Summer coding challenge for Y.O.U. (!)

I hope all the teachers our there are having a fabulous start to their summer! My summer has already been non-stop busy with weddings, family parties, Father's Day and I leave for Ireland next week to complete my Masters in Educational Technology! Woo! Thank goodness for summer!

Anyway, I wanted to challenge all of the educators out there to code this summer. And I want you to code this summer so you can challenge your students to code next year! I firmly believe that your students' coding experience will be more unique and meaningful if you say you have done the same coding programs as them. Why? Because it is going to be tough for them and it is going to be awesome to say: "Hey, if I can do it, you can do it." Plus, you will appreciate understanding the struggles they are going through and knowing that they can do it--they just need to be persistent.

Before I convince you to start coding on your own in preparation for next year, let me share some of the benefits of coding I have seen within my classroom. 

1.) Collaboration - Normally when my kids are working on their computers I am running around like a maniac conferencing. However, when it's coding time in our classroom, I could honestly sit back, watch and listen. Nobody is coming to me asking me questions. Nobody is telling me they can't do it. Nobody is asking me for help. They ARE coming to me to share their successes. But how come they aren't coming to me for anything else? It is because they are relying on each other. Each time we code, students are asking each other for help, showing each other new skills, and celebrating successes together. Their enthusiasm is why I became a teacher. Additionally, if you know me you know I am all about teaching my kids real life skills--working together and helping each other--that is what it is all about no matter what job you have in life. 
2.) Problem Solving - Your students (and you) are going to fail, fail and fail again when you code. This is a very important part of coding: DO NOT give your students answers or explanations. I made it very clear to my first graders that I would not be helping them complete levels or learn new skills--it was totally up to them to figure it out. The best way we learn is by doing--no matter what your age (analytical reasoning--another life skill!!!!). There were times when my kids were SO frustrated--and I wanted to badly to say "AH! You just need to fix one teeny tiny thing!!!" But what good would that do anybody? I'm not always going to be there for my first graders to solve every problem they encounter. Plus, when they do solve a problem, it's like they've won the lottery. Kids screaming, fist pumping, dancing and showing everybody what they've accomplished. It is the best--and it wouldn't feel as awesome if someone did it for them. 
3.) Pride and excitement - Like I mentioned earlier in this post, the enthusiasm in the room is sky high when we code. My kids are not only excited and proud of themselves, but for their peers. "Miss Stasiak, look at what she did!!" Or, "Miss Stasiak, look at what I did! That was so hard I didn't think I could do it...but I did it!!!" I have some kids in my room who blossomed in first grade because of coding. One of my struggling readers who was very distant from his peers came out of his shell, was a rockstar coder, and everyone went to him with their questions. Coding made him realize his purpose in our classroom--and I really hope he grows up to code some amazing program because that's what I imagine happening each time I watch him code. 
4.) "I'm really good at this!" - Coding makes my students feel good about themselves. That's all I have to say about that! 

Are you convinced yet? I hope so! If not, try watching this video for some more inspiration.

Now I want to share some of my favorite coding programs especially for lower elementary students (keep in mind that YOU (& older students) can work on these programs, too, just like I did--they are age specific but not age mandatory :) ). Just know my first graders and I have tried each of these programs and have had success. If we can do it, so can you!

1.) Kodable - This one takes the cake. You will need to sign your students up and they will each receive a username and password. You can track their progress and the program will get tougher and tougher as they progress. This is awesome for the little guys because there is SO much sequencing involved and I firmly believe it helped their reading, math and writing skills throughout the year. Kodable sets up lesson plans and activities for your students to code for 30 minutes per week.
2.) - This site provides tons of different courses to take. Have pre-readers in your room? No problem. provides coding courses that require no reading. The site also features the Hour of Code which takes place between December 5th-11th--but the Hour of Code can really happen any time during the year! There are many different coding games that are themed to make coding even more fun for kids--Angry Birds, Minecraft, Frozen, Star Wars, etc. There are even some coding activties created by students. 
3.) Tynker - Probably my students' favorite site becuase they can create different Minecraft skins, items, blocks and mobs (if you are not a Minecraft person that is essentially all of the characters and building blocks). They loved creating their own features of the game--so not only are they coding, they are being #makers, too!
4.) Light Bot - This is a programming puzzle game and you goal is to guide the robot to light up each blue tile by giving him a set of directions. Very addicting and lots of fun! 
4.) Santa Tracker - Obviously the most fun during winter time, Santa Tracker lets you follow Santa as he makes his journey around the world! You can play different coding and programming games along the way--lots of fun. 
5.) PBS Kids Scratch Junior (app) - My kiddos really loved this app that allowed them to create their own stories via coding! They can choose their own characters, setting and they can add their voice to their projects. So cool! 
6.) Daisy the Dinosaur (app) - This is a very basic version of coding where students easily use the drag and drop interface to animate Daisy the Dinosaur. 

Also, feel free to check out my website and look at our coding page. That is where my kids accessed any coding programs we tried. 

An app I am gong to look into this summer is Hopscotch. Has anyone tried that yet?! And if you have not seen this yet--I am working on getting my hands on this for next year!: OSMO Coding

Please give these coding programs a try and take my challenge to get your students to code next year!  Start with one program, and try it in your room. Once you feel that you and your students are ready, try another! I always tell my kids that one day they might write the code for an awesome program and they have to make sure to put my name in the fine print :) 

Happy teaching and happy summer! Enjoy yourselves!

Some fun pictures of my kiddos coding:




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