Coding Concepts #3: Snowy Day

Teach coding concepts using familiar stories. Learning to separate 'turn' and 'move forward' commands.

Post updated 12/22; original post 7/19.

Creating customized raised line grids is easy!

This activity has been modified for students with visual impairments with permission from the original author, Deidre Smith (JDaniel4’s Mom) See her original The Snowy Day Coding Algorithm Pinterest article here.

Ezra Jack Keats captures the magic of the first snowfall in the classic book, The Snowy Day. 

Below is an animated video version of The Snowy Day (YouTube).

This is the third coding concept post in this series. 


Create a Tactile Foam Grid 

A simple, re-usable tactile grid can be made out of a foam board (cut in half) and 2  (12″ x 18″) foam sheets. I also used an exacto knife, pencil, ruler, glue and cutting board. I used the same Arrows from the Brown Bear, Brown post. I created my grid to fit the rectangular business cards. 

Image of tactile grid supplies with two squares cut out of the black foam sheet, foam board, exacto knife, ruler, pencil, and cutting board.

Using a ruler and pencil, I marked the grid on the big black foam sheets. Vertical lines were 4″ apart, creating 5 squares in a row. I placed the business card centered in the first “square” and drew around it. Using those lines as a  guide, I marked the rest of the horizontal and vertical lines. The goal is to create raised grid lines that the arrow cards will fit into. Placing the foam sheet on a cutting board, I used an exacto knife to cut out the squares, being careful to leave ALL of the grid lines which framed the cut out squares. (Keep the cut out squares!) I used glue to adhere the sheet of grid lines to the foam board. Be sure that the grid lines are even with the edges of the foam board and that each grid line is straight. Glue works well, as the grid lines are flexible and can be moved into the correct straight line positions before the glue dries.

The image below shows an almost 5×5 grid; however, another sheet of black foam is needed to finish the grid. 

Photo of a black foam sheet grid glued to white foam board. Grid is almost 5 x 5 (one sheet of black foam); a partial sheet of black foam is needed to finish the grid.

Advantages of Re-Usable Tactile Grid

A tactile diagram of this specific grid is quick to make (download the grid from this post and run through a thermoform machine) and inexpensive. It can be used more than once but the grid cannot be modified. The re-usable foam grid enables the student to manipulate the objects which can show comprehension or mastery of the skill. The teacher can change the layout (move items to different locations) to mirror the original activity while using the same materials. The tactile foam grid can also be used with other books/items. Example: Create the cards for the animals in the Brown Bear, Brown book and use this grid in a coding activity for the Brown Bear, Brown Bear app. This tactile grid is more concrete than the theromformed grids, as students can feel the indented squares (with raised grid lines forming little boxes) and the student manipulate items. Foam cards and arrows can be placed in these squares.

The Snowy Day grid can be bigger (5×7) in order to be used with other coding concept books – which have larger grids. For young students, it is recommended to cut the white foam board to the exact shape needed. If two additional rows are needed, create an additional 2×7 grid. Use masking tape on the back of the white foam boards to adhere the two boards together. Remove the 2×5 board if the desired grid is only 5×5, like the Snowy Day grid.

Create Tactile Snowy Day Cards

Use the cut out rectangles left over from the grid – cut the rectangles in half. Print off the attached print version of the Snowy Day grid. Cut out the images. Since I work with both low vision and totally blind students, I cut out both the original colorful book images along with the black and white image symbols. Glue each original book image to a black foam rectangle. For durability reasons, laminate the pictures before adding them to the foam cards.Add a braille label to each image. Flip the black foam rectangle over and glue the corresponding black and white symbol. 

Teacher Hint: After trying this activity with students, it was quickly determined that the object cards and arrow cards should be half the size of a business card. This enables the student to place both a symbol card and an arrow card in one square or, a turn arrow and move forward arrow can be placed in the same square.

Teacher Hint: Depending on your student, the tactile card could have textures or even real objects to represent the various items in the book.

Note: Braille has not yet been added to the pictures below. 

 Photo of hand holding the colorful foam card with a picture of Peter in the bathtub from the Snowy Day book.


