Let the kids code, first.

It’s a bit odd that I have discovered, halfway through the year, how to manage a couple of year 7 classes I’d been struggling with. You see.. I was spoilt in my training school.

In training, just over a year ago, I had a lovely huge classroom with tables in the middle and computers around the outside. As a trainee I would sit them in the middle, at tables without a computer, be impressive and try to get the theory delivered early. I would ‘play tricks’ on them, using a piggy bank resulting in the learning of variables, or doing the “robot walk” to teach algorithms. I’d hope they had got it, then let them migrate to the computers placed around the outside of the classroom so they could code in Scratch. That worked in training.

So I have been trying this all year with limited success, and suddenly, today, I tried something else. I reversed it. Coding first, theory later. And it worked. “Get on Scratch, finish your stage and choose a Sprite” I said, not 5 minutes in. After 20 minutes, when I asked for calm, and listening… I got them back. “When you use the code block ‘if’ to decide whether something happens, or not, what is that called?”

Selection, they replied. The rest of the lesson was a breeze. Most Y7/8s just need to get on and code, after 15-20 minutes they are ready to learn what they have just done. So my advice today is…

Let them code first. Often they are very keen computer scientists, sometimes they are just keen to get on the computer. Let them do it, it’s why they love your class. Give them 20 minutes. Then do the theory. It should work for most.


By mraharrisoncs

Freelance consultant, teacher and author, professional development lead for the NCCE, CAS Master Teacher, Computer Science lecturer.

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