How do coding courses for kids work? Are they similar to courses in other subjects such as Maths and English? Or more like learning piano or drama?
Coding is a unique subject in many ways, and the way it is taught and learnt is not quite the same as any other subject. Not all coding courses are the same, either, of course.
Coding is a serious subject that should be taught with an academic focus, similar to other academic subjects. Coding is also a very practical subject, and can only be truly learnt through practice. This means that an effective coding curriculum is one that blends the theoretical aspects of coding seamlessly into a hands-on, project-based learning approach.
Coding in Python also has a lot in common with learning a musical instrument: a very important component when learning how to code is to practise a lot. However, unlike when learning to play the piano, practising in coding doesn't mean writing the same program over and over again. On the contrary, it means writing lots of different programs. This makes learning coding very exciting and engaging as students are constantly creating new things, and using their imagination and creativity too.
What happens during a typical coding lesson?
Not all coding sessions are the same, of course, but broadly speaking we can divide the sessions in a coding course into two:
- sessions that introduce a new topic
- sessions that consolidate a topic that was introduced previously
When a new topic is introduced, the instructor will explain the need for the particular tool or method being taught. This is always done in the context of a project that the group will be working on. Once the topic is introduced by the instructor, students are given a task within the project that they need to work on independently, using the topic that has just been taught.
The instructor will move around all students during this period, observing their work, providing feedback and answering any questions they have. In remote sessions, the screen sharing facility available through the technology used to run these sessions makes the process of observing and helping students straightforward as the instructor can see all the students' screens.
Once students have had a go at working on the task independently, the instructor will bring everyone's attention back to his or her screen and as a whole group they will go through the task. This is a key part of the session as the instructor can review the topic while doing so, and add more detail as well.
Some lessons are designed to be primarily consolidation lessons. A perfect example is our Flower project which we run in our Level 1 courses (or a variant of it in our older age group). The students would have been introduced to the for loop in a previous lesson. This is a key topic in early-stage coding. When they start the Flower project, they are shown a picture of a flower with several petals and they are asked to use the knowledge they have from previous lessons to start writing code that will draw this flower.
They are not shown any code initially. This allows them to explore independently and determine which of the tools they have learnt will be useful. The for loop that they have just learnt will need to be used to repeat code that will draw each petal. Starting to write code from a blank screen is also an important skill they must learn. These sessions are therefore very important to give them the confidence to write code independently.
During these consolidation projects, the instructor will monitor each student's progress, giving feedback and helping as required. Instructors will also provide carefully timed hints and tips to assist students, without telling them exactly what to do, though.
Later in the session, the instructor will again bring the whole group's attention to his or her screen and will go through aspects of the project, with input from the students.
In between session and after the course
Students are strongly encouraged to practise coding in between their lessons, and after the course ends too. We provide them with ideas on how they can extend their projects, and write new ones too.
We also support all our students, during as well as after the course, through The Codetoday Community. This is a private forum, accessible only by our students and monitored by our staff, in which students can ask for feedback and help on their code, interact with other students, and access additional content and ideas for projects to work on.
Coding is a unique subject in the way it's taught and learnt. It has a perfect blend of theory and practice, with both playing an equally important role. The project-based approach of learning coding makes the subject a favourite for many students. Very few subjects lend themselves as well as coding to the concept that proper learning is also a lot of fun. This is what makes coding courses for kids so special.