Tips for Teaching Coding to Kids

Teaching coding to kids is more than just giving them lines of code to copy and then run. We want to empower students to become critical thinkers and innovative programmers. To build programming skills, beginners need to be provided with a variety of analytical and engaging experiences. To do that, we should spark their enthusiasm with a collection of activities that ensure success and an understanding of essential coding concepts. As they learn how to code original creations, students will become keen, competent programmers. They will have the foundational STEM skills for the workplace of the future.

tips for teaching coding

Here are some suggested types of activities to consider when teaching coding to kids.

Explore and Investigate

Teach code a line at a time. Then ask students to analyze and experiment with the code. Explore with different values and see the outcome. What happens with a higher or lower number? When the line of code is moved to a different place, what happens? What happens when a character is omitted? This strategy builds student insight into the meaning of the code so much better than just asking them to copy a given set of instructions and then running them.

Guess and Check

Provide completed code and ask your students to be detectives. By reading the lines of code, comments, or scanning for words they recognize, they can try to infer what the code will do. Then run the code and see if their guesses were accurate. This makes students keen observers and critical thinkers.

Use Templates to Jump Start Learning

Young programmers have the ability to understand the code, but don’t always have the keyboarding skills needed to type many lines of code accurately. When introducing specific coding concepts, consider giving the students templates with parts of the code already written. The students just add code to make the desired result.

Teach Debugging Early

Don’t wait until errors occur and students are frustrated with the inability to correct them. Near the beginning of the coding unit, have the students generate specific errors to break the code. Have them see the resulting problem. Then fix it. As a result, students will become familiar with common mistakes such as omitting characters, mistyping, or placing code in the wrong order. They will recognize errors and know how to correct them.

Provide Samples to Spark Inspiration

Before starting a new project, inspire students by showing them a completed sampler. The goal is to ignite their interest but not to provide a set of instructions for them to copy. The code becomes a guide for students. They can use it as a starting point or to compare their work for troubleshooting. The sampler becomes the foundation for students to produce their own original projects.

Offer Support References

Online programming reference lists and libraries are usually so complete and exhaustive that they are ominous for kids to use. Instead, build a list of basic commands that will be used in the project and have it handy for the class to use and check.

Present Opportunities for Extra Challenges

Differentiated learning studies have shown us that students build skills in a highly diverse way. When teaching coding to kids, they are certain to progress at different rates. Students who struggle need support, repetition, and review activities to grasp coding skills. Some students will ‘get’ the concepts quickly and be ready for new ways to apply and extend their learning. Be prepared for these young experts with optional challenges to keep them excited and involved.

Reflect on Learning

During, and definitely after the end of the project, provide an opportunity for students to think about their coding experience. Write a journal entry. Ask questions such as: What was your favorite part of the program? What was the hardest part of learning to program? Which skills would you like to learn next? What advice would you give to a person learning how to use this program?

Teaching Coding to Kids Using TechnoTurtle

teaching coding to kids

TechnoTurtle, a new project by TechnoKids Inc., is an introduction to Python coding for beginners. It is designed for elementary and middle school students to learn basic programming skills. The fun activities include building a maze, creating artwork and spirographs, and inventing interactive games. TechnoTurtle incorporates all the above strategies to inspire young programmers to acquire fundamental technology expertise.

Tips to Pick Robotics Kits Part 2

Here are a few more tips to pick robotics kits. They are the second part of a list of things to consider before investing in STEM and programming hardware.

Support Materials for the Teacher

We found some of the kits we looked at included some amazing resources. You could build your model by printing and following illustrated directions or even step-by-step instructions in 3D online! Lesson plans and teacher guides were sometimes included too.

tips to pick robotics kits

  • Does your kit come with a startup guide?
  • Is there an inventory sheet?
  • Is there an explanation of each part?
  • Are lesson plans provided?
    • Online – can they be downloaded?
    • In a printed booklet provided in the kit?
  • Support Materials for the Student

    Teachers often don’t have the time to design new and technical curriculum materials. Some robotics retailers offer student activity sheets, workbooks, and instructions.

  • Is there a student workbook?
    • Online – can it be downloaded?
    • In a printed booklet provided in the kit?
  • Are there building instructions?
    • Is there a variety of models from which to choose?
    • Are they age appropriately challenging?
  • Are there coding instructions that match the model built?
  • Is there opportunity for creativity?
    • Is exploration through trial and error encouraged?
    • Does the kit allow for students to design something of their own?

