Our Approach - Translanguaging Pedagogy

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Translanguaging Pedagogy

Translanguaging pedagogy places value on the emerging language and social practices that bi/multilingual learners bring and construct in classrooms (Espinosa & Ascenzi-Moreno, forthcoming), elevating the language practices of traditionally marginalized students to promote equity in CS education.

Literate Programming

Literate programming is the philosophy that computer programs are meant to be read by people, not just computers (Knuth, 1984).

Incorporating not just writing of programs, but also reading and engaging with programs, helps create space for novices to participate in CS. It also helps reduce perceptions of programming as the domain of an elite few, what has been metaphorically called a programming “priesthood” (Backus, 1980; Doctorow, 2009; Maz, 2017; Nelson, 1973; Sabelli, 1998).

Engaging critically and reflectively with software in these ways can help improve equity in CS.

Syncretic computational literacies

To build on bi/multilingual students’ language practices, identities, and movitations not typically surfaced in CS classrooms, we always pose the question, “What conversation is code a part of?” This question helps us foster meaningful conversations in CS classrooms that allow students to leverage consequential literacies from multiple meaningful places in their lives: 

Community Literacies: Ways of reading, writing, creating and interacting with the world learned from friends, family, and other communities.

Disciplinary Literacies: Ways of reading, writing, creating, and interacting with the world from the subject areas.

Computational Literacies: The real-world conversations students can use code and computing to take part in.

We call the merging together of these practices syncretic computational literacies. The term “syncretic” helps us highlight that when people bring practices from different realms together, we create new kinds of literacies out of the tensions and sparks that result, transforming and improving what and how we learn (Gutiérrez, 2014). Designing and implementing syncretic computational conversations in classrooms promotes equity in CS education by breaking down the traditional boundaries between school disciplines and communities that have systematically marginalized bi/multilingual learners.

Curricular Examples

PiLa-CS has developed a number of CS-integrated units in partner teacher classrooms, which demonstrate our approach in action. See more educator resources here!

¡3...2...1… acción! Comparing Scratch to a Telenovela

In this unit, bilingual middle schoolers related Telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) to programming in Scratch to start conversations in CS and Language Arts.

Modeling the Impacts of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico

In this middle school bilingual science unit, students used computational modeling in Scratch to aid their discussions about a topic that hit close to home for students: Hurricane María.

Activity 1: Experience “Journeys to School” Unit as a Student

Let’s Explore a Scratch Project / Exploramos un proyecto en Scratch

Go to: https://edtechbooks.org/-uyYc

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH A PARTNER: Pick a driver (who shares screen and uses the keyboard and mouse) and a navigator (who provides direction).

First, explore the project page, and respond to the questions below.

Primero, explora la página del proyecto, y responde a lo siguiente

  1. What did you discover about this project? What is this project about? How do you interact with it?

¿Qué descubriste sobre este proyecto? ¿De qué se trata? ¿Cómo interactúas con ello?

  1. Is there something not working about the project? What is it?

¿Hay algo que no funciona en el proyecto? ¿Qué es?

Keep going on the next page!

¡Sigue en la próxima página!

Debug this Project / Arregla los bugs en el proyecto

Click “See inside.” Look at the code and read the sticky-note comment below (or in the Scratch project) which has a debugging activity for you to do.

Haz clic en “ver dentro”. Mira el código y lee el comentario abajo que tiene una actividad de debugging para hacer.

  1. CHALLENGE for those with less Spanish: the comment is written in Spanish! How will you figure out what is being asked?

  1. Before you try to fix it, read the code line by line. What do you think is the cause of the bug?

Antes de arreglarlo, lee los códigos, línea por línea. ¿Qué piensas que es la causa del bug?

  1. Describe what you tried to fix this bug, and why you made those changes.

Describe lo que hiciste para arreglar el bug, y por qué hiciste estos cambios.

  1. What worked about your solution? What might still be buggy? What might you try next?

¿Qué funcionó de tu solución? ¿Sigue con bugs? ¿Qué harías ahora?

FOR TEACHERS: Reflect on Your Process

What resources (linguistic, social, technological) did you draw on to help you complete this activity?

Done early? Extend the Project! / ¿Ya terminaste? Extiende tu proyecto

Scroll down in the coding area until you see the below. Take a look at the code and read the comment.

Baja la página en la zona de los códigos hasta que veas lo siguiente. Mira el código y lee el comentario.

Before you try to do this, plan your steps with drawings or your own words. What should this code do? What blocks might you need?

Antes de arreglarlo, haz un plan con dibujos o tus propias palabras. ¿Qué tiene que hacer este código? ¿Cuáles bloques necesitarías?

Activity 2: Behind the Scenes of the Journeys to School Unit

Here is how this sixth grade social studies teacher designed the project:

She began by reflecting on her students. Many students in the class were recent arrivals from the DR, and were always sharing about their experiences in school there. Some of them were new to reading and writing (SIFE), some of them read and wrote in both Spanish and English.

Then, she built on students’ conversations by considering touchpoints to literacies from computing and her discipline, social studies. In this project, students analyze photo essays about the journeys to school of children around the world, and the geographical and social obstacles that make their journeys difficult. Then, they design and program games in the Scratch software that model their own journeys to school and obstacles (either in the US or another country they’ve experienced).

