A teacher and student on the floor, testing a Sphero robot

11 educators share how they bring coding into the classroom

Do you want to teach coding but not sure how to start? Here are a bunch of helpful ideas

5. “My favorite ways to engage kids in STEM is to provide them ample exploration time. We take time to enjoy whatever tool/concept we are using without having any expectations or requirements on the students. I like to do this because it helps kids get excited about what the tool/concept is, and then we start to dig deeper into it and see how and why it does what it does. This is true for everything from robotics to engineering.”
—Andy Wall, innovation teacher, Orchard Farm (MO) School District 

6. “It’s okay to start off with simple projects when first bringing coding into your classroom. It’ll help students build up their coding skills as they explore what’s possible.”
—Lauren Marrone, science teacher, Paulding County (GA) School District 

7. “I teach computer literacy and technology for Pre-K4 through 8th grade and, no matter what age, computer science is very intimidating, especially at first. It can be very off-putting to students and adults alike, especially if their only understanding of coding is zeros and ones. For my students, I think of the activity first (typically cross-curricular) and visualize a way to substitute a traditional activity with one that integrates basic computer science principles but doesn’t focus on that. By doing so, I reverse engineer the end-product of the activity to find creative ways that introduce coding.

I create pre-coded templates that I call ‘skeleton codes.’ These provide enough for students to run a program but still allows the students to be in complete control of the variables. From that point on, and for most students, I create less and less as they become more familiar with the coding program, such as Scratch or Sphero Edu. In my teaching experience thus far, this method of introducing them to code helps transition them from co-pilot to pilot. Being that we all move and learn at different paces, I still create varying degrees of pre-coded templates to aid as a parachute.”
—Garrett Gross, computer lit. teacher & technology coordinator, Archdiocese of Chicago 

8. “I love engaging my students in STEAM through engineering challenges. The challenges always connect to my state standards, and they require students to take content and build solutions for problems. My Sphero Pollution Pick Up Challenge is probably one of my favorite engineering challenges. In it I ask students to design a method for cleaning water-based litter with Sphero as the engine moving the system. It is so much fun! Students use so many critical-thinking skills and have a blast.”
—Leah LaCrosse, 8th-grade science teacher, Huron (OH) City School District

9. “I teach high school students, most of whom have not been introduced to any coding. Therefore, I have found that coding with robots to achieve an assigned goal has worked the best for us. Students work diligently on projects, constantly correcting mistakes, to better achieve our set goal. Starting with block coding, students feel that they are solving a cool puzzle more than writing code. I tried many robots, but Sphero has been by far the most engaging and user-friendly coding platform I have found. In 10 minutes, students are connected to robots and writing their first programs. The app is very easy to use and has lots of Sphero and community-made activities. Those activities have short videos to guide students along, allowing students to explore coding at their own pace. And with a few mouse clicks, students can convert their blocks into Javascript code, learning about the language by editing the code and seeing what changes to the robot occur.

“In short, my best advice is to give students a task, show them basics of block coding, and let them reach that task in a way that they see fit. Then I can assist them when they make errors or want changes. What I have discovered is that students have become excellent problem solvers without realizing they are doing it.”
—Nick Palczak, physics, forensics, and robotics teacher, Adirondack (NY) Central School District

10. “The most important thing to remember when bringing STEAM to your classroom is that STEAM education can fit anywhere. You are not excluded from incorporating coding and robotics into your classroom just because your subject matter isn’t traditionally seen as a coding or robotics class. A big part of STEAM education is imagination, and that means the imagination of the educator as well. Robotics can teach math and science, but it can also teach empathy, logical sentence, and research. Start simply and the ideas will develop! In my ELA class, I start each year with Sphero by trying to simulate a scene from a novel and develop a relationship between my students and the novel. Then we move on to basic coding and beyond.”
—Rich Perry, ELA teacher, Bellmore-Merrick (NY) Central High School District 

11. “Whenever you add coding to the classroom, your students are engaged at a far different level. It’s important to allow for creativity, exploration, and social interactions. Coding fosters these important skills, while having fun. Keep in mind when adding coding that you don’t have to be the expert. Let your students drive the learning and watch the magic happen.”
Laure Guyon, assistant coordinator for model schools, Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (NY) BOCES 

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.