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Whether you love or loathe computers, here are some practical ideas for how to teach coding to a variety of ages and skill levels. Teaching coding skills turns consumers into creators and enhances grit, creativity, logic, problem-solving skills, and sets students up for a 21st-century career path.

Computer Science Education Week is December 6-12, 2021. One way to participate is to have students engage in Hour of Code, an easy platform for K–12 teachers to use to teach coding.

Code With Computers

Search for a coding activity that fits your class at code.org/learn, then try it before introducing it to your class. Many students like activities with familiar visuals from Minecraft, Angry Birds, or Frozen.

Plan if you’ll do the activity together using a projected screen or if you’ll do Pair Programming where two students share one device to help teach collaboration skills.

After finishing one activity, allow students to explore others. Consider introducing your students to Scratch Jr. or Scratch to use block coding. For students into music and JavaScript or Python, have them explore Earsketch.

Earsketch Example

Flappy Bird from Code.org

Code Without Computers

Computational thinking activities don’t require computers. Below are some activities to engage students with coding skills without having to use electronic devices. Age recommendations are given based on the ages I’ve done them with. You’re welcome to try them with any class!

  1. Chalk Walk: (PS–2nd grade)

Draw a sequence of squares on the ground and fill them with picture directions. Arrows represent the direction of the next square and swirls represent a spin command. Add your own symbols or words for additional directions.

Eleanora doing a Chalk Walk

Design and photo by Naomi Mueller

To make this more challenging, add squares with directions to make a grid so students have to think about which directions to follow. To simplify this, draw directions without squares.

2. Tile Route: (K–4th grade)

Using a tile floor, challenge students to find a route from one tile to another in the room without bumping into any obstacles. Give students note cards to draw arrows or write word directions on, and then have them put them in an order that works. The specific order of the directions is called an algorithm. Algorithms should be so specific that others can follow them exactly.

Introduce turn commands by drawing bent arrows. With turn cards, the students’ bodies should turn and face the new direction before following the next command. Without them, their bodies should face the original direction at all times.

As they practice the route, one student should act as the robot. They should tap their head to begin and end, like tapping the start and stop button on a robot.

3. Graph Paper Programming and other activities that do not  require computers can be found at https://code.org/curriculum/unplugged.

While Computer Science Education Week is December 6–12, you can teach coding skills at any point throughout the year! Partner with a colleague and try the same activity to share strategies. Comment below to add your favorite coding activities!

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Esther Edwards, formerly Esther Dunlop, is in her eighth year of teaching. She teaches fourth grade at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Oviedo, FL. She enjoys teaching all subjects, but she especially enjoys facilitating STEM explorations.

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