Coding is an essential 21st-century skill that helps kids become better prepared to work in a high-tech economy. However, teaching coding can be challenging, especially when considering how to teach coding to kids.
One thing that’s important to remember is that students learn at different rates. Some are gifted and will pick up coding quickly, while others may be slower.
1. Make It Fun
Teachers often hear from parents that kids spend too much time playing mobile games, and they would love for them to learn coding instead. Bringing in coding is one way to get students excited about learning and make it fun. It’s also a great way to encourage different thinking than just memorizing facts.
When teaching coding, teachers should focus on creativity. Coding is predominantly a problem-solving exercise, and the most enjoyable way for children to practice these skills is through creative projects like building games or animations. Many resources are available for teachers to use with their students, including free visual programming languages such as Scratch Jr.
Another key point is making sure students understand what to do if they make a mistake. They will inevitably do so, but teaching them the iteration process is important. Teach them to re-do their code and explain that each time they do this, they are getting better and better. This helps build a growth mindset, which will also serve them well in other subject areas.
When introducing a new project, show them a completed sample that they can use as a guide. This will help them understand what they’re working towards and can be a great tool for troubleshooting. When teaching a specific line of code, encourage students to act as detectives by analyzing the text comments and recognizing familiar terms to deduce their function. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of code’s meaning while nurturing observational and critical thinking skills.
2. Make It Relevant
Coding empowers students to be digital creators, not just consumers, unlocking the internet’s full potential. Encouraging all children to learn to code diversifies the creators of essential programs that shape our world. To engage students who may find coding challenging, connecting it to their interests can make it more appealing. For instance, relating historical events to programming sequences can help them grasp and enjoy the concept.
Similarly, coding teaches children how to break down complex problems into more manageable parts and step-by-step solve them. This is a skill that can be applied to all subjects, not just science and math, and is one of the reasons why Nord Anglia Education incorporates coding across its curriculum.
Finally, coding also teaches children how to identify what is working and what needs improvement. Students can learn how to make sense of the information presented to them and apply their knowledge to find solutions through a process similar to scientific hypothesis testing.
While these approaches are effective, the most optimal way for teachers to engage students in coding is to integrate it into their daily learning. Similar to learning new vocabulary, regular exposure is essential for retention. This can involve using choice boards for showcasing learning, adding coding games to class endings, or prompting students to label their code components (e.g., “Name the loop you just programmed”).
3. Make It Accessible
Many students, especially those with learning disabilities, are put off by coding because they assume it’s a complex and specialized skill. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Coding is a great way to introduce kids to STEM education and can complement other subjects such as science, math, and history.
It is also a great opportunity to teach children perseverance. Like any other subject, coding requires that students be willing to try and fail over and over again until they get it right. This is a crucial life lesson for all students, no matter their intellectual abilities. It can help them in all aspects of their lives, from overcoming an obstacle to completing a difficult assignment.
Finally, teaching coding in the classroom is a great opportunity to incorporate Project (or Problem) Based Learning. This educational technique allows students to engage with real-world problems and encourages them to work with their peers to come up with solutions that can be adapted to different needs. This is particularly helpful for students who may be struggling with certain learning areas, such as reading or math.
Teachers must take the time to figure out how best to integrate coding into their curriculum. This will be a unique process for each teacher, and it is a good idea to ask around and see what other teachers in the school are doing. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can support one another as they learn. It’s also a great idea to join a community of teachers who are introducing coding in their classrooms, as this can be an excellent way to find resources, share ideas, and celebrate successes.
4. Make It Personal
Teaching students that coding is fun and an important part of life is a powerful way to inspire them to learn. But it’s also important to keep in mind that not every student will be equally excited about coding. It’s easy for some students to feel put off by the subject, with many perceiving computer programmers as math nerds. But the truth is that coding is just as creative as drawing or Legos and will appeal to a lot of students’ interests.
It’s important to give kids real-life references and incorporate coding into daily activities so that they can develop their interest in the subject. One of the best ways to do this is through coding games. These games are self-paced and evolve in complexity based on the user’s progress. They are also a great way to teach children about the iteration cycle, as they’ll experience success and failure on their path to becoming rock-star coders.
Coding is a potent tool for addressing the digital divide, granting access to opportunities for students in lower socioeconomic communities. To ensure inclusivity, schools must offer user-friendly and accessible coding resources accommodating various learning styles. Essential components include self-paced lessons for home use, tailored to age-appropriate reading levels, and adaptable for group, pair, or individual learning by teachers and students alike.
With the right tools and guidance, teachers can help students love coding in the classroom. By making it relatable, relevant, and accessible, teachers can help students understand how coding can be used to solve problems, create content, and communicate ideas.
5. Make It Social
While coding can initially intimidate students, fostering their interest and enthusiasm is possible by connecting it to their passions. This involves group work, where peers of varying skill levels collaborate and support one another. Furthermore, it’s crucial to encourage students to embrace risks and mistakes as integral parts of the learning journey, fostering a love for coding.
Coding is a complex skill and requires an analytical mindset. However, it’s a skill that can be learned by all students, even those who may not excel in certain subjects at school. By making it fun, engaging, and relevant, you can help students build the skills they need for future careers.
Many kids don’t know what coding is or think that it’s too complicated to be something they can do. By talking to children about how code is just a set of instructions for a computer and connecting it to things that interest them, you can help them see that it’s something they can do.
There are also a number of apps and games available that let students play with coding concepts. Block-based tools like Scratch and Codecademy are great for beginners. And some hybrid tools combine blocks and text, which can be helpful for those who have more experience. And, of course, there are some full-text coding languages for those who want to try their hand at more challenging concepts.
Enabling students to collaborate in pairs or small groups boosts their confidence, enhances engagement, and reduces the teacher’s support time per student. It fosters an understanding of teamwork with diverse learners and underscores coding as a patient and persistent process.
Understanding how to teach coding to kids is vital for equipping students with 21st-century skills. To achieve this, teachers should make coding fun, relevant, accessible, personal, and social. By employing these strategies, educators can inspire a love for coding and empower students to become digital creators and problem solvers, fostering valuable skills for their future endeavors.