6 more tools for building student coding skills

Students don't have to wait until schools reopen to start coding. Here are options for districts to consider anytime
By: | May 29, 2020
(Photograph by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)(Photograph by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking for tools to use with eighth-graders in my “STEAM: What’s Next in Emerging Technology” course. Throughout the year, we cover many different topics, and the best part is that we have fun learning together as we try new technologies or methods. Since I participated in the Hour of Code a few years ago, I’ve been adding resources on coding to my class, and I’ve push myself to learn more as well.

As I discussed in my previous column, coding offers many benefits. It helps with the development of social-emotional learning skills, promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and engages students in a different type of learning.

As the need increases for coding skills in jobs now and in the future, it is important that districts give students the chance to start learning those skills early. It is easier today to teach students coding because of the number of resources available for use in school and during remote learning. (We must, of course, focus first on access—making sure students and families have access to the right tools wherever they are studying.)


Read: Updated: 308 free K-12 resources during coronavirus pandemic


Weighing the options

District administrators and educators can select coding tools based on content areas or explore the resources available. Many are being offered for free as a result of school closures. For my class, sometimes I offer students a few choices; they decide which one interests them and then share what they learn.

Coding tools are fun for students to explore now—and when we transition to our classroom spaces.

Here are six more options to try.

  1. Code with Google began as a way to encourage more girls to get started coding. Students can explore projects or create their own and even solve challenges.
  2. ScratchJr. is a free coding app for children (ages 5-7). Students can create projects or design their own games, and build their coding and problem-solving skills.
  3. Sprite Box Coding is for students in grades 1 through 6. Using a block-based coding platform, students work through challenges to build their skills.
  4. Swift Playgrounds is an app that does not require any prior coding knowledge to use. Students in grades 4 through 12 can learn about Swift by using code to solve puzzles. 
  5. Tynker is a coding platform that provides activities for different age groups through Tynker Jr (picture and block coding), Tynker (block and Swift coding) and Mod Creator (for Minecraft add-ons). Tynker offers self-paced online courses and a curriculum package for schools. Tynker has been offering free accounts for educators during the pandemic.
  6. Unruly Splats promotes more active learning by mixing coding with movement. Students in grades 1 through 7 use the coding app to write rules that tell the “splats” to light up or make sounds when stepped on. 

Head to Code.org to find more ideas or follow the #coding hashtag on Twitter. Coding tools are fun for students to explore now—and when we transition to our classroom spaces.  


Rachelle Dene Poth (@Rdene915) is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC®.


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