Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kids Who Code:Starting a Coding Club

Back in 2014, I started working on the Kids Who Code project with fellow educators Mrs. Devon Caldwell and Mrs. Connie Lowe.  After successfully introducing coding in the classroom and hosting our first Kids Who Code Code-a-thon last school year, I was excited to start coding with my new class of Grade 1s again this year.  But I also had a bigger goal in mind -- to introduce all of the students in our school to coding.   I'd heard of coding clubs being run in other schools and decided to give it a try at Hamiota Elementary.  Back in November, I invited Grades 2-5 students to sign up (with parental permission) and I'm pleased to report we've been going strong (or coding strong) since!  I haven't blogged about the experience yet, but I'm working on a series of posts now, as I reflect on our first several weeks.

For others running coding club or interested in getting started, here's what worked for us:

Set Up & Planning:
  • All Grades 2-5 students received information about the Coding Club with the sign up form
  • Once students had signed up (over 60!) I booked the only space large enough to hold all of us (the gym) for one noon hour per week
  • Next, I started my prep work
    • I looked for the perfect "kickoff" video and finally settled on this one from Code.org

    • Next, I debated over which coding tool to start with and finally decided on Scratch Jr. Scratch Jr. was my students' favourite tool last year and they have great printable instructions for beginner coders in their teacher resources.
    • I asked to borrow every iPad in the school and then I worried about how 60 kids would share 15 devices... Then I came up with multi-age teams of 4 students who would work together during our first club meetings.
    • I printed out 3-4 copies of the 9 different Scratch Jr. activities plus made copies of the instructions that my class wrote last year.  I numbered the activities 1-10 so teams could easily keep track of which one they were working on. Teams and challenges were listed on posters that students could use to check off completed activities and find their device. 
    • I developed attendance sheets by grade so I could keep track of who was in attendance at club meetings 
Kickoff Day: 
Kids flooded into the gym with their lunches and gathered in small groups to chat and eat.  I used my harmonica (PAX quiet signal) to get everyone's attention and we started our first official coding club meeting!  Our lunch hour is short (45 minutes) so we got right down to it:
  • watched introductory video
  • goal setting and rules - Students told me why they'd joined the club and what their goals were.  Students also shared what they thought the rules should be.  I recorded their ideas on large poster paper and we keep them posted for all meetings.  

  • Scratch Jr. challenge - I called out teams and had students pick up a device and a challenge.  They got right to work on following the instructions for their activities... then the bell rang shortly after, bringing our first meeting to a close.  Although we didn't get in a lot of coding time, I felt the time we spent on introductory activities was well worth it. 

During the weekly meetings that followed, students became more independent with using the posters to find their device and challenge instructions.  The multi-age teams worked very well, with students working together and taking turns to be the one actually touching the screen.  Having 10 different activities available allowed teams to work at different paces - they just checked off their completed challenge (usually after showing me) and then moved on to another one.  I moved around the gym checking in on teams and answering questions. 

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