Monday, April 18, 2016

Coding for Kids

Okay, I feel really bad that I haven't blogged in forever!  I am going to try to blog at least once a week - starting today.

So today starts another week of state testing and my kiddos are pretty burnt out from test prep.  That's why I decided today was the perfect day to veer away from the scheduled plans and introduce coding to my third graders.  They love it!

Why coding?  Coding is one of the most sought after skills in today's job market with nearly 1,000,000 high paying, fun-filled jobs and no one to fill them!  It also incorporates all of the STEM skills we try to nurture in our students, from simple math skills to complex problem solving. So maybe a better question is why wouldn't we teach coding to our students?


I started by having them watch this video from Code.org about the importance of coding.  We stopped the video occasionally for some discussion points about why in the world I'd be teaching them about coding in third grade and then also when they saw how cool some of the work places were!

Then I had them use the link on our class webpage to be taken directly to their class and name on Code.org.  Code.org is a FREE site where there are TONS of coding lessons, games, videos - you name it!  I had already set up my FREE teacher account and added all of my students in about a total of 5 minutes!  It was easy.  Here's how to start on Code.org.

Go to code studio and click on the Teacher Sign Up button as shown here.

Fill in the information on the sign up page and sign up for FREE!



This will take you to your Teacher Home Page.  Scroll down until you see the box for Student Accounts and Progress.  From here you can add your students and create your first assignment.



As you can see, there are a TON of other resources you can access from your home page, but if you're like me, you want to jump right in and get started.  You'll look at those other things later!  Right?

The screen you'll see when you access the Student Accounts and Progress screen will give you some insight into which kind of accounts you'd like to create.  This is mainly determined by the age of students you will be enrolling.  You can have picture usernames and passwords for the youngest users or email registration for the older users.  I opted for the in between option - Word.  After I registered my kiddos, they were taken to a screen that had all of the students in my class listed.  They just clicked on their name and then entered a secret code - it's just 2 words that they get printed on a card.   The options I described are pictured below.


On this page you will also see a button at the top that asks you to create New Section.  I'm sure if I taught multiple classes, I'd need to do this for each class, but as I am self-contained, I just did this once and called my class by the school year so I don't get confused next year.

You can use the drop down menus on this page to create your class and have it tailored to your needs.


You can see that I chose to start my class with the classicmaze course, but there are many courses to choose from.   I like to start with this one because it starts really easy with Angry Birds and then, as they progress, they move into Plants Versus Zombies, Ice Age, and other games they're already familiar with.  The course you choose is up to you, your kids, and their ages.

Once you assign a course, you will see that Manage Students will appear under your new section name.  Click on this link to enter your students.  The following screen will appear.


I Add Multiple Students and just load my entire class at one time, but the Add student option is helpful if a student moves into your class after you've started a course.

Just add your students, one per line, and then click Done.  Once you are done, the next screen will have some drop down menus for gender and age that you can either fill in or skip.  If you skip the drop downs, your students will have a chance to fill them in themselves when they first log in.


At the bottom of this screen you will also see the option to print out cards with your students' log in information.  I do this and the students glue the cards into their tech folder that they keep in their desk with all of their log in credentials for various sites.

You will also see the sign in page link.  This will be on the card that you print as well.  I copy this link and put it right on our class webpage for easy access.

The only thing left on this screen is to make sure you click the Save All button at the bottom.  Then you're all set up.  Have your kids go to the website, find their name, sign in using their unique secret words, and begin coding.  It's all self paced and will give them hints when they need them to make them successful.  My kids LOVE coding and don't even realize they are learning math and an extremely marketable skill!

From your Teacher Home Page you can track their progress, check how many lines of codes your students have written, watch videos, invite guest speakers to your room, or my favorite - take a coding class yourself!  It's addicting!

I hope you try it out.  Hope to see you next week...