Using SeeSaw to Teach Coding in Kindergarten

Ms. Moyers classroom
Student work of positive statements and self-affirmation

The Challenge

Ms. Cullen elected to join the Digital Kindergarten Academy as part of her district's COVID-19 response. She had not taught Kindergarteners online before but embraced the challenge. "This was my first year teaching digitally. The first part of the year was a lot of troubleshooting, and it was a big learning curve for me."

The Outcome

Even with the challenges of online learning, the students in Ms. Cullen's class prospered. "I've never had kids grow so much in a school year." Ms. Cullen attributes the students' growth to the top three apps she was using for online learning: Kodable, SeeSaw, and Epic.

"Everything was new to me, because I'm used to being an in-person teacher. I started with simple assignments in SeeSaw about how to login to Kodable."
Lisa Cullen, Kindergarten Teacher

Why Teach Kids Coding?

This was Ms. Cullen's first year teaching coding. "Coding is great for teaching problem-solving skills. Problem-solving is an important skill to have in math and also in the real world when faced with day to day problems."

Ms. Cullen believes being tech-savvy in today's world is essential for all ages. She says, "The earlier children are exposed to coding, the better. It's similar to language development. It is much easier to pick up and learn when the foundation is built at a young age."

Student sitting on a couch using Kodable on a tablet

Introducing Coding for the First Time

Ms. Cullen was going to wait until the STEM teacher was able to introduce coding during the Hour of Code in December, "but a parent saw the Kodable app on their iPads and asked if we could start early," stated Ms. Cullen.

To begin, the class started very simply. Ms. Cullen sent the login instructions on a SeeSaw assignment and told the students they could play for 10-15 minutes in any activity on Kodable, and asked to include a screenshot of their favorite activity. See Ms. Cullen's first assignment here.

With Ms. Cullen's instructions in SeeSaw, students were able to login on their own, which took the pressure off her to explain everything. She felt that allowing the students to explore independently before starting as a class made it easier to jump in.

"It wasn't hard at all!" Ms. Cullen exclaimed, "I used the 'student view' on my teacher dashboard to see what they were seeing, but I had no fear because I thought 'if they were doing it, then I can do it.'"

Screenshot of a success screen in Kodable that a student shared using SeeSaw

Integrating Coding into Reading and Science

Ms. Cullen continued to teach coding throughout the school year. She included more Kodable assignments via SeeSaw. Ms. Cullen also says, "I found some activities in the community library to build on the skills they learned in Kodable."

When the students were reading Curious George, Ms. Cullen found a SeeSaw activity that asked the students to use their coding skills from Kodable and program a monkey to collect bananas.

Screenshot of the Life Cycle of a Chicken Coding Activity

As she grew more comfortable teaching coding, Ms. Cullen created SeeSaw activities that integrated with their science lessons.

Ms. Cullen created a "Life Cycle of a Chicken Coding Activity" that asked students to use the coding skills they learned in Kodable and write a program that followed the correct sequence of events in the life cycle of a chicken. She also used the Kodable Beach Cleanup activity to teach students about Earth Day.

"The reasoning skills they're doing in coding carried over to reading and learning, as well as building their confidence at navigating through tough programs and technology."
Lisa Cullen

Improving Self-Confidence and Reading Skills with Coding

Student work of positive statements and self-affirmation

Even with the challenges of online learning, the students in Ms. Cullen's class prospered. "I've never had kids grow so much in a school year." Ms. Cullen attributes the students' growth to the top three apps she was using for online learning: Kodable, SeeSaw, and Epic.

"I would say the reasoning skills they're doing in coding carried over to reading and learning, as well as building their confidence at navigating through tough programs and technology," Ms. Cullen said, "Kodable was a bright spot in their day!"

"At the beginning of the school year one student said 'Why are you testing me? I can't read'," Ms. Cullen recalls, "but by the end of the year she was reading almost at the end of the kindergarten level." Ms. Cullen describes helping this student with her self-confidence: "We worked on getting her to say 'I can read,' and by the end of the year she was writing me notes."

Building confidence was a major milestone for many students who were learning to read and did not have any reading skills at the start of the school year. "Many [students] knew zero letters or numbers, and by the end of the year they were reading at a third or fourth grade level," explained Ms. Cullen.

At the end of the year, students were asked to write something they learned: "I can code and I can read," read one student's response.

Open the Door to Collaboration with Kodable

About Ms. Cullen

Lisa Cullen

About Ms. Cullen

Lisa Cullen is a teacher in ISD 196 in Rosemount, Minnesota. Ms. Cullen taught students spanning from K-6th grade throughout her 34 years of teaching before retiring to spend more time with her family, including three grandchildren.

With a master's degree from the University of Minnesota in teaching instruction and curriculum and K-12 reading license from Hamline University, Ms. Cullen aims to help her students "develop a positive attitude about learning while developing a positive self-image at the same time."

She explains, "My passion has always been making learning fun and relevant for my students. I also believe in teaching the whole child."

About the Digital Kindergarten Academy

At the beginning of the school year, the district allowed students and families to learn remotely if they were concerned about the risk of COVID-19. Students who opted into remote learning were put in the Digital Kindergarten Academy.

Twenty Kindergarten students were placed in Ms. Cullen's class, originating from two Title 1 schools in the district. Three of the students were English Language Learners, and many did not know any letters or numbers at the beginning of the year.

Ms. Cullen had not taught Kindergarteners online before but embraced the challenge, "This was my first year teaching digitally. The first part of the year was a lot of troubleshooting, and it was a big learning curve for me."

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