Programming Software

We also found that some of the kits we looked at were completely computer free. This was perfect for younger students as an introduction to programming. However, junior and middle school grades should include a programming element once the robot is built.

tips to pick robotics kits

  • Do your curriculum objectives for teaching robotics include coding or programming?
  • Does your kit require programming software?
    • Will it run on the device you intend? If you only have a PC, be sure the software is PC compatible.
    • If you have tablets in your classroom, find out if there is an app for your device.
    • Is your device new enough to run the software?
    • Many of these apps require Bluetooth connectivity with multiple components being connected to the device at one time. Some devices can only support a limited number of connections.
    • If you are using Chromebooks, not all Android software is compatible.
  • Is the software similar to other programs such as Scratch, with which your students might be familiar?
    • Will you require time to teach the software?
  • Are the robotics kits being used to develop programming skills that can be applied to the next level, for example, Scratch, Python, HTML5?
    • Tips to Pick Robotics Kits

      Take some time to read reviews online before you make your final purchase. Preparing students for the workplace of tomorrow starts early and should continue throughout the grades. And robotics are an essential part of teaching career readiness skills and a STEM program. Find the hands-on kit that suits your students best and is the optimum value for an always limited budget.

TechnoKids and Google Classroom

What Is Google Classroom?

TechnoKids and Google Classroom work very well together! Google Classroom is a free web service developed for schools by Google. It was designed to simplify the creation, distribution, and grading of assignments without the need for paper. Now, paired with TechnoKids Technology Projects, you’re good to go!

TechnoKids and Google Classroom

We recently set up our own Google Classroom to try it out. We quickly discovered how easily TechnoKids and Google Classroom work together. Attaching a TechnoKids PDF workbook file to a new Class assignment was very easy.  We found that along with a few instructions, students were able to answer questions electronically in the document and open a template file in a Google App like Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Drawings. It was not difficult to attach newly created documents or additional files.

Google Classroom icon

Submitting completed assignments is also quick and easy. The teacher can review the completed work, assign a grade, and offer any comments directly to the student.

Getting Started

To use TechnoKids with Google Classroom, you will need to add a Chrome extension to your browser. This allows users to annotate the TechnoKids PDF worksheet files directly in the browser, save the changes, and submit them for grading. We suggest using either Kami or XODO extensions.

What You Need to Know

The first thing you need to do is create a Class in Google Classroom. Add your students simply by sharing a class code with the class or invite students by email. We found the former was the quickest where the student joined the class by simply typing in the code. The latter requires the student to open the email invite and click the Join link.

Next, you’ll need to upload the TechnoKids project resources to your Class Drive folder. This puts all the resources you’ll need to create assignments in one convenient spot.

Now you’re ready to create an assignment and issue it to your class. Open the first TechnoKids project assignment and read the instructions. Determine if the student needs to add answers to this document, do they need an added template file to complete the activity, or are they merely going to follow the directions to create a new document in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, or Drawings? Next, create a new assignment in your Class, attach the worksheet and any other necessary files. Set the user permission to give the student access to read or write to the file(s). Give the assignment a grade value and a due date, then place it into the TechnoKids project category.

The student opens the assignment in their Class to follow the instructions and complete the activity. The convenient Turn in option will alert the teacher when the assignment is ready for grading.

All in all, we found that our resource materials work very well with Google Classroom.

Support

If you think you still need some help getting started with TechnoKids and Google Classroom, we have put together some supportive Q&A’s here.

Watch Our Google Classroom playlist!

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Teach Python Using the Turtle Library

Teach Python using the Turtle Library to ignite an interest in STEM. Python is a popular text-based programming language. It is used every day by programmers.

The Turtle Library is a collection of functions used to control a robotic Turtle. The commands can be combined with Python to build programs that create stunning artwork and original games. The use of the The Turtle Library is a fun way to introduce students to programming.

You may think that using the Turtle Library to teach Python is a waste of time. Shouldn’t students be learning ‘real code’ instead of functions that they won’t use in the workplace? How useful is it for young programmers to move a Turtle through a maze using forward(100) or draw using pendown()? The answer is….very useful!!!

The skills acquired from building programs using Python and the Turtle Library provide a foundation for further learning. By knowing the basics, young programmers can extend their knowledge to more complicated tasks in the future. Discover the 7 reasons you will want to use the Turtle Library with your students.

