Common Sense Review
Updated November 2015

Popular games, big names get kids pumped to program in only an hour
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Common Sense Rating 5
  • Hour of Code helps students choose from a variety of levels and kinds of programming challenges.
  • Using lines of code, students move the Angry Birds character to the Bad Piggie.
  • Basketball player Chris Bosh explains how loops work in code.
  • Plants vs. Zombies characters help students practice programming loops.
  • Bill Gates explains how if-then statements work.
Thoroughly engaging, hour-long curricular experiences for beginning programmers.
Though there are tons of teacher resources, it'll take some time to figure out how to weave them into your class.
Bottom Line
A well-thought-out, produced, and curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.
Amy Cox
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies serve as touchstones for a colorful, game-based learning experience. Students will find these beginner coding lessons and the curricula incredibly engaging.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Students take the wheel manipulating colorful blocks of code and solving puzzles. They'll quickly learn some core computer-programming concepts. The site also includes computer and programming curricula for all ages.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Helpful videos and tutorials introduce the programming concepts to students. If they get stuck, students may need support from peers or a teacher to complete every challenge.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers should go through the lessons themselves before turning students loose on the site. Even if you're not comfortable with programming, you'll be able to get through the lessons. Having been through the site, you'll be that much more comfortable assisting students as they go through the challenges. works best if all students have their own computers to work on, along with individual headphones, though it's feasible for students to work in pairs. Some students will naturally zip through the lessons, while others might need more time to figure out all the puzzles. Encourage students to talk to each other when they hit a roadblock and even employ the more-capable-peer strategy in partnering students. Though coding itself is an individual learning experience, it works best when coders are free to collaborate, share, and work together. Nevertheless, if two students must share one computer, use care to ensure that one student doesn't dominate.

For teachers who need a bit more support, there are free local PD workshops across the country. There's also a very useful teacher dashboard, where teachers can list their classes and students and keep track of all progress.

Editor's note: In the past, Common Sense Education has partnered with However, Common Sense Education's reviews maintain editorial integrity and independence.

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What's It Like?'s website is full of programming instruction for students, and everyone should be able to find an activity that matches their interests, such as drawing, designing games, or creating stories. The site is geared toward increasing diversity in computer science, reaching classrooms around the world, preparing new and continuing computer science teachers, adding computer science to school curricula, and helping to set up policies that support computer science.

The site includes a tutorial to pique students' interest in programming in only one hour. As part of the "Hour of Code" initiative, the site -- among others -- aims to get millions of students to try out programming, if only for one hour. The tutorial includes video instructions from a few famous men (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Chris Bosh), as well as some younger female programmers. After the videos, students use blocks of code to program mini-games with some familiar characters from games such as Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies.

In addition, there is a thorough Computer Science Fundamentals curriculum that teaches kids from K through 12 the basics of computer programming, using cartoon characters. The curriculum addresses concepts both offline and online and leads students through progressively more difficult lessons.

Under the Learn page, the site includes its own programming tutorial, along with links to similar offerings hosted elsewhere on the Web, from the likes of Khan Academy, Codeacademy, Scratch, and CodeHS.

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Is It Good For Learning? provides kids with an excellent and friendly collection of programming instruction, taught in over 40 languages. The short tutorial on programming basics has programming puzzles where students learn about important coding concepts such as the importance of order, as well as how if-then statements and loops work.

The Computer Science Fundamentals curriculum contains 20-hour courses, starting from the very beginning, going slowly with young students and increasing in difficulty from there. The course levels have plenty of unplugged activities, teaching computer concepts outside the programming element in addition to hands-on coding. The first level begins with creating stories for early readers and can be skipped by older students. The other levels tackle loops, functions, parameters, binary numbers, conditionals, and more. There is also an accelerated route for students who need a faster pace.

Also, the site has many external links to other websites that teach students how to code, so interested students aren't likely to run out of material.

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