Introducing Code

If you're like me and you've been hearing all about this thing called "coding" and are wondering where in the world to begin, then join me in figuring it all out!

I am going to try my best to blog step-by-step about my journey into the coding world and how I plan on integrating it into my classroom. If you are already familiar with the basics of the coding apps out there and how they work, and are merely looking for ways to use them in class, scroll further down to "Coding to teach the curriculum".

So, where did I begin???

At school or out on the Twitter world I heard about "" and "scratch" and that's about where my knowledge of coding ended. So, before I even started playing around with any of the coding games or online platforms I started listening to this podcast by Sam Patterson (click here to follow him on twitter). It was such a great introduction to what coding really is, some of the different types of coding you can do with your students, and where to begin. If you prefer a book over a podcast, I also highly recommend his book "Programming in the Primary Grades: Beyond the Hour of Code" (click here for more info and to order). 

Before going any further, I'd like to note that what I'm about to explain and walk you through are the very basics of coding and how I learned about it. This is what I like to refer to as coding on its own. Later on, we will get into coding with robots! (yay!)

Let's begin with discussing coding on its own:

It seems that one of the most important places to start when introducing coding to students is this idea of sharing a hot item (where it's an iPad, Chromebook, or desktop) and teaching and talking about all the required social skills that go along with that. "There will be tears" as Sam describes in his podcast. It seems, then, that there's no better time to start than at the start of the year! 

Have students work in groups or pairs on an iPad or Chromebook and discuss topics like taking turns, sharing, offering advice, declining advice, and problem-solving. The main piece of advice that I learned from the podcast that really stuck out to me is "DON'T SKIP THE TUTORIALS!". You want the students to learn how to navigate the game/program so that when they get stuck they will attempt to problem solve on their own versus putting up their hand and waiting for the teacher to provide the answers. You want them to feel proud of the learning they're doing, and better yet, you want them to share their learning with the rest of the class - talk about fostering a positive and safe learning community!

Now you're wondering, Ok, so I still don't know where to begin.... Well let me try and help!

The two main types of apps that are out there are Leveled Programming Apps and Open Studio Apps. Sam writes a great blog post here to explain the differences in detail along with some great tips on how to teach each app, but here's my short version of it:

Leveled Programming Apps
These apps introduce new tools and concepts one level at a time in forms of challenges. This, to me, seems like a great place for students (or teachers!) who have never done any coding and want to learn the very basics. 
Additionally, there are leveled apps for students who are just learning to read or struggling to read. They are a bit more simple, less to no words to read, and have motivational aspects like stars and stickers. Here are the top picks:
  • Kodable and The Foos
    • Free and perfect for students who don't know how to read
    • Available to download as an app or play on a web browser!
    • Great starting point!
Open Studio Apps
I would imagine it's called an "open" studio app because when you start the app there's an "open", aka, blank canvas for students to work with. So, given those circumstances, the teacher will need to plan lessons carefully (again see Sam's tips for more detail) and students will need to have some background knowledge of coding and the apps being used. If not, you may find yourself in a similar situation as when saying "Ok students, go ahead and write!" (All students stare back with a blank stare....)

HOWEVER, once you are comfortable in these apps and students can navigate their ways around them, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are just a couple of key features I have learned about:
  • Easy to sign up, navigate, and create! (and it's free!)
  • You can view examples from other people and therefore use these as mentor or exemplar texts for students
  • You can create presentations, videos, games, and more! 
  • Have the possibility to embed final creation!
Examples of Open Studio Apps are Scratch (or ScratchJunior), Hopskotch, and Tickle

Where will I begin with my Grade 3/4 students? Much of that will depend with how much coding they've done (which I'm sure will be a range) and how familiar they are with all these apps. I may just start with a project at the beginning of the year like "create a movie about what you did over the summer" or something of the likes in Scratch and see how they do! 

I will keep you posted on my journey with the class...

Coding to teach the curriculum
Learn to use coding to teach writing, math, science, and more! 
More to come later! Work in progress....

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