I’m still fairly new to the coding game. In November 2018, I finally enrolled in a Code.org class held near me. I loved this free class and wanted to try it out with my students. However, I didn’t feel like the timing was right for me to participate in the Hour of Code taking place just a couple of weeks following my training. After all, I was still learning myself and only beginning to teach the Code.org curriculum to my third and fourth graders. So, I bowed out of the Hour of Code in December 2018, thinking I’d try it the next year.
Fast-forward to December 2019. I now had a year of experience teaching the Code.org curriculum. This year, I even included my second graders in coding activities. By the time December rolled around, I was ready. I had already signed up for the Hour of Code and had a plan of action.
Here’s what I did to implement this coding event in my school:
- I garnered enthusiasm for the Hour of Code.
The week before the event, I showed my students a video from Code.org detailing the Hour of Code. I also talked with my students about the importance of coding in our world today. We discussed all of the programs we use in computer class that require coding (basically everything we use!), and we talked about our previous experiences on Code.org. Then, I told my classes that they would get one whole hour to work on coding activities the following week. (The exception was my second graders—I wasn’t sure if they could focus on coding for a whole hour, so I gave them 40 minutes of time. I think it’s important to know your audience and adapt accordingly. And for my second graders, 40 minutes was about right.)
- I came up with a game plan for myself and my students.
On the Hour of Code page on Code.org’s website, there’s an overwhelming amount of activities. There is no way I can experiment with each of these activities, and I don’t feel good about my students trying something that I haven’t checked out. So, I selected four grade-appropriate coding activities that I thought my students would enjoy. (Code.org labels each activity by grade level, which helps both teachers and students). I tried each of these out so I could guide students as they got started. And during our Hour of Code, I quickly introduced each activity to the students before we began.
- I let students choose which activity they’d like to work on.
I had pictures printed of the four activities to choose from: the Grinch, Elsa and Anna, Minecraft, and Star Wars. I showed the pictures and asked students to divide into groups based on which activity they had chosen. Then, I asked for students in each group to sit together. That way, students working on the same activity could help one another. They liked having new seats for the day, and I felt like it was a plus for me. Students were able to talk and collaborate with one another on the coding games, which I felt was more beneficial than me just simply telling students what to do next.
- Finally, I asked the students to reflect on what they learned.
We used a reflection sheet from the 2018 curriculum. I asked students to write a sentence or two about their experience, and I had them draw a picture of what they’d worked on in class. What I learned was that most kids really enjoyed the Hour of Code. What they didn’t know was that while learning to code, they were also learning to problem solve and work with others.
I feel like my first Hour of Code was a success; however, I’m already thinking about what to do differently next year. For example, I’d like to promote this to teachers and parents as well as my students. I’d also like to recruit a parent or community member who is a programmer and have them come and talk to my students beforehand about the importance of programming in today’s world. In addition, I’d like to involve my principal or other teachers in this activity. And I’d like to create a shortened version of this event for my first graders. I look forward to making the Hour of Code a fun yearly tradition within my building.
Note: Teachers, if you haven’t tried coding in your classes yet (maybe you’re nervous to try or haven’t had time!), I encourage you to check out the Code.org curriculum and find a free training session near you. Even if you’re a newbie to coding, you’ll leave the class feeling ready (and excited) to begin teaching these coding skills to your students. And I promise your students will love learning to code!
Want to learn about other STEM tools for coding? Check out Mimio MyBot.>>