Making a Programming Class Engaging and Fun
Programming is intimidating and difficult—that’s what most people would say when asked about their first impression of programming.
While there is truth in that statement, it’s not entirely true. People think programming is a complex course that’s only meant for those who are intelligent enough. What they don’t realize is that no one really gets that good in programming after just a tutorial or two.
Framework, machine learning, artificial intelligence… these are just some of the programming terms that scare an individual away from learning how to code.
Familiar, right? You might know some students who, unfortunately, decided to drop their programming classes because they were afraid and thought they couldn’t handle the class.
You might not be a stranger to the following lines…
“I’m just not smart enough for this course.”
“This is very difficult. I can’t understand anything at all.”
“This is hard! Why is my code failing when it was just working a while ago?!”
True, programming is complex and difficult but it is not something you can learn overnight. It is a skill that takes time to build, requires practice and expects you to always think and be logical.
Teaching programming is quite a challenge, no matter what age group you’re introducing it to — be it kids or college students… or even professionals!
And now in an online learning environment, teaching programming proves to be more challenging than ever. Whereas there may be numerous tools that can be used to teach programming, some teachers still find it hard to gauge if students are able to learn from the online class after a discussion.
In a face-to-face classroom setting, it was easier to gauge the level of understanding your student has after you teach something new but now in an online learning environment, that somehow proves to be difficult to do.
Teaching a complex course like programming, you’d want to make the class engaging and fun in the most possible way but you’d ask..
“How do I do that? How do I engage my class in this complex course?”
It’s not easy to teach programming, especially during this critical time but it’s not impossible to make it engaging and fun for your students.
Here are some tips to make your programming class engaging:
1. STREAM/LIVE CODING
Instead of using Powerpoint slides during discussion and just going over a sample code, do a live coding session with your students.
Encourage them to join you in the activity in their own stations and engage them in discussions. Make the floor open for discussions and encourage students to ask questions such as “How do I implement this better?” or “Is this the proper approach to use to tackle this problem?”. This allows students to share their thoughts and practice at the same time you are teaching them.
Your students get to learn more in a hands-on manner than just plainly reading the slides as you discuss the topic.
2. PAIR PROGRAMMING
Pair programming has always been a fun activity to do for students. This is a practice where two (2) individuals work together on one (1) programming activity — one implements and codes while the other acts as a tester and comments on the implementation.
This way, students learn from one another and clarify any misconceptions that they have when working together. This is a good and fun practice not only meant to teach students technical skills but also build their team player and communication skills.
3. CODE IN YOUR PAPER
Believe it or not, this is a fun activity to do with your students. When coding, students often use code editors or different IDEs to implement their solutions and this gives several advantages to the students as some editors have built-in syntax checkers.
However… coding in a paper or in anything that’s not a code editor? Now, that is a fun challenge!
Not only does it challenges your students to watch their syntax but this challenges their critical thinking skills the most as they are not able to run the code and check whether they were able to implement their intended solution successfully.
This activity requires more focus and more thinking but didn’t you know… it’s the one of the best ways to practice programming?
Give it a try and see how your students do in this kind of activity.
4. INTRODUCE TRIPS AND TRICKS ALONG THE WAY
Nothing engages and puts your students in awe more than when they learn new tips and tricks in class — may it be editor shortcuts or problem solving tips!
As your students learn new topics each day, sometimes, a few tips and tricks can be interesting to learn. It can be anything related to the topic your introducing to them or a simple trick that can be used in a coding editor.
These tips and tricks can be considered as fresh ice breakers in an intense class discussion that sometimes results to knowledge overload.
But once you throw a trick or two, you can definitely be sure that your students would say… “Woah, I didn’t know we can do it that way. That’s awesome!” Not only does it impress your students but hearing their gasps of awe can be quite fun for you, the teacher, too!
5. MAKE PROGRAMMING ACTIVITIES FUN AND INTERESTING
Students find programming activities and quizzes intimidating and scary — apart from being difficult. Reading programming problems, especially those with complex scenarios, can overwhelm your students but you can take those activities up to a notch.
Make programming activities fun and interesting for your students as they tackle and think how to resolve the problem. Other teachers have found different ways to make activities engaging and less intimidating for their students by giving it in different approaches.
Instead of simply giving a problem statement, some teachers give a set of lines of code to their students and asks them to organize them to make the code work. Fun, right? And it looks easy too!
Yes, programming is difficult and intimidating but it’s not something impossible to learn . It doesn’t require for one to be a genius to start learning how to code. As a teacher, you know how intimidating programming can be, how complex it can get and how it scares students who are taking a programming class.
To teach programming is to remember that everyone is a beginner and in their journey to build their strong points.
Students may feel intimidated and scared but you are there to remind them that with practice and investing time in their skills, they can be a programmer.
Programming is intimidating and difficult but you don’t have to be intelligent to start learning how to code.
Think of programming as a fun game where you keep on leveling up! The more you learn and practice, the more your programming skills will grow.
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