An Unexpected Benefit Of Coding

This week is the Hour of Code. We haven’t been coding every day, or even necessarily for a full hour, but we have been experimenting with coding this week. Some students have tried out some of the activities here. Others have experimented with apps such as Kodable, Tynker, and Scratch Jr.. No matter which option the students have chosen, the curriculum expectations that we really focused on were counting skills, one-to-one correspondence, and directional language. While many students worked alone, they assisted each other by discussing strategies and problem-solving together. We’ve even tried some coding together, and talked about our thinking when working through the process.

Our Coding Together From Today

During these coding activities, I’ve really tried to listen to the conversations and watch the students work through the problems. Today I noticed something very interesting: the students that tend to meet with the most success are actually those students that tend to struggle the most in other academic areas. Why might that be?

Here’s my theory: coding requires perseverance. It can be hard. It can be frustrating. Sometimes what we think might work, doesn’t. There is definitely a need to try, try, and try again. Many students that struggle have learned the need for perseverance. They also know what it’s like to fail, and how excited they feel when after multiple attempts, they meet with success. Meeting with this success can be difficult in certain academic areas, where students may be lacking some of the fundamental basic skills. In these cases, without an alternate program, struggling students may not meet with success. But coding is different. With coding, the students can follow their code, see where the errors occur, and go back to fix them. And eventually, they’ll get their program working, and hence, feel that joy of success. Yes, coding often requires reading. It even requires writing (of some sort). But there are visuals. There are prompts. There are YouTube videos that allow students to visually see and orally hear instructions, and not just rely on the written word. There are supports in place for success, and for those students that persevere, they were feeling this success.

I know that my website and app choices are by no means complicated coding applications. I know that real coding requires many more skills than what is required in these introductory lessons. All of that being said though, coding started to help my strongest students feel empathy for their peers that may sometimes struggle. It helped some new classroom leaders emerge. Observing students during these coding activities reminded me that we need to give children more safe opportunities to struggle, and give them a chance to work through these struggles alone or with their peers. Maybe we also need to give these same opportunities to parents and educators. It’s as we find learning challenging, that we understand what our children experience. We learn when and how to support them and when to maybe give time to problem-solve independently or collaboratively with peers. What have you learned from coding with children? How can you see using coding at home or at school, and why might you consider these options? The Hour of Code can just be the beginning!


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