How do you make coding fun for middle schoolers?
There is a common complaint that schools don’t focus on computer science enough. If this is true, we might as well teach it on the side of the science curriculum, right?
Middle schoolers have way more technology at their fingertips than they did five years ago. What if we gave them a good introduction to coding? What if we taught them programming by doing a series of hands-on games and exercises?
In this article, we’re going to talk about making programming fun and easily accessible for middle schoolers.
Use Humor, Great Graphics, and Music
How can you introduce coding to a wide range of children? We have to engage them from a young age, and incorporate a combination of entertainment and education. This is why edutainment and the gamification of coding concepts have really taken off in recent years.
By creating fun games that are interactive, but incorporate coding exercises, we have a great chance of engaging kids early on. As an example, CodeMonkey is a great coding program for middle school, because it uses a combination of humor, multimedia, and game mechanics.
Try to capture the attention of your middle schoolers, and then gradually expose them to more complicated concepts and concepts. There is a reason why programs such as Scratch, CodeCombat, and Tynker are so popular.
Have goals align with their interests
Middle schoolers are not children – they’re in that prepubescent stage of shunning “kiddy” activities, and looking for the same sort of fun that their older siblings have.
This can be a tricky idea to explain to parents, but I’ll do my best!
Middle schoolers will respond better to goal-oriented exercises, rather than a younger child who is being taught coding concepts without really realizing it. This means that coding exercises should be aimed at accomplishing something the child actually wants to accomplish – whether that be modifying game files, building a Minecraft world, or rendering beautiful 3D animations.
When young children take an interest in coding, the sorts of projects they’re most interested in are:
• Creating games and game design, like making levels in Minecraft.
• Creating graphic interfaces with animation effects.
• Developing websites for their classmates and friends.
• Editing short scripts for toy robots.
All of those are fine! The challenge is in helping students understand how to do these projects well. In order to provide middle school students with an engaging project, you have to first get to the point where they know they can understand the big picture, and then you’ll have to help them take an informed approach to the coding itself.
Set them up with a nice “coding command center”
As your child advances in coding abilities, they’ll likely take a stronger interest in “coder culture” – and they’ll likely want their bedroom to represent it. While you might think this means putting up Star Wars posters and sci-fi figurines to litter their room, it doesn’t always. Coding is not simply a fad, but more of a way of life! In fact, many coders prefer a minimalist, functional space to work in.
Of course your child will be drawn to the “gamer” aesthetics, with RGB lighting on nearly everything, but these values should be secondary to the purpose of the space.
The truth is, few young coders can function effectively without an integrated, soothing space for working. A space to work with good light, minimal noise, and with all distractions pushed to the side. The number one factor in both creative and technical success is mental comfort.
For sure, check out some of these awesome professional “programmer room” designs, then let your kid fill in the spaces with touches of their personality.
By giving your child to the tools to learn coding from an early age, they’ll make a lot less mistakes in their adulthood. And even if they don’t turn their coding abilities into a full-time career, they’ll have a valuable hobby to learn and appreciate for a lifetime.