How to diversify programming lessons for children of different ages

    In this article, Alexander Dmitrenko, a Software Engineer, talks about his experience in teaching programming to children and explains what works best for each age group.


    Briefly about your experience

    In university years, when I had to figure out how to do laboratory programming work, I sometimes began to describe the problem to my 10-year-old nephew — in fact I used the Rubber Duck method . I must say that he is still a worker. In addition, she noticed that it was interesting for her nephew to reflect on the solution when he understood the problem. He went to the computer and began to examine the code, asked how it worked. So he decided to start programming, and I helped him.

    A few years later, when I was already working at IT as an automated tester, I was offered the mentor of novice Java developers. So I stimulated myself to learn. Since then, I have been engaged in adult mentoring. Also from time to time I do webinars for beginners IT-Schnick.

    More than two years ago, I joined the eKid program - teaching school children programming in Scratch, HTML / CSS, Python, and others. I became involved in this project by chance. It seemed to be too much responsibility. In the middle of the curriculum, they were looking for a person to replace the coach, and could not find one. The girl from my project said that "she was there, and it's not scary." So I have been participating in the program for 2+ years and I teach different groups (beginners and experienced, junior and senior). I want to adapt to each group of children and make them an interesting activity. Therefore, I often study age psychology and experiment with the program and the filling of lessons.

    I want to share my experience and tell which programming approach is better suited for each age of children.

    The basics

    All children are different. Features and pace of development of the child depends on a number of factors:

    • genetic features: how quickly neural chains are formed and how long they remain active;
    • the time that parents devote to the child, playing and communicating with him;
    • nutrition , past illnesses and stresses.

    The human brain is formed most intensively during the first 5 years of life . The left, logical hemisphere, is actively developing in 7-9 years . From 7-8 years old, children are ready to learn programming and every year show all the best results in this field. By this age, the child is already able to concentrate attention long enough to master serious material, it is easier to interest him in almost any occupation, he is happy to share his own experience and express his opinion. In addition, children love to play active games, developing their abilities and demonstrating to others their skills in sports; and imagine who they will be in the future.

    Children aged 7-9 years

    They are interested in the game, to participate in them. These children perceive the events happening around as a fairy tale and present themselves as its heroes. Anything, even an ordinary sock, worn on the hand, comes to life and becomes part of the show. And if this thing itself can really move and speak, then this is part of a magical action. Of course, they like to play with robots, because a good option would be to come up with a story that develops around this mechanism that can be programmed.

    Good ideas

    Create a play based on any well-known children's film or literary work. For example, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The scene is Hogwarts, the children's teams compete, whose spells (written in the programming language) are better. When children have learned to achieve some kind of result on their own, they can all work together on a common project, for example, to program a spherical robot to be a Quidditch ball. The following lesson can be done in the format of another series about the adventures of a wizard.

    Listen to the children: if they talk about pokemon all the time, obviously they are interested in this topic. View a few cartoons, and based on them come up with something new yourself.

    One of the groups of children I worked with was fond of pirates. I came up with a character - a sorceress who gave the children a robot and taught them how to program. The evil pirate, seeing this, stole the robot while the children were distracted. The guys went to the rescue, but they themselves fell into the trap. In order to get out of the dungeon, they had to complete programming tasks. When the pirate fell asleep, the children fled, taking the robot and the sweet treasures from the pirate hiding places.

    What can go wrong

    We decided to make a film - the continuation of “Star Warrior”. The children were actors, but they also had to program the robot, which according to the scenario would have paved the way through the maze to Princess Lee, then frightened the guards, and helped the princess to escape. However, during the filming, the child guard were suddenly bold and "refused to be afraid." I had to improvise: make the robot hypnotize them. It worked, and the princess was saved!



    Be prepared for the fact that not everything will go according to the original plan. Children can make significant adjustments to the plot. To figure out how to save the situation is the funniest part of the project.

    Children aged 10-11 years

    At this age, children already feel themselves personalities, they want to do something meaningful, they are concerned about the triumph of justice.

    What can go wrong

    When I tried to repeat the story about a pirate with older children, the attempt turned into a discussion about whether the pirate had the right to kidnap a robot and what punishment it should have incurred for such a crime. Children at this age try to demonstrate their knowledge and wit as soon as possible.

    Good ideas

    Come up with something special. Discussing how to program the robot, we decided to create a magic predictor ball. Having written this program, everyone wanted to ask him his questions and, perhaps, to hear the answer, which he himself composed. One girl asked if she would get a kitten for her birthday. The answer “No” did not satisfy her, so she continued to ask until, finally, she heard “Yes.” But her mother, watching the process, clarified that the first answer was still correct. The boy, asking if he would win a maths competition, heard “Yes”, and this prediction pleased both his father and the boy.

    Another “working” idea is to create a large project, most similar to serious, “adults”: from setting the task to applying the scrum methodology. At this age, children tend to learn new words and concepts in order to appear more mature, so you should not even try to replace professional terminology with simpler and more understandable words. An example of such a project could be the independent design and writing of a children's game on Scratch or Python. Give children the opportunity to set goals and achieve them.
    Personally, I feel most comfortable working with this age group. Children at this age are already more independent, they do not wait for them to be entertained, but they are not as selective as teenagers.

    Children aged 12-15 years

    Many people call adolescents "difficult", because at this age they are in search of their own style in the first place behavior, often rejecting what was offered, inventing something new, trying and choosing. They are subject to momentary impulses. In work with teenagers, success will be achieved by the mentor who will be able to create an interest in his subject and a desire to study it. Teenagers should be allowed to think independently and rely on their ideas. The teacher should offer them the material, and at the same time give the personalities to fully reveal themselves.

    Good ideas

    Creating a new episode of "Star Wars" with a BB-8 robot or a magic “predictor” ball. Teenagers will enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate creativity and extravagant ideas, to offer unusual plot twists or original phrases for the “soothsayer.” They will be interested in programming with the use of functional blocks, but the use of JavaScript will attract them no less. Write a simple program with them, like a bot or calculator telegram. These children value practical skills, they come to programming classes because they want to associate their future profession with this. Some even worry that they started too late! Encourage them, praise for success, do not focus on the failures, and they will entrust you.



    It is impossible to please everyone. There is always a chance to “get into a puddle”, especially when you try to joke. Some of the guys will be keen on making the film and discussing the plot, while others will be more skeptical and prefer to work on their homework on programming. When opinions differ, just take it for granted.


    Do not try to invest knowledge in general, and in particular programming, in a child as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends keeping children under 3 years away from screens. At the same time, if a person is familiar with the code from childhood, he will have a number of advantages in adulthood . The main thing is to find a balance, give inspiration and remember that everything has its time.

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