PreK Intro to Coding

One of my favorite things is teaching PreK students how to code.  In some ways it can feel like a daunting task and yet I enjoy every minute of it.  I have seen my own four year old latch onto Scratch Jr and Finch Robot.  He is actually the reason why I know what I do know how to do on Scratch Jr.  Just the other day I heard him narrating, or directing, every piece of code he was writing.  So, he was creating an animal scene and decided to 'make this zebra move very very slow.'   He is the reason why I know it is completely possible to teach 2, 3, and 4 year olds how to code. And yet, it is not a skill, lesson, or unit to take on lightly.  Here are a few things that I considered about their ages before diving in:

  1. They are risk takers. They will jump right into anything you put in front of them.  That in itself is a total score!  
  2. They bounce. Have you ever seen a PreK student play?  They move from one activity to the next and back to the first activity and then onto a third and so on.  I call this bouncing.  While this is developmentally typical for PreK students it can be a challenge to keep them on task.
  3. What is coding?  Like Denzel said in the movie Philadelphia, Explain it to me like I'm a five year old.  The simpler, the better.  It took me a tick to boil down coding in the most simple terms.  In short: it's giving and following directions.  Or as I like to tell them, bossing around the computer, iPad or robot.
  4. What activities will help them understand coding?  You can certainly code a robot or Scratch without knowing what coding is, but....when you are explicitly teaching children computer science skills, they should absolutely know what coding is.  For this, I thought of books, games, and activities that would give them the opportunity to be the computer and be coded.  (more about this next week) I have to tell you that this is my FAVORITE part of the entire unit!
  5. Structure is key!  So I have an incredibly large space and take this into consideration with every unit, lesson, and grade.  Never is this more true than when I introduce the concept of coding to PK!  I not only determine what activities will be at each station, but how I will introduce them and how long to keep the stations open, how they will 'sign up' for their station choice, and how long they will work at a station during Library Media.  
  6. Assessment.  Honestly, I find this difficult to do in any of my classes, not just the PK classes.  I do not find time on my side here; 35 minute classes.  My assessments are more informal and I focus on wrapping up the lesson instead.  Still I find it difficult to squeeze it all in in 35 minutes.  Some typical ways I wrap up lessons is to have them self assess their coding skills on a scale of 1-3 or thumbs up/down.  Sometimes I have them display how they feel about their learning with a face.  And other times we do a TPS.  For me, with this unit it is really about introducing them to coding and not worrying too much about what they can and can't do.  They will become more adept at coding as the years progress.  

In the sample schedule above, you probably noticed the Design & Drill, Osmo, Scratch, & Code and Go Mouse.  I use all of those when teaching PK how to code; among other items!  Next week, I will share more specifically about the activities I use and will have more resources available!



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