ITCH Tips for the Hour of Code

It’s Computer Science Education Week (CS EdWeek) and it’s time to get started on the hour of code with your class.

Maybe you are ready to go with your activities for the hour of code, but I thought I’d offer  some last minute advice. Stay with me as I share some of the strategies that have helped inspire the multitude of classrooms I’ve visited to host coding sessions.

img_2736First – Involve as many people as possible. Get parents to come in and join the activities if you can; my photo from a recent Night of Code event with Cloverdale School District captures the excitement and fun that happens when more people participate. Even if you can’t arrange for parents or community members to join your event, make sure you have as many teachers on board as possible. Trust me, on introductory activities, you can usually work out how to help students when they get stuck within just a minute or two.  I find that most kids simply don’t read the directions, so most teachers, para-educators or classroom volunteers can solve problems quickly and help ensure that everyone has a positive experience.

Settling in – You’ll find that getting the class settled in is super important! Grounding the students to be on task can help set the tone for the entire hour. I usually like to do a quick talk with students about Computer Science and find some fun facts or a video that can kick off the event. CS EdWeek has plenty of great resources for this. Even better, have a guest talk about what they’ve done with computer science, and you’ll see more student engagement. Have the guest talk about all the other types of opportunities out there, from Apple, Google, VR, self driving cars or perhaps NASA or Hollywood.

Work time – let the kids do it on their own. Make sure you don’t ever take a keyboard or mouse from them to get them unstuck. Students will take more chances if you have them work through problems on their own with some guidance or socratic questioning. I typically ask leading questions as I walk around a class to see what kids might be doing or thinking. Another great strategy you could use to help ensure success is paired coding, so kids with more computer skills can take on leadership roles.

Share out – This isn’t going to work with all activities, but for project based activities such as ITCH, the students will all create their own projects and they love to share and see what their classmates create. End a session with students sharing at the front of the class and you’ll have them coming back to work on their activities more and more.

Last – Not all activities are project based, so be sure to include an award presentation for all the students to celebrate with the hour of code certificates.

If you are interested in trying ITCH for your hour of code, you can see all our activities at the code.org directory; you can also go directly to the ITCH activities here.

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