Coding is often viewed with trepidation—even by teachers! However, it’s also a skill with many benefits for learners as it encourages creativity, exploration, and problem solving.

Introducing coding in the classroom can be as simple as setting aside a computer station for use during free time, with coding programs and websites ready to go. And with class time in the computer lab—or if you have access to electronic devices like a classroom set of iPads—you can create entire lessons that integrate coding into the curriculum.

The following are some free tools you can use to support teaching students how to code:

1. Scratch

Developed by MIT, this popular web-based coding program offers tutorials, lesson plans, and other resources for teachers, as well as engaging activities for learners.

Scratch is a visual programming language designed primarily for students aged 8 to 16. Users can create online projects like interactive stories, games, and animations using a simple block-like interface. The site also includes an online community where users can share their creations with each other for discussion and collaboration.

2. ScratchJr

ScratchJr is a simpler version of Scratch, aimed at children from kindergarten to second grade who are just beginning to learn about programming. The free app (available on iOS and Android) uses a drag-and-drop coding language that’s easy for younger elementary students to grasp without having to understand more advanced programming terms.

With ScratchJr, students snap colored blocks together on the screen to create their own programs for tasks like telling an interactive story.

3. Blockly Games

Developed by Google, Blockly Games is a series of educational games that introduce programming concepts to beginners. It serves as a companion to the main Blockly site for developers.

Similar to Scratch, Blockly Games is web-based and represents coding concepts as interlocking blocks—but it also introduces proper terminology. Once students have mastered these concepts, they’re ready to move on to conventional text-based languages.

Users also have the option to share their art, movie, and music creations publicly.

4. Code.org

For older students who are ready to tackle word-based programming, Code.org offers tutorials for creating apps, building web pages, and designing games using JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.

Students can learn independently and at their own pace with these self-guided units, making Code.org a great web-based resource for free time in science and math classes, or integrated into computer science courses.

Code.org is already in wide use across America, with over 900,000 teachers and 30 percent of U.S. students having accounts on the site.

5. Codecademy

Codecademy, for ages 12 and above, is a web-based program offering online courses in specific coding languages. The structured curriculum provides easy-to-follow instructions and immediate feedback for learners.

Students can build basic websites and interactive web apps, starting with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The more advanced Codecademy courses teach programming languages like Python and SQL, and help students learn how to navigate command-line interfaces.

According to the website, most of the courses take fewer than 11 hours to complete, and there are accompanying quizzes that students can use to test their knowledge. For learners who need a little extra help, there is also a global community of Codecademy coaches and advisors ready to answer questions.

 

Even if your school doesn’t offer computer science courses, these tools are a great way to introduce core programming concepts to younger and older students in any classroom—and in doing so, encourage students to learn important strategies for solving problems, thinking creatively, designing projects, and communicating ideas effectively in the 21st century.