Breaking down the Coding Barriers for our Teachers
Coding has become an area of the curriculum that haunts many teachers. The worry of how to teach the children something that they know nothing about can often become a huge barrier. So how do we make this easier?
There are many resources out there that can support coding, but I believe that primary school teachers need to take a step back and ask the question "Why are we teaching coding?". Once we know this answer, we can approach coding in a much more simplistic way. So, why are we teaching coding? What we are not doing is trying to create a classroom of App developers or Game developers. Although there may be one or two students that get inspired and head down that path! What we are doing is challenging the students with problem solving, critical thinking, patient, resilience, understanding failure, we are encouraging them the think outside the box and develop the creative thinking skills to solve problems. So let's take a step back and explore this.
I teach computing skills from Nursery years upwards. I find it fascinating how young children adapt to problem solving very quickly. Terminology sometimes becomes a barrier for teachers, I mean, what on earth is an algorithm? In simple terms "A set of instructions to solve a problem". In nursery I have a gorilla and his name is Al!
I show this to students every lesson and they enjoy seeing Al and we link this to the word
Algorithm and then we start to play with Algorithms by creating simple sequences using the directions.
I used Scratch to code a simple game where the students use the interactive screen as a class to press the direction buttons to create their algorithm sequence.
For younger students understanding directions and counting distances is a simple way to start them problem solving. Using the iPads with different apps such as Codapillar and Code Karts. Using Beebots for hands on playing can also develop these skills.
Beebots (left) can be used to extend learning in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. Just by getting the students to code the Beebots to move around a maze, which can be made from classroom objects or draw on a large piece of paper.
Cubetto (right) is a resource that gives students the opportunity to code a robot using small coding pieces. This resource also introduces students to the concept of procedures. These types of resources can also engage reluctant learners and also learners that have learning difficulties.
Scratch Jr on the iPads is a wonderful app that doesn't require reading skills. Students use the drag and drop to code objects to do things. How about getting the students to use Scratch Jr to write a simple "Choose your own Adventure" game?
Apple offers the Everyone Can Code programme. The ebooks in the Apple Book Store offer many ideas on how coding can be taught across the year groups. You can also find a podcast course here. There are also some wonderful offline coding activities that can be done. For example, teaching debugging can
be a simple literacy activities where the children have to know the story of the three little pigs, but then have to mix up the story so the other children can debug it and put it back together.
Or how about using blindfolds with the students in pairs in the playground or hall. Place different coloured rubber spots around the space, one student is blindfolded and the other has to give precise instructions for the students to get from one colour spot to the other. This teaches how a computer needs these precise instructions to solve the problem.
Coding has many links with other cross curricula subjects. Scratch is a resource that has huge potential. I have developed many resources for teaching Scratch to allow for cross curricula integration. With the update to Scratch 3.0, you can now use the iPad and Safari to log into a Scratch account. In the future Scratch will be releasing an App, similar to Scratch Jr, so you can code outside of the browser. You can link hardware such as Lego Wedo 2.0 and Lego Mindstorm to Scratch, offering students a much more hands on approach to coding.
One of the courses I have developed is now available in Skillshare. Join Skillshare and gain access to my Scratch Challenges. This is a series of videos that will show you how you can create a simple maze game. The students create a game that teaches other students about a topic they may be studying. Join Skillshare and get 2 months free. Access thousands of courses. See below for an example of the kind of game the students can create.
For more information, please don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Where I will be more than happy to answer any questions.