4 Ways To Make Kids Coding Classes Exciting
When we started CodaKid kids coding academy in 2014, our first two months were a disaster. We tried off the shelf curricula and did everything we could to make it exciting. We taught programming theory with rigid lesson plans, and by the end of our beta, most of the parents told me that their kids weren’t interested in coming back.
Then, one day everything changed. We decided to let the kids tell us what they wanted to make the week before and based on their feedback we crafted a Minecraft Modding lesson that taught kids how to create a custom potion mod with Java. We taught it in a fun, almost goofy way – and by the end of the session we had kids literally jumping out of their seats with excitement. The best takeaway was that the kids thoroughly comprehended the conceptual portions of the lessons and were writing real code.
What we learned is that getting kids to trying computer programming is easy. Convincing them to stick with it and grow as independent programmers was challenging.
In this article, we explore 4 ideas that we’ve found successful in teaching thousands to kids to code using text-based programming languages. We hope that you find it useful as you explore kids coding options.
Kids coding should be creative
Many kids coding courses we used started with the “Hello World” Method in which kids print the text “Hello World” on a screen using code. Most kids find this boring, and it can sometimes turn them off from computer programming- even permanently.
Courses like these create an “on rails” experience that restricts kids’ creativity while forcing them down rigid pathways with only one correct path. While it is important to teach students coding concepts and syntax, the best kids coding classes give students freedom to exercise their creativity and build real projects even with limited technical knowledge.
One of our favorite courses is Scratch, a free tool that allows kids to design and create characters and to then determine how their creations act and behave. Scratch uses a visual block interface that doesn’t require any text based coding, which can be fun for younger kids.
We are tooting our own horn here, but our favorite text-based coding course is CodaKid’s Mod Creation – The Adventure Begins, an online Minecraft coding class that allows kids to create custom modifications to the game that has taken the world by storm. Kids learn real text-based Java programming while learning how to create real software with professional grade tools.
Kids coding delivery needs to be optimized for the YouTube generation
The most effective way to teach kids coding is to deliver the content in a way that kids enjoy. Listening to someone drone on about coding concepts gets old quickly. Instead, kids coding classes should contain engaging content, fun animations, and a teacher that makes kids laugh. Kids will listen for hours to YouTube personalities online, and we’ve found that delivering our course content for both online and live classroom settings using YouTube humor and style is what kids love.
Kids coding classes need quick victories
Kids coding courses need to have quick victories in which they can get glimpses of their projects in development. At CodaKid, we aim to have victories by the end of every chapter of our online courses, and by the end of each daily class at our academy. Kids have shorter attention spans, and showing them their progress several times along the way keep them interested and engaged.
We view coding in the same way that a craftsman views woodworking. We are always working towards a final project,and it is fun to get glimpses of it along the way.
Kids coding classes need content that matches kids’ interests
Kids coding courses should help kids build things that they already interested in. If you try to teach them how to create an airline ticketing database, they will lose interest quickly and perhaps never return.
At CodaKid we like to teach kids how to build video games, apps and Minecraft mods. We’ve found that kids are willing to put in the hard work and learn the concepts when they know that the payoff is going to be something that they are passionate about. When the carrot in the carrot/stick relationship is a mobile game app or Minecraft mod, students will power through the conceptual learning in order to reach their goal.
What are some effective ways that you’ve found to teach kids coding? Please leave your comments below.