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National Coding Week: how to teach programming when your confidence is low

Published: Sep 18, 2017 3 min read

Dave Gibbs

STEM Computing and Technology Specialist

National STEM Centre


It’s National Coding Week this week! Over the next five days, we’ll be sharing the most useful tips from leading teachers of computing shared via the indispensable #CASchat.

Each week, teachers across the UK and beyond give up their time to share ideas and resources – if you’ve not tuned in yet you’re missing out. You don’t even need to join Twitter to read the exchanges – just click this link at 8:00pm each Tuesday.

How can you teach programming if you have low confidence?

CAS Master Teacher Beverly Clarke‏ advises to:

“Learn with the class, let students show what they know – it’s likely some of them will know something worth sharing.”

Lecturer Stuart Davison‏ adds another lesson from experience:

“Start small with classes. Keep in your comfort zone with easier problems. Make sure you know that little bit really well.”

Primary computing lead Jo Badge‏ says that seeing other teachers teach computing is really useful, and suggests you find your nearest CAS hub.

To gain an understanding of the concepts underpinning programming, Matt suggests Barefoot Computing and FE lecturer Anshi‏ states that

“Coding is all about logic and concepts. If that is clear you can actually teach even if you are new to any language.”

To introduce programming to your classroom, there are many ready-made, adaptable projects to be found. Bradley Dardis‏ recommends the @scratch community, suggesting teachers “look at examples of projects and then try and remix them”. Secondary Master Teacher Matt endorses the BBC micro:bit coding site where building on the work of others is encouraged.

Trainee teacher and experienced programmer Claire Wicher‏ adds “Take advantage of free resources to gain confidence like @CompAtSch CPD courses, @Codecademy courses & local @CodeUpUK branches”. You’ll find lots of curated, free primary and secondary teaching resources right here too.

To keep building your capability, THS Computing advises teachers to:

“Beef up your programming knowledge (and theirs) with a wide range of programs and problems.”

When your learners encounter a problem, as they no doubt will, they should be encouraged to develop resilience.

Neil Rickus‏, a Lecturer in computing education, suggests children “use C3B4ME so they can assist each other” and recommends guides for correcting common mistakes in Scratch or another programming tool. Master Teacher Simon Johnson‏ reminds his students to use SNOT: Self-Neighbour-Other(including online sources)-Teacher.

It’s likely that teachers, too, will hit a wall – this is something to be embraced as an example of lifelong learning. Lecturer Sue Sentance advocates

“keeping a little book of the errors you make yourself and what the solutions are – it helps with troubleshooting.”

Dr Scott Turner‏ lets students see the mistake and then correcting it calmly.

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