7 Reasons to Teach Python Using the Turtle Library

1. Produce a Wide Range of Coding Projects

The use of the Turtle Library is not limited to moving a Turtle around the canvas or making artwork. Although this is really fun to do, it can be used for so much more! Want to hook students’ interest in STEM? Then teach Python using the Turtle Library. Consider programming these games using the Turtle Library:

  • Etch-a-Sketch: Invent a drawing game that uses arrow keys to draw lines to create artwork.
  • Carnival Game: Design a game using conditional logic that awards a prize to players based on the option they pick.
  • Mad Lib: Create a word game that stores players’ answers as variables to form silly sentences.
  • Guess the Number: Combine the Random Library with the Turtle Library to build a game that has players pick a number between 1 and 10. Will they guess correctly?

2. Develop the Computational Thinking Skills to Sequence Instructions

Programming requires each line of code to be in the correct order to achieve a goal. When writing code with the Turtle Library of commands, students must apply computational thinking to determine what comes first, second, and third. This ability to sequence instructions will be helpful later when programs are longer and more complex.

3. Effectively Apply Debugging Strategies

No matter whether a programmer is using Python or has code that includes commands from the Turtle Library, the errors are the same. Mistakes in coding generate the identical name and syntax errors. For example, if a : (colon) is missing at the end of a loop, there will be an indent error. Understanding how to identify the problem and fix it is transferable to new programming tasks.

4. Understand How to Organize Scripts

No matter the programming language, programmers add comments to describe each section in a program. A comment is a brief description that acts as a summary. It explains the purpose of the code. Comments are used by programmers to communicate with others about the intent of the code. As well, they can act as markers to identify each part of a program. This makes it easier to locate a specific section for writing new code or debugging errors.

In Python a comment begins with a hashtag #. The symbol tells the interpreter to skip the line as it does not contain an instruction. For example, #store a word list is a useful descriptor that explains the purpose of the following lines of code. It is important for young programmers to get in the habit of using comments as it is good programming practice used by professionals.

5. Import Libraries to Build Programs

The Python programming language uses special words to tell the computer what to do. A function is a word that does a specific task by executing a stored set of instructions. Many Python functions are stored into libraries. Professional programmers use Python libraries to create responsive graphs, display the time, or grab information from a web page. The ability to import the Turtle Library is similar to importing any Python Library, making it a useful programming skill.

The ability to import libraries is an important reason to use the Turtle Library to teach programming skills. Programs that use the Turtle Library to create artwork and build games can include other Python libraries. For example, students can use the Random Library to pick a random number or item from a list. This is a fun way to make surprising geometric patterns or a Guess the Number game. As well, students can use the Time library to set the timing of events. This is very useful when flashing the word “WINNER” across the canvas in Carnival game. The programming skills that are introduced when using the Turtle library can be transferred to more complicated or work-related tasks in the future.

6. Appreciate the Importance of Accuracy When Writing Lines of Code

When students are writing programs using Python and the Turtle Library, they quickly learn the importance of accuracy. A reader can understand a story or report that has a few spelling or grammar mistakes. A computer cannot. If a program has a command spelled incorrectly it will not run. Moreover, if the code is missing a bracket, colon, or indent than an error will display. The emphasis on precision when coding is best taught early, as it is required by all programmers. Teach Python using the Turtle Library to support STEM.

7. Instant Feedback Develops Confidence

The Turtle canvas instantly shows the result of the code. This visual is helpful during program development. Nothing is more frustrating then trying to figure out why the code does not work the way it is supposed to when the program runs. Young programmers can quickly become frustrated. With a lack of immediate success, they can start to believe that they are not good at programming. Since the Turtle Library displays the output on a canvas, the programmer can see what they need to change to improve their program. For example, they might notice that the Turtle moves in the wrong direction, the pen needs be picked up to stop drawing a line, or the game title is too small to read. Seeing what needs to be fixed helps young programmers understand how to improve their code.

Support STEM. Teach Python using the Turtle Library. Spark an interest in programming.

TechnoTurtle Has Lessons to Create Artwork and Build Games

TechnoTurtle is a technology project, by TechnoKids Inc. that has lesson plans to teach Python using the Turtle Library. It has over 30 assignments that gradually introduce programming skills to elementary and middle school students. The instructions guide students to build programs, with additional open-ended challenges to spark creative exploration of code.