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Monday, May 19, 2014

Engaging 6th Graders With Coding

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences. This is a post from Alison Franz. 

As my first year as an educational technology teacher draws to a close, I’ve found myself further reflecting on the experience. As a result, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to share my reflections with you as a guest blogger.

Although I’ve learned so much from my experiences this year, the most important lessons came from sharing the Hour of Code with my students. I teach a 6th grade computers course, so when my supervisor shared the information on Hour of Code, I figured that I would do something to share coding with my students. What I didn’t realize at the time was how engaging or transformative it would be for my students and our classroom!

My initial plan was to share the importance of coding with the students and then have them work through the introductory tutorial on Code.org. What happened was so much more! The students were instantly engaged and hooked on trying to earn their trophies. I saw students who were previously quiet and hesitant to share, come alive. As students progressed through the tutorial, I saw that my students were learning so much more than coding. They were collaborating and supporting one another in their attempts to move through the levels. Students were open to trying new approaches and weren’t afraid of failure. They became creative in their responses to the different challenges. They were wholly absorbed in what they were doing and eager to learn more.

Seeing what coding had done for my students, I knew I had to find a way to include more opportunities for my students. As a result, I introduced the students to Scratch and allowed them to create their own independent projects with code. They ran with the opportunity, working both in and out of the classroom, and created a variety of amazing projects, including short games and animations. Again, I marveled at their collaboration with each other, the level of their creativity, and the risk taking they were willing to do. Being able to foster these essential life skills while watching my students’ faces beam with pride over their own creations was truly remarkable.

As I reflect, I am also looking forward to next year and thinking about new ways to extend this experience for my students. I’d love to take the collaboration beyond my classroom and have my students work and create with students in other parts of the country or world. If anyone is interested in collaborating or would like more information about what I did with my students, I’d be happy to share.

I am an enthusiastic educator who has been teaching middle school for the past 15 years at my former middle school in Morris County, NJ. For the first 14 years of my career, I taught English and Reading/Writing in grades 6-8. This past year, I made the move to teaching technology courses in the same middle school. I am a lifelong learner and am looking forward to attending ISTE for the first time this year so that I can meet and collaborate with fantastic educators from around the world! I can be reached on twitter (@alisonmfranz).