maximize hour of code

5 Ways to Maximize Hour of Code

Last month, Hour of Code took place all over the globe. Students from ages 3 to adult received at least one hour of computer science instruction. Hour of Code had a far reach, impacted 180 countries, and reached tens of millions of students. It is truly a global movement because the tutorials that are associated with it are available in forty different languages. This piece will feature five different strategies to teach Hour of Code Lessons in the three different schools. Hopefully these strategies will inspire you to engage in Hour of Code in the future.

Start with a Full School Assembly

At the A. Harry Moore School of NJCU in Jersey City, the teachers and EdTech Doctoral Candidates – Stephanie Talalai, Wendy Thompson, and Trish Holzman who planned the Hour of Code week – began with a kickoff assembly. During this assembly students were asked to get up in front of the school and pronounce and define academic vocabulary words like algorithm and programming that would be used throughout the week. Guest speakers from NJCU and the NJDOE Office of Innovation participated in a live human coding activity. On the school stage, they acted as though they were machines and respond to student commands about which direction they should move in to go from Point A to Point B. This helped to get the whole school excited about the computer science content before they even picked up an iPad or computer.

NJCU Ed Tech Professor Dr. Chris Shamburg and Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Courtney Pepe participate in a “live coding” activity onstage at the Hour of Code kickoff event


Code After School with a STEAM Academy

At the Bradley Elementary School in Asbury Park New Jersey, coding enthusiasts Dr. Lamont Repollet and Principal Edwin Ruiz explored Hour of Code in their new after school STEAM academy. It was the first time in this school district that an after school program like this had been instituted at the elementary level. During Hour of Code week, the young learners in the after school STEAM program completed a series of different coding activities. Minecraft was the most popular activity amongst the students while Frozen was a close second. The young learners used blocks of code to manipulate the Minecraft characters, Steve and Alex, to navigate through different adventures and Minecraft worlds. The Frozen section of the website combined math concepts with computer science, allowing students to practice making straight lines and angles of various degrees with Disney characters Anna and Elsa.

A fourth grader at the Bradley Elementary School casts his vote for Minecraft as the after school STEAM academy Hour of Code pick of the week.

Think-Pair-Share From Afar with Facetime

High school students of Ms. Erika Buitrago and SMILES (science and math in everyday life) teacher Ms. Trish Holzman decided to share their Hour of Code adventures with their elementary school coding buddies in Denise Cameron’s class in a different part of the state. The elementary students in Toms River completed their lesson in Minecraft while the A. Harry Moore students completed their coding lesson in by building galaxies from the movie Star Wars. Each group then shared their coding activities via Facetime which not only provided valuable social interaction but also extended and expanded the 21st Century lesson beyond the brick and mortar of the school building. The partnership between the classrooms was possible because of the efforts of the NJDOE Department of Innovation which pairs up school districts with different demographics to engage in amazing 21st Century collaborations.

AHM Teaching Assistant Bianca Gonzales assists students in recording a message on their bb8 robot.

Use a Star Wars Themed Coding Lesson and the Sphero bb8 Droid

Middle school students in Wendy Thompson’s class have a lot of experience programming the BB-8 robot from Sphero. The BB-8 robot has an adaptive personality that changes as you play with it. You can what this looks like in the video below.



During Hour of Code week, coding enthusiasts Wendy Thompson, Matt Zuech, and their classes showed off their academic skills in a series of Google Hangouts. Thompson’s middle school students calibrated the BB-8 robot and showed off their skills with navigation and directionality. They also recorded a message on the BB-8 that said “hello Toms River” to Zuech’s class on the other side of the Google Hangout who were crowded around the screen in their lab. The students were excited to see that BB-8 was connected to their own Hour of Code Stars Wars lesson for that day which involved using drop and drag coding with Blockly and Javascript. Since a two-dimensional version of the BB-8 droid existed in their lesson, the students were excited to see that their peers had a real, 3D, live programmable droid in their classroom.

Use Station Teaching with Preschool Students to Build Coding Skills

The technology teacher at A. Harry Moore, Ms. Talalai completed a lesson where the pre-school students were given the choice to engage in a series of coding/technology activities with the support of various staff members. At Station One, the preschool students used magic markers to code with Ozobots. At Station Two, the students played with Tiggly shapes and letters. At Station Three, the students coded with Beebot robots to learn sequencing, estimation, and problem solving. At Station Four, the students programmed with Scratch and Makey-Makey.


Even though Hour of Code week is over, perhaps this piece will inspire you to try some of these instructional strategies in your own class in the 2016 school year.

Want to learn about ways to bring coding into your classroom? Join us in San Diego as we introduce coding education through a full day hands on workshop with Douglas Kiang and Kate Wilson. No experience necessary with coding or computer science.


Featured image via Flickr

Written by Courtney Pepe

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction North Jersey, ADE, Doctoral Candidate, blogger, coder, surfer, life-long learner

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