Coding in the Classroom

I was once asked by a fellow teacher, "Why do you teach coding to your students? It's not in the curriculum". She felt that it was a waste of my time and my students time. I beg to differ (as do a myriad of other educators as well as those in the business sector and now it has been added to my local curriculum expectations. Read on to learn about why coding is important for students and where to find the best FREE coding resources for your classroom.
Loren Padelford, Vice President of Technology at Shopify Plus had this to say about coding in the classroom: "Coding is the language of the future and will be a need for decades. Everyone should learn to code just like they learn to read". Coding is not just important for developing skills that students could use in a future tech job. There are a host of skills that are developed as students learn to code. These are just a few:

-coding improves problem solving and critical thinking skills

-coding helps students understand the basics of how computers work

-teaching students to code encourages them to use technology as a creative tool

-coding teaches students to solve challenging problems by breaking them into smaller parts

-they learn logical reasoning

-coding teaches design thinking and innovation

-it teaches math skills like data management, sequencing, pattern recognition and variables

What is coding? 

A simple explanation of coding is that it is a set of instructions given to a computer in order to execute a specific task.

Do you need to be an expert coder or even have any knowledge of coding at all in order to begin teaching your students how to code? NO! I started coding with my students several years ago. I knew very little about coding. This is how it went:

Me: Okay class, today we are going to learn to be coders. 

Students: What is coding?

Me: I don't really know. That's why I said, 'we' are going to learn.

Student: I've done coding before!

Me: Awesome! You can be my helper. 

Me: I'm going to post some links to a few different coding sites and we are going to explore and play around to see what we can come up with.

My students grabbed their Chromebooks and got to work immediately. They talked with their peers about which site they would choose and then they started to work right away. They explored websites like Scratch and and collaborated with their peers to solve problems. By the end of our first hour I already had students that had learned to code simple programs. One student learned how to make a "Flappy Bird" game, another learned how to make an apple move across the screen. I made sure to give them time for sharing what they learned.

My role was simple. I was a facilitator of learning. I walked around the room and encouraged the learning that was happening. I listened as students solved problems and then directed those students to help others with the same problems. I asked them to show me what they had made and how they made it work. I asked them to tell me how they might use this in real life. It was exciting for all of us. As I walked around the room, I was learning too. I learned a little bit about how to code but most importantly I learned a lot about the kind of teacher I like to be. It was inquiry at its finest.

To help you get started you can check out the free resources that I have listed below. I use many of these websites in our weekly coding lessons.

Free Resources for Coding in the Classroom:

-I like to start each year with doing the Hour of Code as an introductory activity. There are great videos that talk about what coding is and how it can be useful in life.

-Bring in a guest speaker! Look for organizations like Girls Who Code or even a local kids coding business. Companies will often come in and do a session with a class. This may or may not be free depending on the organization that comes in to do a session. I have also had parents from the tech sector come in to my classroom to do some coding projects with students. 

-A great site that has lessons for all levels is

-Khan Academy has some great tools and they have also partnered with Pixar so students can see how Pixar artists use code.

-Swift Playground is an app for ipad or Mac and it is stunning!

Offline Coding Resources:

Sometimes technology fails OR we don't have enough for each student. Here are a few offline coding activities that you could do with your students:

-If, Then Coding Game (Like Simon Says). Find the rules here and adapt for the classroom.

-Code a Lego Maze - Read the expectations here.

-X Marks the spot coding game.

-My Robotics Friends Coding Lesson

-Hacker Coding and Logic Game (affiliate link)

-Code Master board game (affiliate link)

I hope that this has helped to ease some anxiety for you around teaching students how to code. If you approach it with a "we are learning together" attitude, you can't go wrong! Be upfront with your students that you don't know the answers. When a student says, "Teacher, I'm not sure what to do" you can say, "I'm not sure either, what have you tried? What else can you try? Can we do a web search to find the answer? Is there anyone in the class who encountered this issue that can help us?" If you approach it this way, I promise your students will find success.


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