Best Ways to Teach Kids Computer Programming After School

Best Ways to Teach Kids Computer Programming After School

Kids of all ages can benefit from computer programming classes that set them on the path to pursue robotics. With a 21st century job market relying so heavily on computer skills and coding, it’s no wonder schools and curriculum advisors are making more of an effort to incorporate coding into the daily routine. Even so, after school programs that focus on the best ways to teach computer programming for kids boast several advantages.

First, children are able to get the specialized attention they need to succeed since class numbers are smaller. Second, kids are able to get to know a group of students with whom to build on teamwork skills and grow confidence. Lastly, classroom instructors will be able to adjust after school activities to each student’s needs. As students overcome individual challenges, they’ll soon be able to take on multiple programming languages and more advanced coding maneuvers.

After school computer programming instructors can make the most out of their programs by exposing students to activities like these:


For Elementary School Students

At this level, students are just getting to know what computer programming is capable of. The best ways to teach elementary students computer programming is to give them a mix of online and “unplugged” activities so they’ll grow confidence to code on their own.

•    Using several online platforms such as Scratch, students can program software complete with simple letters, numbers, and shapes. Students will set specifications about the color and size of their designs. Then they’ll see their designs come to life as they’ve carved into their online model.

•    Teach kids about loops in coding, the algorithm that allows computers to identify patterns. Helping identify patterns can make the coding more concise. In this unplugged activity, students will “code” another student in the class to dance. They’ll get used to giving each action a name, and will practice looping actions rather than repeating them and using up board space. The volunteer student will then act out the dance written out on the board.

For Middle School Students

Middle school students who have basic coding experience are ready to dig into the nitty gritty. They’ll be looking for new challenges that let them do more online.

•    As an introductory class or for students who have minimal computer programming experience, there are some great opportunities to teach students coding through examples of coding used during World War II. Take the famous Alan Turing, an English logician and quite possibly the father or artificial intelligence, as an example. In addition to the history lesson, kids will get a chance to devise and decipher each other’s codes using a self-created cipher wheel.

•    Teach students the code needed to program a microcontroller. Students start to make simple circuits with the use of basic materials: wire from GROUND pin in Arduino to a breadboard negative (black) strip, wire from negative (black) strip to board, 330 ohm resistor (controls current), LED light negative to positive, wire from board to positive (red) strip, and wire to 5Vpin in Arduino.  Students will then use their coding extensions along with circuit extensions to set off multiple lights, a buzzer, servos, etc.

•    Introduce software which allows students to create a story using coding techniques. The programming language Scratch is one of the easiest to manipulate in this way. Students will learn more about different programming languages and each of their capabilities. Then, students will present their animated own creations.

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For High School Students

At the high school level, perhaps many students have already participated in a couple of robot competitions. The best ways to teach high school kids programming is encouraging them to perfect their skills and expanding what they can do come competition day.

•    For students with tendencies for both art and science, why not take full advantage with a graphic design project? All high school students—who are already familiar with the graphic animation capabilities of a computer will break it down. Using a column/rows quadrant, students will learn how pixels create images. They’ll work to decipher coded images by shading in boxes within the quadrant as if they were pixels. Later, students will take the reigns and create their own pixel sequence to decode.

•    Getting experience in coding is not limited to classrooms equipped with thousands of dollars of hardware. In fact, using a TI-84 Plus CE Program Editor alone, students will learn how to control the Color LED, control the frequency and timing of the speaker. They’ll also learn about the Brightness sensor and creating loops in coding. These activities are set to last about 10 minutes, meaning just a small dose of coding each day can make the difference.

•    Students can also use MakeQuest software to more fully understand JavaScript coding. MakeQuest is available using Chrome, Firefox, Safari,Opera, and Internet Explorer. Students will master concepts of coordinates, variables, and functions while they work hard to save the World of Code from the “Evil 404”. Quests are user-friendly and are adaptable to new or seasoned coders.

A Teacher Guide to the MakeQuest Coding Game

Take JavaScript one step further with Mozilla Learning Network’s Homework Excuse Generator. The instructor will begin class by encouraging each student to write their best homework excuse on a piece of paper. Paper slips are collected, shuffled, and reallocated to new students. In a circle, students will read off their new excuse, adding on to the one before. Students will then go to the computers and start to explore Mozilla's Thimble Web editor. They’ll learn more about the relationship of Java and HTML. Students will then access a “Tutorial” tab to give them a full sense of what Java is capable of.

Homework Excuse Generator Teaching Kit

Knowing the best ways to teach kids computer programming can seem daunting to kids who don’t know much about it. However, when they join after school programs, they’ll get the attention they deserve to strike up curiosity in STEM that could carry into adulthood. Meanwhile, they’ll learn about how robots can impact the world in a positive way, and hopefully will build that interest too.

RoboLoco, Inc.