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Comprehending Code

Leveraging reading comprehension strategies for coding

UChicago Team

Diana Franklin

Donna Eatinger

Sue Krause

Jean Salac

Jennifer Tsan, PhD

Texas State Team

Cathy Thomas


Comprehending Code focuses solely on one aspect of Computational Thinking: coding. As elementary schools begin integrating computer science curriculum into their school days, it is increasingly important to find strategies for teaching a diverse set of students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with a variety of ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We draw on decades of research on reading comprehension to drive our exploration into computer science learning strategies. Programming relies heavily on reading comprehension at several stages in the development process - reading individual instructions (at all points), a sequence of instructions provided as an example or starting code (design), one's own partially-complete code (implementation), or one's complete but incorrect code (debugging). Just as in reading, it is not enough to decode the letters into words – to succeed, the student needs to make meaning of the sequences of words into instructions (like sentences) and the sequences of instructions into functions or programs (like paragraphs).

This project has produced three major products:

  1. The TIPP&SEE strategy, a scaffold for students learning through example Scratch projects.

  2. Elementary Computing for All, an Introductory Scratch Programming using TIPP&SEE.

  3. Scratch Charades, a game-based Scratch activity that orients students to block-based programming and the Scratch programming environment.

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