Community Literacies

Disciplinary Literacies

Computational Literacies

We call the spot in the middle where the three circles overlap:


**Students translanguage as they learn in all three circles and at the intersections

Activity 3: Nikki’s Experience with the Unit

Nikki is an 11-year old 6th grader who arrived to NYC from the DR in the middle of 5th grade. Nikki uses they pronouns. They are constantly drawing and wants to pursue a career as an animator. They are familiar with Scratch from elementary school. According to Nikki, they speak “Span-English” and use palabras “fancy.” They said they have little patience for activities not aligned to their interests.

About Nikki...

“tengo bastante inteligencia, a veces... hablo sobre temas como si lo supiera desde años, pero... que nunca investigué sobre estos temas… ” - Nikki

I am very intelligent, sometimes... I talk about topics as if I’ve known about them for years, but... I’ve never actually investigated them.

The Premise of Nikki’s Project

In Nikki’s Scratch project, titled “Proyecto F.R.I.S.K,” the player character journeys to school, fending off obstacles like wind and bullies and using special abilities to overcome them. The title references the online role-playing game called “Undertale.” In the online game, “Frisk is a playable character and main protagonist of Undertale...who wears a striped pink/purple and blue shirt, blue pants, and brown shoes.” Frisk has “has no stated gender and are solely referred to as "they throughout the game.”

“...el juego viene tratando de una chico-chica porque… el jugador que juega podrá identificar con cualquier género. Porque, se, puede ser como una chica, pero al mismo tiempo puede ser un chico con un pelo bastante corto” - Nikki

The game is about a boy-girl because… the player who plays can identify with whichever gender. Because it could be like a girl, but at the same time it could be a boy with short enough hair.

Nikki drew the player character, drawing on their experiences with animation.

The Language of the Project

Interviewer: ¿por qué decidiste escribir las instrucciones en inglés? Why did you decide to write the instructions in English?

Nikki: ¿Por qué? Porque, eh, eh, la mayoría de personas que andan en Scratch, hablan inglés, so, puede que el juego de adentro va a ser bilingüe pero fuera puede que, puede que decida ponerla en los dos idiomas, puede que no. Aunque yo me lo, yo sé como ponerlo en los dos idiomas, porque yo soy la persona que escribí eso. - Nikki

Nikki: Why? Because um, the majority of people who are in Scratch speak English, so it could be that the game on the inside is bilingual, but it could be that I decide to put it in both languages, maybe not. Though I know how to put it in both languages, because I’m the person writing this.

About the Code...

Nikki uses code to help advance their story and ideas, by providing characters and players with obstacles to encounter, like wind and bullies, and the abilities needed to overcome them.

Nikki: “This code, eh.. This code is the code that we use for that obstacles and things appear. If, if we don't have this code, we cannot make like obstacles appear...

Their Intended Audience

Nikki added their Scratch project to a Scratch studio from their previous school’s media club, in order to show off their work to classmates and teachers. She also wants gamers from Undertale to see their game because it includes features that they know from their experiences on fan fiction sites, that Undertale gamers will enjoy.

Nikki’s Goals for Computing…

“...debería haber proyectos de lo que podemos completamente hacer nosotros las cosas nuestras… Porque si nos siguen concentrando en la idea principal… deja de ser un beneficio y lo empezamos a sentir como una carga… Porque esto es seguir las reglas, y yo sé que hay muchas personas que le cuesta. Y yo me meto en el grupo de esas personas.” - Nikki

We should make projects where we can completely do things our way… Because if we keep thinking about the main idea… it goes from being a benefit and we’ll start to see it as a responsibility… Because this is following the rules, and I know there are lots of people who find that hard. And I count myself in that group of people.

Mapping Nikki’s Literacies

Visit the project: https://edtechbooks.org/-fXTx

What communities is Nikki in conversation with? How can you tell?

What conversations is Nikki participating in with/through this Scratch project?

What were the literacies and language practices (from the three circles) that Nikki was drawing on as they created and presented this project?

Community Literacies

(e.g. from home, friends, family, interest-based communities, media)

Disciplinary Literacies

(e.g. ways of talking, listening, writing, creating, reading, critical thinking, and learning in the subject areas)

Computational Literacies

(eg: how coding/computing is used in the “real world” to think about things, solve problems, express)

Your Turn to Start a Syncretic Computational Conversation!

Check out the planning resources at pila-cs.org/educator-resources

Get to Know Your Students

Knowing the creative ways your students use language and technology will help you design a unit that builds on their talents and interests. Use this worksheet to help you reflect.

Download PDF version to cite and print

Dynamic version to copy and fill out digitally (G-doc)

Use these planning worksheets to design your own “syncretic computational” units

Ready to design your own unit? The packet below will help you consider students’ communities, language practices, your content area, and real world applications of CS, all at the same time!

Download PDF version to cite and print
Dynamic version to copy and fill out digitally (G-doc)

Strategies for Supporting Emergent Bilinguals During CS Activities

Incorporate some of these translanguaging and literate programming strategies into your activities to support and build on students’ unique language repertoires.

Download PDF Packet to cite and print

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike | Participating in Literacies and Computer Science, 2021.

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