Teaching Kids to Code

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about one of my favorite experiences I had last year and something I hope to do more of this year: teaching kids coding classes.

Last fall, I spent four Tuesday afternoons teaching 5th graders from a local elementary school basic HTML and CSS. They caught on really quickly and were endlessly curious. It was so fun for me to see them have “click moments” and put their newly learned skills to use.

We created one CodePen account that all the students had access to, and from there they each created their own pens. Using CodePen worked out really well as we were able to focus more time on coding skills instead of learning a software. I was also able to create demo pens on things like animation and making shapes using code for the students to reference and have a pen for questions and answers that they could use after the classes ended.

I think kids learning how to code is important, but not just because of the skill itself. Learning to code is so much more–it teaches skills that are useful in any subject, from language arts, to social studies, to science. Learning to code improves problem solving and critical thinking skills. I encouraged the students who understood a concept to help teach their peers who didn’t understand it yet, which helped promote teamwork. We also talked a lot about frustrations: there’s a lot of frustrations that come along with coding, but learning how to manage them and channel the frustration into solving the problem is an invaluable skill.