Screen-Free CS Activities for your K-5 Classroom

08 Dec 2022 5 min read
Sarah Phelps
Sarah Phelps
Program Manager, Computer Science and STEM, Learning Technology Center
Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

This week is Computer Science Education Week and for many educators, that means reaching for a program like Scratch or Code.org’s interactive games to give students a formative taste of CS learning.

But what are K-5 teachers to do if they want their students to take part in this week’s celebrations or Hour of Code without adding more screen-time to the agenda?

Surprisingly, there are now lots of screen-free activities that can help elementary students learn coding and other essential CS skills in a developmentally-appropriate context. Here are a few that your students can try out this week or any day you want to bring the joy of CS learning into your classroom:

Screen-Free Computer Science Activities for K-5 Students

Hello Ruby

Billed as “ the world’s most whimsical way to learn about computers, technology, and programming,” this website features exercises, games, and interactive videos tailored specifically for kids five and older. 

Every activity on the site is screen-free while still providing students a chance to creatively engage with CS topics. Some of my favorites include:

  • Building your Own Robot out of craft materials to learn about machine learning
  • Visualizing how the internet is made up of wires, cables, satellites, and more by examining what’s Hiding in Plain Sight
  • Turn yourself or a favorite stuffed animal into a Vlogger to discover how videos are made and how algorithms affect what we watch
  • Practice counting skills and see how data online is stored as Bits of binary code

Hello Ruby also offers resources to help new and seasoned CS educators translate what they know into kid-friendly language and concepts.

Their Love Letters to Computers video series is a great way to bolster your understanding of CS concepts and prepare to teach students everything from computational thinking to diversity and inclusion.

CS Unplugged

As its name suggests, this website features wire-free ways for elementary students to get hands-on with CS concepts using “cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.”

Many of CS Unplugged’s activities can be enjoyed by remote learners, making them ideal for hybrid classrooms and families who want to try out CS learning at home. Their integration resources are also invaluable to teachers who are trying to add CS lessons to an existing curriculum.

ISBE Early Learning and Computer Science Crosswalk

To help educators bring CS learning to today’s youngest learners, the Illinois State Board of Education has produced a curriculum crosswalk that aligns example activities with Illinois’ Early Childhood Learning standards and Pre-K Computer Science standards.

Topics covered in these activities include representation, problem solving, social-emotional learning, and pattern identification.

Teachers, administrators, and curriculum leaders can all reach for this resource for inspiration, as well as support while justifying the inclusion of CS learning opportunities in a standard Pre-K curriculum.

More Resources for Teaching Computer Science

During #CSEdWeek and beyond, the LTC provides support to K-12 schools as they build their CS programs and strive toward meeting Illinois’ new CS learning standards. You can find out more about our CS-focused resources and professional learning opportunities on our CS & STEM hub.

Our Computer Science Resource Library continues to grow! Bookmark it and check back often for new lesson plans, apps, and how-to guides curated by CS educators and the LTC team.

As a Code.org Regional Partner, the LTC offers support to schools integrating any of their K-12 computer science curricula. Illinois educators with any level of CS teaching experience can also join an upcoming summer cohort to receive ongoing integration support and earn graduate credit from National Louis University.

Sarah Phelps
Sarah Phelps
Program Manager, Computer Science and STEM, Learning Technology Center

Sarah leads computer science and STEM initiatives, manages partnerships with state and national organizations, and elevates the LTC’s role as a thought leader in the K-12 computer science space.

Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Specialist, Learning Technology Center

Sam supports the execution and growth of LTC services through the development and creation of innovative, impactful, and timely digital content.