The Magic That Happens When We Teach Kids to Code

By ETT Instructor Shawn O’Neill

When I tell people that my first graders could not only code, but explain to others how to code, people look at me with disbelief. But it’s true. My students, and I do mean ALL of my students, were successful coders.  They listened, they worked together, they made mistakes and learned to debug, they had fun, and they coded. What they didn’t know was that they were also learning how to collaborate, how to persevere, how to problem solve, how to be resilient, and how to harness their creativity. They didn’t know that they were learning essential life skills.

I’m not a computer expert, nor have I been coding for decades. When I decided to introduce coding in my elementary classroom it was because I saw the opportunity to engage my students and I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I began by introducing coding through some wonderful read aloud books. We talked about what coding meant and we drew connections. I started small, with easy coding devices that did not involve a screen. When that worked, I introduced coding devices that required my students to do a bit more planning and sequencing. When that was successful, we made our way to block coding, and the adventure continued. What I didn’t know at the time was that my students would soak up this new information like a sponge and not only ask for more challenging tasks, but be developmentally ready for them. 

Here’s what I witnessed firsthand. I saw that my entire class; my struggling learners, my English Language Learners, my students struggling with social and emotional health, my advanced students, my entire class, was able to participate in coding.  Their differences did not matter. Because all of my students were able to learn to code, I saw their confidence soar. Because I saw their confidence soar, I saw them try new things and come out of their shells, and watched as my more quiet and shy students began to speak up and take the lead.

Coding helped to make my classroom a truly engaging, inclusive and equitable place where all of my learners felt confident. It turned out to be the best chance I ever took.

Interested in learning more about Coding in the Elementary Classroom? Our summer learning pass includes an amazing new course designed specifically for teachers interested in elementary coding!

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We are excited to announce the all-new EdTechTeacher Summer Learning Pass for 2023! We are conducting 13 amazing workshops over six weeks that consist of three live one-hour webinars and a host of helpful resources. Join us live for instruction and discussion or watch recorded sessions later, whatever works best for your summer schedule!

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