Are you looking for ways to introduce coding concepts to lower elementary students? We tested out various methods and arrived at a winner!
We started with an introductory block-based coding language called ScratchJr. It is a free app available on the App Store or Google Play. In order to create code, kids snap together coding blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, sing and come to life. Each coding block is meant to represent a line or lines of code and the blocks are color-coded by function to help the children understand programming basics.
We started by recreating the ScratchJr. coding blocks using large foam sheets (ours were 15" x 19"). We purchased a bulk package for a great price at Amazing Savings but they are readily available at craft stores or on Amazon. We followed the ScratchJr. color coding and cut out our foam blocks. Then, we used markers and construction paper to add the block symbols on our shapes. Here is our start block:
The default character (or sprite) and mascot for ScratchJr. is an adorable cat. We started our sessions by explaining to the kids that they were each going to take a turn being the ScratchJr. cat. We added some cat themed photo booth props to help the kids get into character. Then we introduced three of our foam squares - start, move forward 1, end.
One by one the kids walked over the blocks and followed the coding instructions. When everyone was finished, the kids used the ScratchJr. app on their devices to recreate the same code. Then, we moved on to round two. We introduced a new block and made the code more complicated. The kids especially love the sound block "pop!"
We were amazed at how quickly the kids picked up the concept and easily translated that knowledge into creating the code. In no time at all, the kids were ready to move onto more intricate coding.
The ScratchJr. website is filled with free resources that we used during follow-up programming. Once the kids had some time to reinforce their coding skills, we leveraged the ScratchJr. coding cards to challenge them to make some fun, new projects.