Are you a classroom teacher who is thinking about introducing coding in the classroom?? Whether they are your kids or “your kids”, there are many reasons why you should teach your kids code! There are so many benefits to coding beyond the computer.
As a teacher, you are probably thinking about how to make best use of the basic concepts of coding in your classroom. Coding languages might be a little above some student’s heads depending on the grade(s) you work with, but the knowledge and use of basic coding terms like algorithms, decomposition, sequences, and much more can be very beneficial skills for any age of student!
If you love the idea of incorporating more coding for kids into your classroom, read on to see ideas on 5 Simple Ways to Introduce Coding into Your Classroom!
Introduce your students to ‘Coding Vocabulary’
All teachers have to teach vocabulary. Whether you have a word wall, vocabulary quizzes, or just a fun set of flashcards, the words you use in your classroom help build up context and understanding around certain topics.
What if you were to sprinkle in some coding vocabulary throughout your day? Instead of asking students to “break down” a math problem, what about asking them to “decompose” it?
What if you were to “sequence” your daily events? Or give your students an “algorithm” to follow through on instead of an instruction?
There are plenty of kids coding vocabulary words that can be worked into the everyday language of a classroom. Many of those words describe classroom processes or events that are already occurring, you just get to use a new word to label them!
Vocabulary is such an easy switch, it seems almost silly not to start there. Switching a few words a day to coding terms might just be the perfect introduction to coding for you and your students!
If you haven’t heard of this popular fad, you should definitely check it out! Project (or Problem) Based Learning (PBL) is the idea that students shouldn’t be given predictable lectures and worksheets, but rather problems to solve. This style of education lends itself nicely to coding for kids.
In coding, the idea is to try, fail, adjust, repeat. This is something introduced with PBL as well. Students are given an “enduring question” and asked to come up with possible solutions. There is no “right” answer because the question is designed in such a way that lends itself to multiple solutions.
Scratch Jr is the perfect way to get kids excited about Project Based Learning (PBL). There are so many fun projects for students to create using the Scratch Jr platform. Kids as young as 5 or 6 can use this program successfully to design their own simple games and stories.
Challenges or Projects you can assign your students in Scratch Jr:
- Create a dance party
- Run a race
- Create a basketball game
- Design a conversation
I highly recommend the official Scratch Jr book for loads of fun ideas for projects that your students can complete.
The idea that answers have to be discovered through pattern recognition and solution testing is something that is almost a direct replica of the coding process. The more you can set up your lessons to emulate this process, the better off your little coders will be, whether they know it or not!
Fail Often – Teach ‘Debugging’
Do you ever model failure for your students? Planned or unplanned, a classroom failure by the teacher is a wonderful way to model for your students how to work through something hard.
Failure is an integral part of coding and computer science. If coders gave up after their first failed attempt, we would not have 99% of the technology we have today. As a teacher, you can model failure for your students and make it as routine as washing their hands after a trip to the bathroom.
Talk through the process of your attempts, failures, and iterations with your students. Show them that failure is part of the process, and to be expected. Along the same lines, try not to praise perfection. If a student gets something 100% right the first time, that should be seen as a problem – not the desired outcome.
Challenge your students and yourself to become more comfortable with failure. Allow yourself to show students how you work through the process, then help them do the same. Give them the safety to fail without dire repercussions, and you will be helping them to be rock-star coders!
Introducing students to failure and the iteration process early and often is essential when you are working to help kids learn to code!
Robotics (sometimes without Robots!)
Now, I know what you are thinking; “Robots?!? I don’t have money for basic school supplies, and this gal wants me to spring for ROBOTS?!?” Don’t worry, if robots aren’t in the budget, we’ve got you covered with a variety of unplugged activities that don’t cost a dime.
Robotics can teach students so much about coding – and you don’t have to have the actual robots to benefit. For example, this activity invites students to become either a robot or a coder. Or this activity uses a classic game of hopscotch to turn students into code-following robots!
If you are able to get your hands on some robots, great! Most educational robots come with either an instruction manual or an app you can utilize. Our favorite coding robots are Botley and Edison. You can read reviews of Botley here and Edison here. Depending on the age of your students, learning how to use the robots might be a great chance to teach kids to code while also demonstrating the iteration cycle – including failures!
- Scans barcodes to learn new functions and activities
- Free programmable software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android
- Extremely simple to use! Perfect for young children and use in schools, with free downloadable lesson plans for teachers & classrooms
- EARLY STEM SKILLS: Botley helps your child learn early STEM skills while playing and having fun. He teaches kids to code with active, screen-free play that's perfect for promoting critical thinking and problem solving skills
- READY RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX: Botley is ready to code right out of the box! Have 5 AAA batteries and a Phillips screwdriver nearby and this coding robot will have your kid coding in minutes with code games, creativity and fun (3 AAA batteries for Botley and 2 AAA for the remote programmer)
- SCREEN-FREE: Botley features completely screen-free coding: no phone or tablet required. Botley's easy-to-use remote programmer sends commands and gets him rolling. Coding for kids has never been easier
The high-engagement factor with robotics is a great way to get started with coding in your classroom – whether you use actual robots or not!
Is there any other two-word phrase that strikes as much fear into a teacher’s heart?
Teaching your students to code is a great way to pass the 15-minute chaos that is indoor recess in a positive, productive way! What about leading everyone through an activity like Origami while working on sequencing?
With the idea of teaching your students to code, you will see indoor recess as an opportunity to introduce or reinforce coding concepts. Who knows, you might actually find yourself looking forward to your next indoor recess announcement…at least the first one!
Bring Coding To Your Classroom Today
No matter how you introduce the concepts and skills behind coding to your students, you will be doing them a huge favor. These skills will be key to their success in the future job market, and most likely, in life! If you are lucky enough to be in a school with a dedicated librarian, consider consulting them to see what you can do to supplement the learning already happening in their room as well.
Teachers play such an important part in children’s lives, and I can’t wait to see all the creative ideas you come up with to teach your kids code! Which activity will you try first?
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Katie is mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math. You can find her blogging at Teach Your Kids Code and in her spare time, documenting her families travels at Tear Free Travel.