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Coding with a group of 11 year olds

・Updated on ・4 min read

Recently a we were asked if we could give a short lesson about coding to a group of 11 year olds in primary school. So my colleague and me started preparing a 1,5 hour workshop with the goal of showing the kids how much fun programming could be. This is the story of how it went.

Get to know what they love

Our goal was to stay as close to their own interests as possible. So with a little bit of research we discovered that these kids really loved to use mobile phones and consoles outside of school. Generally most of them knew and used apps like TikTok, SnapChat and WhatsApp, they regularly visited YouTube for watching videos and some of the kids played Minecraft or Fortnite at home.

Make it interactive

To keep them engaged we used Kahoot. We wanted to switch between our (giphy-filled) slides and the Kahoot to ask them a few questions now and then about what we were talking about. When we actually had the lesson we decided to first just do all of the questions with Kahoot, talk a little about the answers and then dive deeper into them after the quiz. The kids really liked the quiz and already knew how it worked.

Tip: make them understand that it is okay if they didn't get the answer. We also need to google most of what we do when we code.

Explain programming

As we only had 1,5 hours, we talked about a few basic things:

  • We dived into how a lot of things in our daily lives have a 'computer' inside of them. Washing machines, phones, laptops, tablets, consoles, even cars and satellites. And how cool it is that this means you can also program stuff for those devices.
  • We discussed how a computer knows what to do. For this we used the 'tell this person what to do' exercise.
  • We explained how developers write computer programs, and that there are different types of developers. We also talked about diversity in tech when it comes to people and their backgrounds, but also about the different types of developers.

The person is a computer exercise

Inspired by @FloorDrees who did this exercise during a RailsGirls event. We let the kids steer me into writing a word on a whiteboard. The kids were pretty good at understanding that they had to be pretty specific in telling me what to do. 'Step forward', 'put your right hand forward' 'clench your hand around the object that is now referred to as a marker' etc. Some were even quick enough to understand that I had to remove the cap before writing.

Different types of developers

This is where our deep dive of their hobbies and interaction with the internet came in handy. We got to show them that there are different types of developers.

  • Some like to write software that helps get a rocket from the earth to mars.
  • Some want to make apps for phones and tablets, like TikTok, WhatsApp and SnapChat.
  • Some want to build websites, like the website of their favourite hiphop artists or YouTube.
  • Some want to make games, like Minecraft and Fortnite.

We let them 'hack' a website

After the quiz and our explaining of what you can do with programming. We let them do a short 'hacking' exercise. On their laptops they got to go to their favourite website. Which, for most was YouTube or a popular news website as that is where we showed an example. Then by using inspect in the browser, we let them change the text of a video title or news article. This mostly resulted in videos of famous soccer players having titles with the kids names in them. They got to take screenshots which they got to share with their families later.

Wrapping it up

For the last few minutes one of us sat in front of the class to change colours and fonts on websites. After this we talked about how their changes will be lost once they refresh the page. And that it is a good thing that not anyone can just change news titles because then people could change other peoples work, or change the news however they would want. I think we were both very impressed on how aware the kids were of the danger of spreading lies and 'fake news'.

The kids also got to ask us a few more questions about what it is like to be a developer and how you can become one. Before we knew it, the lesson was over and the kids continued with their normal school day.

We had a huge amount of fun, but were exhausted πŸ˜‚πŸ₯³. It was an amazing experience and if you ever get asked to do something similar, I would really consider going for it. It was very rewarding and simply loads of fun. Have you ever done something similar? Please let me know in the comments!

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