Teachwire Logo

5 Ways to Teach Coding in Secondary School

Elevate the learning experience for students at KS3+ through the use of engaging hardware, with Ricky Ye’s practical tips…

  • 5 Ways to Teach Coding in Secondary School

1 | Introduce hardware

At the early stages, non-coding approaches to computing break down complex processes into easy-to-digest concepts.

However, in secondary school, it is important for students’ knowledge to be as practical as it is theoretical, and coding hardware plays a vital role in meeting this objective.

Simply put, hardware is the physical components of computing and robotics, while software is the code – the instructions responsible for bringing the hardware to life.

Establishing this difference is a great motivator for students’ continued learning, as introducing coding hardware to the classroom increases the opportunities for experimentation and creativity and allows pupils to build upon existing knowledge.

2 | Build robots

Building robots with students is a fun way to develop a wide range of skills that also adequately prepares them for jobs in the 21st century.

Start by building the robots using resources like DFRobot, SAM Labs, or littleBits, and then ask students to bring their creations to life with code.

Activities like these provide students with an opportunity to apply their coding knowledge practically while working with sensors and motors helps enhance their coordination and motor skills.

Robots are also a great tool to facilitate blended learning and cross-curricular exercises in the classroom, addressing topics like climate change, engineering, and physics.

3 | Innovation hour

‘An hour of code’ is a popular global movement for students embarking on their coding education. However, as students’ knowledge increases, so must the complexity of the concept with which they engage.

For secondary students whose attainment needs to be pushed to greater lengths, consider swapping an hour of code for an innovation hour.

The thinking behind this is simple and is based on learning through play or experimentation. To begin, provide students with scale-able and widely compatible hardware resources such as science kits using micro:bit, educational robots, and ‘maker’ kits.

Setting the clock with a one-hour limit, ask students to embrace their creativity and innovation and create a coding resource that solves a particular problem.

The limitless potential is a huge benefit of this approach as the task can address any number of challenges such as building a communication tool or regulating the pH level of soil while developing creativity and problem-solving skills.

4 | The power of coding clubs

Take the learning experience beyond the classroom and provide students with ample opportunities to stretch their knowledge base. Coding clubs are a great way to really grow students’ practical coding hardware skills as it breaks free from the constraints of curriculum.

What’s more, coding clubs are free from the pressure of knowledge attainment for exams, so students can pursue learning opportunities that interest and challenge them, naturally leading to more engagement with the subject matter.

5 | Coding competitions

There are few things as effective for engagement as a little friendly competition. What’s more, coding competitions are a great way for pupils to put their skills to the test, get their hands dirty, and apply their knowledge to practical applications.

As they encourage working in small groups to complete tasks, competitions are also a great exercise in team work and collaborative problem-solving – soft skills that are equally as important as technical coding knowledge.

There are many competitions available for pupils in the UK, but a valuable starting point is the Tech Education Network and the UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge.

Ricky Ye is the CEO of DFRobot, a world-leading robotics and open source hardware provider empowering the community of future creators.

Sign up here for your free Brilliant Teacher Box Set

Help your students succeed in secondary English / Get your free download Top tips for teaching secondary English / Download your free CPD

Find out more here >