Coding Apps (and sites)
Coding is fantastic for problem solving and developing logical thought processes. With the apps below, kids aren't writing code, but they are using the basics of code writing to "give directions" in the gaming apps. At first you may think that your students are just playing, and they are. But through this play they are developing skills that will be necessary for creative problem solving involving logical step-by-step processes. Is this not what you do each time you write a lesson plan? What about a farmer dealing with a pest problem, or a doctor deciding on a course of treatment for a patient? It is all creative, yet logical, problem solving. What about the last time it took your mechanic a good dose of trial and error to diagnose precisely what was making that strange noise in your car? Logical problem solving is a life skill, and why not learn it through a game, a game where students have to persevere through repeated failure in order to achieve success?
The Tynker website has an entire on-line program for students to learn how to code. The kiddos can work through self-paced lessons to learn the basics of coding. I have heard kindergarten teachers speak about students of theirs who can code before they can read. Even young students can learn elemental coding skills.
The studio at Code.org is a fantastic site where kids of all ages can learn the basics of coding, in a fun game-based environment. The main site has more resources for educators than you can possibly use in a year. You can even search for FREE professional development opportunities.
Scratch will be the ultimate destination for your students. This site allows the creation of games, simulations, animations, and more. The products can be very simple or extremely complicated depending on the sophistication of the programmer. There is also ScratchEd, where you can find ready-made lessons, and other resources.
Scratch Jr. is a simplified app version of the Scratch programming site. It is very basic, but a great place to learn the basics of block coding before graduating to the main site. Students code scenes with characters in order to create short cartoons.
Daisy the Dinosaur seems to be the easiest of the apps so is the best for beginning coding, for the first introduction, or working with younger students. With the commands you direct Daisy's actions. The levels increase in difficulty, with more actions added, but at a moderate pace. (free)
Kodable is similar to Daisy with the same premise. You navigate the fuzzy creatures through increasingly difficult courses. As you unlock levels you are required to use more types of commands. This app only allows so much for free and then you'll have to decide whether to upgrade. (free) (pro $0.99) Kodable also has class accounts where teachers can monitor the progress of their students.
Hopscotch (free) Hopscotch is the next step up from Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable. You are controlling the movements of the characters, but there are many more movements and they are scalable by degrees, speed, etc. This means the kids will need some basic math skills, or they'll need to figure them out on the go. But sometimes, this can be a fantastic introduction and motivation for the learning of these skills.
Cargobot (free) This is the app that really gets going with multiple tasks. You are in charge of a crane that has to move and stack crated in certain configurations. By the third level you are already required to have codes within codes in order to successfully stack your boxes. There is also an element of logic in planning in between moves of crates. Since it gets demanding quickly it is better after working with Daisy or Kodable, or for use by older kids.
There are a host of other apps to teach coding, including Beebot, Tynker's app, but the ones above are the ones most popular with the K-5 students with whom I work.