Friday, November 14, 2014

Benefits of Coding in K-1

That coding needs to be part of a student's elementary daily school life has been a passion for me and have been propagating it for a few years in my district now, with the number of teachers attending the workshops growing from 2 or 3 to 8 or 10 (sometimes 20 in a presentation setting) and more teachers implementing the same in their classrooms. 

Last year, with code.org introducing The Hour of Code, it was a great way to introduce coding in classrooms, exciting even the most reluctant educator or those who feel like they are non-tech-savvy as they put it. 

While the students in Grades 2 and up had been using either Scratch, or Tynker or Alice (or in the case of some 5th graders Java and Python), I was wondering what I could do with grades K and 1 to make it meaningful and age appropriate. Along came Kodable to my rescue (and to the delight of the students). I chanced upon it, got hooked onto it and decided it was something that seemed ideal for that age group. Grechen Huebner, one of the founders of Kodable, was gracious enough to share a bunch of resources, and came to work with one of the kindergarten classes once and with a first grade class a few times. The way the students took to it, the thinking, learning, engagement and motivation for each learner was simply fantastic. That then became the students' favorite app to go to when it came to a survey at the end of the year. That was fantastic.

Fast forward to November this week. It is a month away from this year's Hour of Code. We bought the classroom versions of Kodable Class for Grades K-2. It was time to introduce the same in Grade 1. The students are always super excited about learning to use a new application when it involves creativity. I start with the introduction, asking those who were at the school - Do you remember using this app? What does it do? How does it help us?

The first two questions were standard - yes, we remember, we need to get the fuzz ball forward, collect the coins. In response to the last question - the first hand goes up - "We learn how to follow diretions". Applause of course. The second hand goes up - "It makes us think" .

Straight from their mouths, no prompting, nothing. Do we need any more proof that coding at that stage does indeed benefit students and that it is one of the most engaging and critical thinking activities that they can go through at that stage? Of course, now they are off and about on their own, working their way through the mazes.

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