, which they can use to build their own stories with code!
Best for: Students who are ready to move on from block-based coding to text-based coding
If you’re a teacher and you’re ready to get started with free lessons for your class or group of 10+ students, you can pick the activity your children will be most excited about from our Hour of Code activities which we offer year round. Contact us via this page to get your special session set up!
Start with the best elementary school coding curriculum
There are a ton of ways to get started with coding in elementary school—it’s up to you to get the ball rolling! If you’re looking for more ideas, check out our tutorial on how to make a game with Scratch! And don’t forget to check out all of the great free introductory classes offered by Create & Learn!
Written by Create & Learn instructor Josh Abbott Salazar. Josh is a teacher, coder, audio engineer, and musician. After graduating with a Master's in Music from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, Josh turned his attention to the technology side of things, and has been working in various aspects of coding and engineering ever since. He runs a small music studio in Nashville called Tango Sound Studios, and develops video games in his spare time.