As I began planning for this year, I realized that introducing my students to coding was a 21st century skill that I needed to teach. I would like to preface this blog post by stating I am NOT an expert in coding. In fact, expert is so far from where I stand in the continuum of coding. However, due to this fact, I spent a ton of time researching what coding was, why it is essential to teach, and watched many YouTube videos on this subject area. (Thank goodness for YouTube!!) After months of research and playing around with the technology, I was confident to dive into teaching my students the language of coding. In this blog post, I’d love to help get you started and show you what is working in my classroom. There are affiliate links provided in this blog post for your convenience.
What is coding?
Basically, coding is telling your computer what you want it to do. When we are teaching our (young) students, we are giving them a basic introduction to computer programming. In the video below, produced by Code.org, experts explain why it is so important to begin teaching students this new “language.”
How To Begin
In my kindergarten class, I knew that in order to make these lessons meaningful and practical, I was going to have to start with a few hands-on activities. Using the tile lines on my floor, I used painter’s tape to create a grid.
I began our first lesson explaining to my students what coding is. I related the process to video games and a remote control. I drew four arrows on the board to show my students the different directions that we could go in our game.
(Then, because this is kindergarten, we reviewed our left and right hands. )
I placed a variety of sight word cards in our grid and told my students that we were going to “code” our friend to get to the correct sight word.
I had a group of students sit along one side of our grid. These students were our “computer programmers.” Each programer was responsible for writing one line of code which would move the person in the grid one space. As they said their direction, I wrote the “line of code” on the board so that my students could begin to understand what “blockly” code looks like.
The person in the grid was our “computer.” We talked about how computers cannot think for themselves and they must go wherever the computer programmer tells them to go. (Great for listening skills!)
When the computer reached the correct sight word, we all celebrated! The computer then added a math cube to the grid which we pretended was “a bomb” that the computers had to avoid! (They loved this! They pretended that the pink cubes set off confetti, the blue cubes were water, etc.)
My students have been playing this game now independently and love it! During math next week, I am going to add our skip counting numbers to the grid and have my programmers program the computer to make it go through the counting sequence correctly. (5, 10, 15, 20, etc.)
Another technology free center that my students have been enjoying is the one pictured below. I used a poster and painter’s tape to create a small grid. I also drew coding symbols (←,↑,→,↓,) on math tiles using a black Sharpie.
To play, my students have been coding our wooden animals through the maze. To do this, one person is the coder and creates a code to the left of the poster using the tiles. We are calling this the “work space.” Then, the computer follows the code in the maze to see if they can reach the ending point.
This activity is great because the students have to create the maze, create the code, and then follow the set of directions. (Just listen to all the standards that align to this center!)
Using Technology To Teach Coding
One of my students’ favorite way to practice coding is using our iPads and Sphero. Sphero is a fun little education robot that my class LOVES. I purchased him from Amazon.
Our favorite way to use him is to build a maze using our Community Playthings blocks and then use our iPad to direct him through the maze.
Sphero wirelessly connects to our iPads using a free app that the kids use to direct him.
They have to choose their speed, direction, and have many other options. (colors, sounds, etc.)
This is a great way for kids to practice problem solving, coding, collaboration, cooperation, cause and effect, and sharing!
They can’t get enough of it!
There are many other ways that you can integrate technology though! We have used our Chromebooks with the hour of code (https://hourofcode.com/us/learn), our Osmos (http://amzn.to/2pUJJig), and our classroom Dash (http://amzn.to/2qdHbyX).
If you are looking for technology free STEM challenges using coding, feel free to check out my resource on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is available here:
I will also blog more about our adventures in coding! My kindergarteners are loving these lessons and activities.