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CSTA has many sessions dedicated to expanding knowledge in the CS field. Navigating that much content can be overwhelming, so we have compiled a list of sessions for the Elementary Strand that you will benefit from!

LitCS: Supercharging K-5 Comprehension and Writing through CS

Presented by Katherine Goyette

July 16, 2024, from 9 a.m. to noon PT

*This session is a pre-conference workshop and can be added to your registration for an additional charge

Join this workshop for an interactive coding experience where we’ll explore the incredible synergy between computer science and literacy in the K–5 classroom. Engage in the role of a student as you discover how integrating CS can revolutionize writing instruction and expand access to computer science in the general education classroom. We’ll provide lesson ideas that leverage creativity and critical thinking skills, adapt easily to any text or writing prompt, and align with CSTA standards and common core English language arts standards. Get ready to embark on an exciting journey that combines storytelling, problem solving, and creative expression through coding.

Unplugged Computational Thinking with Classroom Manipulatives

Presented by Kathy Benson

July 17, 2024, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. PT

Computational thinking is foundational for computer science and underpins problem-solving skills across the curriculum. In this hands-on session, you will explore how generic classroom manipulatives like pattern blocks, LEGOs, Unifix® cubes, and modeling clay can introduce computational thinking without devices. Participants will learn the benefits of a tangible CT experience firsthand, trying out unplugged activities for teaching and practicing the four pillars of computational thinking (decomposition, pattern recognition, algorithms, and abstraction). You will walk away with practical approaches to enhance student learning.

Crafting and Physical Computing

Presented by Jacqueline Russell and Katie Henry

July 17, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. PT

Research shows that students learn best from hands-on, creative experiences driven by their personal interests and choices. Physical computing brings your lessons off the screen and into the hands of your students, placing student creativity at the forefront of the lessons you already teach. In this breakout session, you will use MakeCode and the micro:bit to create physical computing devices from everyday objects like binder clips, paper clips, and rubber bands. Encouraging students to prototype their application as a real-world object with personal meaning drives student interest and engagement. We’ll discuss how to integrate physical computing into existing coursework, exploring possibilities for cross-disciplinary collaboration with other teachers in your school.

Peeking Under The AI Hood: Unplugged Activities for Grades K-2 

Presented by Vicky Sedgwick

July 17, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. PT

Artificial intelligence can be found everywhere in today’s world, and it’s never too early to help our students understand what it is and how it works. This session will introduce unplugged activities to demystify AI for early elementary students.

Come take a peek under the AI hood as we define AI and identify its impacts on our students’ lives, learn how AI gets trained (and where its biases come from), explore how generative AI works, and more. Participants will leave with lessons that meet AI4K12 guidelines and CSTA K–2 standards, as well as linking to other AI teaching resources. While the lessons in this session are designed for grades K–2, they can also be used to teach foundational AI concepts to upper elementary students.

Bridging the CS Gap between Schools and Communities

Presented by Desiree White-Price and Tina Dietrich

July 17, 2024, from 2-3:30 p.m. PT

This presentation explores computer science equity through the lens of an afterschool VEX robotics club for mothers and daughters. In school districts where a majority of students come from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, CS requirements may be minimal or nonexistent in the early grades, while students in middle and high school do not see themselves in tech careers. Our mother/daughter afterschool VEX Robotics Club introduced young girls to computer science at a local community center. We also invited local community members and alumni to our program to expose our scholars to potential careers in tech. Come to this session to learn how to use the power of community to promote CS inclusion!

Authentic Assessments in Elementary Computer Science

Presented by Lindsay Roberts 

July 18, 2024, from 9-9:20 a.m. PT

As more states require computer science education to start in kindergarten, it can be challenging to find the resources to meaningfully assess CS standards. In this session, K–6 teachers will learn concrete strategies for effective computer science assessments. In this session, we’ll highlight practices that help teachers assess student learning and differentiate instruction in real time. Strategies include program planning, student self-assessment, interactive and observational assessments, and using technical rubrics to evaluate final projects.

Elementary Awareness of CTE Careers and Pathways

Presented by Kevin Driscoll and Elizabeth Bacon

July 18, 2024, from 1-1:20 p.m. PT

Career technical education offers opportunities for secondary students in the US to explore different career pathways. However, elementary students begin to form identities and career aspirations long before they gain access to CTE. This session will consider ways for elementary teachers to increase awareness of different STEM and computing pathways, broadening the STEM pipeline by encouraging students who may not see themselves in the more narrow applications of computing. We’ll start with an overview of the role of CTE in the US education system, and discuss how computer science fits into current CTE programs. We’ll then broaden this approach to include other CTE pathways, making space for educators to become familiar with their own state’s offerings. With those pathways in mind, we’ll explore ways to introduce young students to a range of career opportunities that challenge their notions of what computer science can be.

Integrating CS with Science and Math in Linguistically Diverse Upper Elementary Classrooms

Presented by Ezgi Yesilyurt, Erdogan Kaya, Dilara Kara-Zorluoglu, and Elif Abibelli-Sahin

July 18, 2024, from 2-3:30 p.m. PT

This workshop will teach participants to use Finch 2 robots to integrate computer science with science and mathematics in linguistically diverse upper elementary classrooms. We’ll code Finch 2 robots in a block-based programming environment, exploring foundational computer science concepts like algorithms, sequences, events, loops, and conditionals. By coding the Finch robots to draw geometric shapes and demonstrate knowledge about the life cycle of an animal or plant, participants will develop pedagogical strategies to teach science, math, and computer science to multilingual learners.

Little Explorers: Hands-On Adventures in Early Computer Science

Presented by Carrie Trudden and Stephanie Allen

July 18, 2024, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. PT

It’s never too early to foster an interest in computer science and real-world problem solving! Join us for an engaging and interactive session designed to introduce PreK and kindergarten learners to the exciting world of computer science. Presenters will share our district’s Computational Thinker curriculum development process, including highlights, pitfalls, and challenges. We’ll discuss our budget and funding sources, professional development plan, accessibility goals, and yearly evaluation processes. The hands-on portion of the session will include stations with a diverse range of age-appropriate tools and activities, including robots like the Bee-Bot Robot and the Sphero Indi robot, introduction to block coding, and unplugged activities. Stations will offer a scaffolded approach to using robots and unplugged experiences from basic algorithms to more complex program development. These activities are sure to ignite the spark of curiosity and creativity in your little explorers!

Register for CSTA 2024

Be sure to head to the full conference program to read more about these recommendations and plan which sessions you want to attend. If you haven’t registered for the annual conference yet, head to the CSTA 2024 website to secure your spot. We are excited to see you there!