Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Code Monster from Crunchzilla

Learn basic to complex programming with friendly monster guide

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: With the immediate visual output, kids can play around with code and see the result right away.

Cons: Kids can't save or share work, and there's little help for those who may have trouble understanding.

Bottom Line: Even though presentation and instruction are very simple, the hands-on, cause-and-effect approach can be an effective intro to coding for kids.

This is a great tool to use in the computer lab to demonstrate how programming works. You may want to do some lessons on a projector to show the whole class, then set kids free to do the lessons and play around with the code on their own. Kids who are motivated and interested might not need much intervention, but for kids who have trouble, teachers can play an important role in filling in the missing pieces and helping kids who don't fully understand Code Monster's brief instructions and explanations. Since some mathematical and physics concepts get introduced, teachers can bridge to units on geometry, fractals, velocity, or acceleration, for example. You can also give kids a final project to complete that shows off the coding they learned with Code Monster (e.g., create a particular animation).

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Code Monster by Crunchzilla is a website that shows kids how to code using Javascript. It's got a very simple design: The googly-eyed blue Code Monster and his speech bubble are at the top of the screen where kids read straightforward explanations, commands, and questions. Below, there are two boxes: On the right, Code Monster provides a piece of code for kids to manipulate; on the left, you see the output from the code. Fifty-nine lessons progress from simple (make a square), to complex (change its shape, color, position, make more shapes) to really complex (make complicated fern leaf patterns and animated sequences). There are also "quizzes" in which Code Monster asks kids to write their own code. Though lessons progress in order, you can go back and repeat, or choose lessons at will. You can also exit the program and return where you left off if you use the same computer (and if no one else has visited Code Monster in the meantime). 

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Code Monster is simple but most effective as a self-led journey of programming discovery. The hands-on manipulation and immediate feedback can give kids satisfaction and joy in discovering how what they're writing changes what they're seeing. It should also help them understand how the different pieces of code work. This can be a fun exercise, even for kids who wouldn’t normally be excited about computer programming.

Yet, Code Monster teaches almost exclusively through example rather than explanation, and there's little to no help for kids having trouble. When kids can't come up with right code (e.g., in a quiz), Code Monster moves ahead regardless (which may discourage kids from trying to get through a tough coding challenge). More hints or code analysis could help kids who can't figure out where they're going wrong. An option allowing kids to save what they've created would also be a nice addition. 

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

There are no bells or whistles here, but kids interested in programming (and even those who aren't) should enjoy these hands-on lessons. However, once they've finished all the lessons, there's no big incentive for kids to return.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Kids learn by doing. With code on the left and visual output on the right, kids can immediately see the impact of their actions. More detailed explanation could help kids who are just beginning or having trouble.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

There's little support for those who don't find the short, simple instructions enough, although there's a brief "How to Play" section. It would also be nice if kids could save, and even share, their creations. 


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Lisa S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Kentucky Country Day School
Louisville, KY
4
Fun Introduction to Javascript for Kids

I incorporate coding activities several times a year and Code Monster is another great option for teaching programming. For students who have used Scratch or other visual programming platforms and are ready to trying direct coding, this site is fun and engaging. It would be perfect as an option for students participating in the Hour of Code. Again the lack of a dedicated save feature is problematic, making the site most useful in a 1:1 setting. Being that students can jump to any lesson, it may not be much of an issue. The app also doesn't run well on mobile devices, such as iPads, so using a laptop or desktop device is needed.
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Code Monster is short on explanations and is different from other platforms that introduce kids to coding with lots of tutorials. Their FAQ states that much of the vocabulary and syntax can be learned in other places. The site aims to provide a simple environment for students to practice coding where they can see cause and effect immediately.
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Students who progress through all the lessons can move on to Crunchzilla's other site, Code Maven, which tackles more complex programming

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