A lot of kids (12-13yo) start to attend my lessons because they think they want to do programming but then they come and start minecraft instead of focusing just a little bit. It’s hard to tear them away from it because I am not the type of person that would force them to do something.
Getting their focus
It’s hard to make kids focus to anything. They want to do fun stuff, and coding basics in Python may not seem just as fun as Minecraft to the average kid. I know it myself, when I think something is boring, I don’t focus at all - We are forced to attend classes like Czech language so I know my things.
I think coding may seem like some complicated raw logic at the first glance, but when you start solving some problems yourself, the joy comes.
What exactly to do with them?
Text based programming can be boring for younger kids. Unfortunately they are used to imeddiate visual response to things. When writing code, they struggle to process it, because their minds aren’t acustomed yet to the programming mindset of instructions.
They always tell me they want to make games. But I think they have to learn some basic programming concepts first. They don’t really want to do that.
But if I started making games right off they would just have to blindly copy the things that I write without even thinking. That’s not really beneficial for them.
Scratch is fun. They like it, because they can easily make a game without writing code. It’s best for the youngest kids, who would be scared from normal code. They’ll maybe learn the basic programming concepts, like step-by-step instructions, loops, variables etc.
The drawback is that it isn’t real programming at all. Doing scratch again and again can be a little bit contra productive, because scratch uses some weird programming concepts that you don’t see anywhere else, like events.
So fun but too easy.
Python basics and playing with python
So I make them install python or we go to repl.it and I show them the most basic stuff and we always play with the thing I showed them.
When they start to get it, I move to more complex things like for loops etc.
I am tring to teach them that you don’t generally need an IDE to code. You’re enough with a notepad, a command line, and a python environment installed.
- I feel they enjoy when I am explaining it myself
- They like when it is simple
- They are scarred of errors and exceptions ->
- They can’t google ->
- Most of them aren’t able solve primitive problems themselves
Sites with tasks and python repl
We use a czech site umimeprogramovat.cz. They have lots of types of tasks, graphical things and real coding things. We mainly do some tasks in the python programming category.
I like the site very much. I actually learned coding basics on it 3 years ago. At start, they’ll give you very easy tasks. Python is easy so you’ll eventually figure it yourself. I think this is a very good approach, just making you do tasks which you will figure yourself.
- very good tasks
- can confirm it worked for me
- the dumber kids don’t focus, because they find text only problems boring
- they should make it more clear that you are writing a general function/procedure that solves it for any parameters you ask it to. I didn’t understand that when I was doing it to learn python. It was a little weird that they splitted the code into two parts - function and testing. When in reality if you’d like to run the code yourself you would have to type both things into one file.
When it started to click for me
Three years ago, our school’s IT teacher was teaching the programming club. He always showed the site, opened up a problem and called some kid to solve it. He was always like “Lukáš, go solve this, this is too easy for you haha” but in reality, I didn’t understand python at all. So I always typed in some random things. I was always remembering how to do the for range, it was always corrupted in my memory :D
But one day, I tried to solve some problems myself, it went good, and I really started to understand it.
Making games with them
So when my kids could handle scratch and python basics, I decided we will finally make a game!
My first choice was to try the python module
I would not recommend using that with kids for anyone. You are doing
everything in code, like loading images, moving them etc. Can be boring.
This year I showed them the Godot engine and they really liked it (so do I). The best thing is that it has a nice GUI editor to edit scenes. So kids can setup their sprites and bodies without even writing code.
Then the coding is easy too. You write in a language called GDScript, which
is something like python, but with
var defined variables and
func defined functions.
We are now quarantined so the lessons are happening on Google Meet. We’ve already made a few 2D pixel art games. It seems that they enjoy it :)
Things I push into them
- You don’t have to memorize anything. You just google. Learn how to google. Learn english.
- Think about the code you copy from me. Analyze it. Try to do something yourself at home. Make something small.
- It’s good to learn to type a little bit faster. Also, please use the English keyboard layout.
- Do your own thing! Code something small at home. That’s the best
- Unfortunately they are lazy gamers at home. idk
I want your input
Do you teach kids? Please share how you handle it or what you do in the comments. I want to hear other people’s experiences.