10 Easy Ways To Play With Code And Teach Computing
Playing with code is an important step when teaching computing.
There are many coding platforms that have a gaming element to them such as…
Yet, although many teachers may use these websites, it isn’t always the best way to learn to program.
Computing students often see these games as gimmicky. They do enjoy them, but often students fail to transfer the skills into their own programming. The websites look so different to the IDE used in their computer science lessons that students often fail to see the connection.
So how can you play with code without using those coding games?
There is another overlooked element that is low-tech and doesn’t need a subscription.
Students can play with their code using whichever IDE they currently use to create their programs.
Rather than only teaching them a new skill and then asking students to create their own programs, it's a good idea to get students to play with code first.
I remember my mother telling me off when I was little. “Nichola, don’t play with your food!”
That may be a good rule for food but it can't be said for learning how to program.
Playing with programming is one of the fundamental ways you can help your pupils really understand the code.
Okay, it doesn’t include all the flashy animations, sound effects and computer game snazziness but it does offer a more realistic way of programming. It shows your students a clear connection to the environment and language they are learning to program with.
Not only do your students develop a deeper understanding of how the code works but they also enjoy the variety it brings to their computing lessons.
How can this be used in your classroom?
Here is a quick rundown of 10 easy ways to play with code when you teach computing:
Fill in the blank line in a program using given options. This can be done on-screen or with a cut-out-and-stick paper version.
Find the syntax error in a program you’ve created and correct it. Again, this can be done on paper or on-screen.
Make predictions on what a program will do and test it out to see if they’re right.
Experiment and change parts of their program to see how that will affect the overall outcome. This works well with turtle drawing activities.
Change the order of a program to make it work. Again, this can done on screen or with a cut-out-and-stick paper version.
Create their own programs by adapting and improving on other previously created programs.
Sabotage a ready-made program and then ask another student to fix it.
Add or correct comments to annotate a program.
Look at a list of different lines of code (that don’t have to make one particular program) and decide if they contain an error or not.
Give the whole class a problem and they have to tell you what to type in to create the program as your screen is projected for them to see. If there are any mistakes, don’t correct them and wait for your class to tell you how to correct it. This works well if you get a bit silly and only type EXACTLY what they tell you. Don’t hit return at the end of the line unless they tell you to. Deliberately “misunderstand” them and use a capital letter incorrectly or type a colon instead of a semi-colon etc.
Most of these activities are easy to use and take little or even no preparation to set up. They can really help your students embed new skills into their long term memory
If you are pressed for time and want a ready-made activity, check out my new digital and print Python Input and Output Coding Activity that you can find on TpT.
I hope you've enjoyed this post and it's given you a few ideas to help your computer science students play with code.
Let me know in the comments which activities you enjoy using in your classroom.