The ability to code is a critical core competency for the jobs of the future.We know that kids need to code. We have heard it a million times. However, teachers have certain reservations about utilizing coding in their curriculum because of two common misconceptions I’ve noticed and hope to dispel.
Misconception #1: “I can’t ask my kids to code when I don’t know how to code myself.”
Believe it or not, you don’t really need to know how to code to give your kids opportunities to do the work. It certainly will help to try the challenges yourself before assigning them, but surprisingly, it is not necessary. Coding is an activity that can easily be added to your day-to-day lesson plans with little prior knowledge on your part. And, it works great as an INDEPENDENT activity.
For example, this week, with the help and guidance of Adrienne, I have been using coding challenges for early finishers. When kids finish the part of the essay we are working on, they can continue where they left off on their coding challenge. This is an easy way for me to focus on the kids that need extra help on their writing. Likewise, coding is an excellent activity for center rotations, which gives another opportunity for you to meet with small groups and feel confident that the rest of the class is on-task. The coding challenges out there are designed to be relevant and high-interest. For instance, one of the challenges I gave them last week was to design a Snapchat filter.
A side benefit of including coding in the lessons is that it gives kids opportunities to practice following explicit directions. We all know how much kids love to rush and skip directions. But, with coding, they simply can’t skip the directions. They must follow the directions in order, which is a skill that needs regular practice and reinforcement, and one that I like to employ in the classroom. Code.org is a good resource for similar coding challenges organized by grade level. Another resource that has short coding challenges, Scratch, is great for all ages because it utilizes the drag and drop method of coding. This makes it easy for all ages but still gives opportunities for more advanced and intricate animation. Here are the short Scratch challenges. My 6th graders loved them!
Misconception #2: “Coding is meant for technology class, not my class!”
What’s the point of learning a skill in technology class if students don’t get to practice it in a real and relevant way? Coding can be an easy way to have kids show proof of knowledge in your curriculum. Any of the coding challenges that already exist can be altered to meet the needs of your lesson plans. For instance, next week, my students will code a stop-motion animation video about traveling the Silk Road that will integrate the coding process with applying knowledge from the curriculum.
Here are some ideas for you that you can adjust to connect with a novel study, a concept, required vocabulary, or even a time and place in history:
- Code your own game
- Code a geofilter for SnapChat**
- Code a tutorial
- Code a picture book
- Make a stop-motion animation scene
- Program animals in your own Minecraft universe
- A link to how a middle school English teacher codes in her classroom!
Don’t worry! Adrienne would be happy to help you choose the best coding challenge for your curriculum and grade level. She is an amazing resource!
And then you can leave at the end of the day knowing you provided your students with exposure to critical skills and enhanced their growth mindset without very heavy lifting on your part!
**A geofilter alerts the people you share the picture with on Snapchat of your location by inserting an overlay that represents the location! This would be an amazing assignment for a history class: What would the geotag be for a particular place in a particular time period?