The Benefits of Teaching Coding Across the Curriculum

Mar 12, 2024

The Benefits of Teaching Coding Across the Curriculum

Python in an English classroom? Middle school teacher Danielle Hall shares her experiences and the benefits she has seen introducing coding to her students. 

Building College and Career Connections

As a teacher with over a decade of experience spanning both middle and high school, Danielle Hall recently witnessed the transformative power of introducing coding into the English classroom at Mechanicville Junior High School. Her educational journey has taken her from 8th Grade to 10th Grade and back to 8th Grade again, where she currently teaches. 

I believe if I can expose  even one in a hundred students to the possibilities that coding offers, then I will have made a difference. 

Danielle’s foray into teaching coding began with a personal connection to the tech world through her husband, who works in the cybersecurity industry. Seeing the multitude of job opportunities in the tech field, she felt a responsibility to ensure that her students are college and career-ready when they leave her classroom. She believes if she can expose  even one in a hundred students to the possibilities that coding offers, then she will have made a difference. 

Making Coding Tangible 

Throughout her 15 years of teaching, she has always been open to trying new things, especially with middle school students, who she believes are sometimes more willing to take risks and embrace new challenges compared to their high school counterparts. However, it was her district's instructional technology coach, Andrew Ferrone, who serves as the  Assistant Coordinator for Model Schools at WSWHE BOCES, and his enthusiasm and support that prompted her to explore coding more deeply. It was through him that she discovered imagi Edu, a platform and curriculum that could be used with a programmable device called an imagiCharm that resonated with both her and her students.

The physicality of imagi, offering each student a tangible object to program and call their own, was a game-changer.

The sense of pride and ownership imagi tools helped instill in her students was palpable."The physicality of imagi, offering each student a tangible object to program and call their own, was a game-changer," she says. One girl even exclaimed, "I asked my mom to get me an imagiCharm for Christmas, so I can keep coding!" This level of excitement exceeded the typical engagement she had seen during previous activities she had done for Hour of Code.

Reinforcing Critical Cross-Curricular Skills  

But why is coding essential even in an English classroom? For Danielle, it became a tool to reinforce important skills such as checking work, editing, proofreading, and building confidence in students who sometimes felt unsuccessful in other academic subjects. Her transition from a short story unit to creating a virtual world through coding was seamless, especially when it came to creativity. Students took their storytelling skills and breathed life into characters with code, solving problems and unleashing their imaginative potential.

A small pink pixelated creature resembling a Pokemon coded in Python appears on a small handheld device called an imagiCharm.

While integrating coding into the curriculum, she said didn't feel pressured to conform, but instead saw a great deal of alignment with problem-solving, collaboration, and presentation standards. Utilizing national computer science standards, to which the imagi curriculum is aligned, also provided a framework for this exploration.

The journey began by introducing Canva and discussing various careers in the tech field. This laid the foundation for a Graphic Design Unit, where students began by creating logos and posters, and then with the help of the imagi curriculum and platform, moved to learning how to use real Python to bring characters, designs, and other forms of pixel art to life. This integrated approach helped students make connections, bridging the gap between careers, technology, design, and coding.

Inspiring Student Confidence 

In her diverse classroom, Danielle observed every student, regardless of gender, finding their unique way to engage with coding using imagi. The collaborative spirit soared, with students helping each other, checking code, and offering assistance. Girls, initially hesitant, showcased consistency and pride once they delved into the coding world.

Working with students with special needs required some accommodations, but imagi's accessibility made the process smoother. Personalized support, co-teaching, and allowing students to work at a variety of paces also ensured every student could participate and succeed.

Embracing the Unknown

Be brave and go for it. Embrace the unknown, trust your students, and watch the magic unfold.

For teachers considering incorporating coding into their classrooms, Danielle’s advice is clear: “Be brave and go for it. Embrace the unknown, trust your students, and watch the magic unfold.” The positive impact of the coding unit in her classroom was evident in the stories of struggling students finding success, enthusiastic requests for more coding after the holidays, and parents acknowledging the positive influence on their children.

After all, in the end it's not just about coding; it's about unlocking potential, building confidence, and fostering a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom.


About Danielle Hall

Danielle Hall has a Master's in the Art of Teaching for Adolescent Education in English and a Master's in Science Education of Literacy with certificates in New York State for English grades 7-12 and Literacy grades 5-12. She has been teaching at Mechanicville Jr/Sr High School for 15 years. She lives in Latham, New York with her husband, Mike, and her joyously active toddler, Alex. She enjoys cooking, walking, hiking outside, and gardening.

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