Friday, 2 October 2015

Coding with Kids


I was lucky enough to be able to take a Gifted and Talented group this term, and I had been scratching to teach them coding using Scratch. I wanted to show them the basics so they could take their coding creations to new levels. However, I felt it important they end with a finished product to demonstrate the learning and give them a sense of achievement. 

I wanted the students to feel like they had created something with a purpose, but still challenging to them. The maths game seemed a way they could give back to their school friends by helping them with their Maths. The coding was also understandable to me when I tested it out. I like to understand the basic coding and why it works, the kids then extend and add their ideas as they play with code possibilities. It always comes back to critical thinking, if something is not working we say, "why?" and start looking at the logic of our code. That's deep thinking, it's reading, writing and maths; and it's just the beginning. My Maths students also started doing collaborative projects, designing games many groups decided to use Scratch as their game design, and their creativity and coding logic have truly impressed me.

Over fours days during the term the group met with me, I guided them through a series of basics then moved towards exploring a maths game model. Each week we learnt more skills to apply to the games. The students really personalised their games and tried to push the coding to get the game to do what we wanted. We learnt so much but also so many ways the code won't work!

After finishing the G&T group, I was convinced that my Maths students would benefit from learning to code. I dedicated one Maths block a week to coding. I started them on the same coding basic training as the other group, but then I gave them mini coding lessons based on the concepts (position and orientation) we have been learning. Most used my teaching and took the coding to new levels; we had some challenging conversations and I said, "I don't know" a lot, or I'd use other kids as experts which didn't take long. They have just finished their projects, and I'll create a special page on our wiki for their games. I want them to have a say in who gets their games, perhaps I should get them to try "sell" them to other teachers. 

The G&T students created maths games which were put on our school website for others to play, as well as embedding them on their own blogs as evidence. They particularly enjoyed the critical thinking and creating their own designs from code.

My Maths group created some quite diverse games with impressive coding which is the result of giving them complete control. We currently have the final games on our Maths wiki page here. All my students want to keep coding, it's challenging, a great way to problem solve collaboratively and they love it.
The previous group plus my Maths students have shown tremendous growth in critical thinking and problem solving. We have encountered some tricky code, and together we solved some 'glitches' but others we had to put on hold till next time. Learning to code is a process; you get better as you play and learn. So we will keep coding. 

And isn't it great that Scratch projects are so easy to embed?