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Best Coding Tools for Middle School

Middle school is a perfect time to get students coding, but by then, students might be at different levels of familiarity. We've hand-picked these tools so that students at every level of knowledge and achievement will find something useful, from more visual, building block-style coding tools great for beginners to advanced courses and tutorials that get students learning and using real languages to make apps, websites, and games. Whether students are playing a simple logic-based game or writing scripts to create the next big app, these tools are sure to get students thinking about what sort of language goes into the technology they use every day.

If you're looking to begin coding and programming lessons in your classroom, check out our Teaching Strategies for how to Get Started with Coding in Your Classroom.

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Block- and Text-Based Code

Code.org

Popular games, big names get kids and teachers pumped to program

Bottom line: A well-planned, -produced, and -curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.

Code for Life

Comprehensive coding platform has impressive resources for teachers

Bottom line: This learn-to-code program has the breadth and depth required to meet the needs of almost any teacher.

Sphero Edu

Cool robots and creative play make programming irresistible

Bottom line: Hub for Sphero robots draws crafty kids who love making into coding, and it empowers them to be collaborators.

Tynker

Cute, colorful coding platform caters to strong independent readers

Bottom line: Students will be empowered by custom-coding creations for a variety of platforms, but may need some reading support to complete lessons.

Microsoft MakeCode

Bring code to life with circuits, robots, Minecraft, and more

Bottom line: Once you purchase the hardware, MakeCode opens doors to an incredible diversity of coding applications.

Codesters

Differentiated text-based coding makes for truly authentic experiences

Bottom line: The well-designed Python lessons and user interface make this a great choice for serious coding instruction.

Machine Learning for Kids

Authentic AI-powered projects make kids' creations feel like magic

Bottom line: It takes a topic that would be difficult to teach in any practical way and makes it accessible for the classroom.

micro:bit

Code games or fun displays with mini piece of hardware

Bottom line: This versatile tool for learning how to program with blocks or text is a nice fit for STEM classes and clubs.

Block-Based Code

Scratch

Creative sandbox opens the door to coding in any subject area

Bottom line: Scratch draws students of all types into coding and lays a foundation for future learning.

Itch

Full-featured tool makes teaching with Scratch easier than ever

Bottom line: Here you'll find resources for teaching with Scratch and a complete management tool to support student learning.

Codemoji

Emoji-based coding tool demystifies web design and animation

Bottom line: Emoji-based lessons engage and empower kids to explore web design and animation, with instant website creation.

Evo by Ozobot

Versatile mini robot tailor-made for teaching coding

Bottom line: Evo encourages students to be creative, emphasizing that coding is a tool in your pocket, not the end game.

Cozmo

A little robot with big personality brings code to life

Bottom line: From Cozmo's engaging personality to endless programming possibilities, this little robot will capture your heart and spark imagination.

SAM Labs

Kids use block code and wireless blocks to program, design, and create

Bottom line: With some perseverance, it's a great fit for PBL and STEAM, helping students learn programming skills and engineering concepts through invention.

Tickle

Robots, Arduinos, and drones -- the block coding app to rule them all

Bottom line: Impressive tool for introducing block coding and robotics on a ton of devices.

Google CS First

Middle school CS platform offers stellar resources, organizing tools

Bottom line: If your middle school doesn't have a CS program or club, now you do!

Human Resource Machine EDU

Challenging puzzles will grab the imagination of any coding enthusiast

Bottom line: For teachers with some coding background, this is a great game-based tool for learning to code.

Made with Code

Enticing projects and inspiring videos offer anyone an intro to coding

Bottom line: Solid intro to coding with diverse projects geared toward tween/teen girls; sets foundation to explore deeper level coding and logic activities.

Cargo-Bot

Challenging game helps kids learn to think like programmers

Bottom line: Cargo-Bot is a simple concept that packs a challenging punch and teaches valuable programming skills.

Algo Bot

Simple coding game a fun intro to algorithms

Bottom line: This coding game is a fun and helpful introduction to basic algorithm development, but other resources will be needed for more depth.

Lightbot : Programming Puzzles

Simple design, but challenging fun for budding programmers

Bottom line: Challenging programming game best for motivated learners.

The Pack - NYSCI

Deceptively gentle coding game really packs a problem-solving punch

Bottom line: This gorgeous, immersive programming game encourages novel solutions.

Thunkable

Build a working iOS or Android app, even without coding experience

Bottom line: A great way to help motivated students create real apps, though others will need more support.

GameMaker Studio 2

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Bottom line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

7 Billion Humans

Amusing puzzler challenges kids, teaches programming principles

Bottom line: This high-quality puzzle game is a fun way for students to learn effective and efficient programming skills.

GameSalad

Great interface, flexible publishing options make game-making a snap

Bottom line: Engaging interface and tutorials will empower budding game designers, but the price tag could be a deal-breaker for tight school budgets.

Text-Based Code

CodeCombat

Dungeon-crawling adventure where code is king

Bottom line: While not everyone loves fighting ogres, CodeCombat offers a classroom-ready platform and an authentic learning experience.

CodeMonkey

Puzzler's use of real code fills niche in crowded learn-to-code genre

Bottom line: A great intro to coding, with solid teacher support, gets kids using a real programming language and digging into some meatier concepts than other early coding tools.

Mozilla Thimble

Inspiring platform teaches coding through remixing

Bottom line: Thimble is an excellent, free resource for teaching students to code through experimentation.

Swift Playgrounds

Brilliantly designed iOS coding app great for newbies or pros

Bottom line: If iPad devices are available, this is an inspired choice for learning how to create and tweak code.

Mozilla X-Ray Goggles

Remix tool reveals code, can strengthen kids' understanding of the web

Bottom line: It's a blast to use and an easy way to get experimentation and prototyping going with plenty of student choice -- kids are really in the driver's seat!

Unity Learn

Complete game creation curriculum gives students real-world experience

Bottom line: For any computer science or game design/development course, Unity Learn is a fun and effective way to get students building games right away, with plenty of room for depth.

Code Avengers

Challenging puzzles teach with real code; best for more advanced kids

Bottom line: A superb programming tutor, well worth the effort to keep students going.

Construct 3

Ideal 2D game builder supports students to create, innovate

Bottom line: Limitless game options, reasonable cost, and extensive support make this programming environment perfect for an educational setting.

Codecademy

Terrific coding site a fun way to learn real-world skills

Bottom line: For both introductory and higher skill levels, Codecademy teaches the breadth and depth of skills for the modern computer field workplace.

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