A lesson plan to engage middle schoolers learning to code

Tweens in middle school are difficult to work with. Sometimes talking to them is like talking to a brick wall; sometimes they’re only interested in correcting a typo you made while typing on the screen.
I’ve been working with Girls Who Code with a group of ten girls in sixth and seventh grade for about two months now and recently revamped my lesson plan because they were getting bored and couldn’t make connection between the coding basics (data types, variables) they were learning and building apps and games.

The old curriculum: 
– Self guided beginner python curriculum on codesters (most of club time)
– Point out cool women in tech of the past (Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, etc.) and present (Lyndsey Scott, Kaya Thomas, to name a few) (~5-10 minutes of club time)

The new curriculum:
– Self guided beginner python curriculum (1.25 – 1.5 hours)
– Point out cool women in tech ( < 5 min)
– Deconstruct an existing app, going though features and breaking them down
(We started with Instagram. This is a great way to explain a bunch of topics in app development – for example, just the information needed to create an account and login needs to touch on variables, databases, security, and hashing)
– Build a command line application from the ground up (we started with a choose-your-own-adventure game. Again, great way to connect concepts, and the command line is flashy and exciting for those that are new to programming)
– “Independent coding activity time” – time to do whatever they want….as long as it relates to coding. I recommend some resources from code.org.

This new curriculum touches upon so many topics and keeps the girls engaged.
I want to give a shout out to everyone who helped me develop this curriculum on this twitter thread!

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