 Photo of a hand holding a foam card with a picture of a black and white outline of a bathtub.

Items in the 4×5 Grid:

Note: The grid is numbered starting in the bottom left corner.

Place the symbol cards in the correct square in the grid or tell the student the row and column and have the student place the symbol cards.


Review the concepts of a grid, including the number of rows and columns in this grid, the symbols, the location of the symbols in the grid, etc. If necessary, have the student name where each symbol is located and/or have the student place the symbol in the correct square. Starting with Peter in row 1 column 1, ask the student what happened first in the story (tracks in the snow) and have the student determine a route to the tracks symbol. Note: There are several different ways! Have the student determine the path and then place arrow cards in the grid to show the path.

Teacher Hint: Most students will place the first arrow in the empty square in the grid. However, this is not the first step. The first step is to determine if the student should move forward one step to column 2 (right) or move forward one step up (row 2). Therefore, an arrow needs to be placed in the same square as Peter.

The image below shows the grid with Snowy Day cards and arrows from Peter to Tracks cards. On the right side is a magnetic board with arrows: Move Forward, Move Forward, Turn Right. These cards are placed in a column format, mirroring code layout. Note: In this first picture, the foam cards and arrows were full-size (the size of a business card) which makes the cards fill the entire square. This is helpful for some students who need less clutter; however, the full-size cards do not allow the student to easily place an arrow in the same square as the

Photo of white foam board, with black tactile grid and Snowy Day cards. A move forward card shares a square with Peter, and additional move forward and turn right cards are placed in empty squares in the path to Tracks.

There are various ways to create and set up your cards and grids. In this second option, the foam cards and the arrow cards were cut in half, enabling the student to place two cards in one square. In this option, the grid was turned, so that two cards fit snug in each square with one card above the other.

Another option is to use the half-size cards and keep the grid so that the cards are placed side-by-side. In this scenario, the half-size cards are do not fit snug, but many students find it easier to read the arrow cards.

I recommend that you carefully consider which scenario works best for your student. You can measure and cut the cards to fit your desired layout.

 photo of Snowy Day grid with half-size cards; cards are side-by-side when there are 2 cards in the same square.

Straight Arrows vs. Turn Arrows

Note: In the print example of the routes to the various items in the grid, only one arrow is in each square. This activity uses straight arrows which are positioned to point in a specific direction; turn arrows are not used. This is the easiest level for very young students or for students who struggle with spatial concepts. Simply use right, left, up or down arrows based on the direction that the student is moving through the route. If this is the level of your student, then use straight arrows and one arrow per square.

The two previous images and the image below show the Snowy Day grid with straight arrow cards (no turn arrows).

Photo of the printed worksheet of the Snowy Day grid with annotated straight arrows (up, down, right, left) depicting the routes.

When writing code to turn a robot, the code typically separates the ‘turn’ command from the ‘move forward’command. In the Snowy Day route from Peter to Tracks, a ‘move forward’ (facing up) card would share Peter’s square, another ‘move forward’ (facing up) card would be in the square above Peter. A ‘right turn’ card would be in the square above that, with a ‘move forward’ (facing right) card sharing that square. Learning to use separate turn and move forward commands is the next step for your student.

The image below shows the Snowy Day grid with a turn arrow card in the route from the Peter card to the Tracks card. There is an up arrow in the same square as the Peter card and an up arrow in row 1 column 2 (above the Peter card). In row 1, column 3, there is a right turn arrow card and an arrow card facing right.

photo of Snowy Day grid with straight and turn arrow cards depicting the route from Peter (Row 1, column 1) to Tracks (row 3, column 2).

(There will be a future post about the Snowy Day and robots. Stay tuned!)

Attached Snowy Day files are intended for printing on Swell Paper and run through a thermal image enhancer: one version has tactile black and white symbols and key and the second version is in braille only. These grids also include row and column numbers. (A big thank you to Betsey Sennott at Perkins School for the Blind for creating these files for Paths to Technology viewers!)

Attached Original (print) Snowy Day Grid file

Attached File(s)
By Diane Brauner

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