5 tips for hosting a successful Hour of Code

Around here, the days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping and leaves are falling, which means (at least) one important thing: Hour of Code is coming!

The world’s largest learning event happens every year during Computer Science Education Week, which falls on Dec. 3–9 this year. The Hour of Code is a fun way for learners of all ages to familiarize themselves with computer science through hundreds of tutorials and activities in 45 languages.

Maybe you’ve heard of the Hour of Code before, or you know someone who has hosted one. Maybe you, your child or someone you know have even done one! Whatever the case may be, hosting an Hour of Code is meant to be an easy, accessible activity that sparks interest in computer science.

Still, organizing anything for the first time can be intimidating. We put out a call on our social media channels and in our newsletters for advice on how to host a successful Hour of Code, and these are the top five tips from educators who know their stuff! If you read through this list and want more help, leave us a comment on Facebook or reach out on Twitter. Now, onto the tips!

  1. Don’t be intimidated, even if don’t know how to code yourself.

Computer science is for everyone and Hour of Code is geared toward beginners. It can be a great opportunity to learn along with your students, and in fact, that’s part of the fun.

“Don’t be scared even if you don’t know how to code. Learn from your students and use ‘Ask three before me’ when they need help. Have fun!” — Jorunn S.

There’s also no harm in admitting you don’t know how to solve a puzzle or equation, and challenges can provide good opportunities for your students to learn and collaborate together. Many activities include lesson plans for teachers anyway, so you’ll likely have a guide to help navigate your way.

“Do not be afraid … Then you will realize that the educational future also needs this moment.” — Rodolfo P.

2. Prepare your classroom and ask for admin support ahead of time.

Once you’ve got your confidence up, it’s helpful to prepare the basics. If you’re doing an online activity, make sure all students can reliably access the internet. If you’re doing an unplugged activity, double check that you’ve got all the necessary supplies (and probably some extras!). If you need an extra set of hands, you can find an experienced volunteer* in your area here.

“In a high school setting, plan early (like… now) and reach out to administration to see if you can get other teachers on-board. I worked at a school where eventually #HourOfCode became an annual event in every Freshman Advisory! No experience necessary!” — Steve S.

You can also ask your school leadership if they can help recruit other teachers to host Hour of Codes in their classrooms. Who knows, it could become a campus-wide activity!

It also helps to familiarize yourself with resources on Code.org. We’ve got a whole list of resources here, and if you really get stuck, visit our forums. We’ve also got a handy how-to guide here.

“Try to commit to devoting an hour yourself checking out what instructional tools are available on @codeorg website. The more you know which tools you think would be most fun based on your kids, the more likely they’ll walk away hungry for more!” — Steve S.

3. Promote your Hour of Code!

Promote, promote, promote your Hour of Code event! If you’re hosting it in a school, think about who else could attend. Parents, fellow teachers, another classroom or community members may be interested. The Hour of Code is should be collaborative and fun, so the more the merrier. Reach out to these people a few weeks in advance via email or social media so they can plan for it, or consider sending home flyers with your students or participants so they can help you spread the word. Here are a few other promotional ideas.

“Invite members of the school’s community to learn together. Everyone from inside the school — administration, nurses, custodians and counselors — to the Board of Ed, to young alumni, to the town’s PD, FD, and even the mayor. They will show up and they will love it!” — Stacia R.

Almost 11,000 Hour of Code events have already been registered around the world, so don’t forget to register yours! If you promote it on social media, don’t forget to include #HourOfCode and tag @TeachCode or @CodeOrg on Twitter; tag @Codeorg and #HourOfCode on Instagram; or tag Code.org on Facebook. We want to see all the fun you’re having!

“If you happen to be at a school where you would set up a ‘station’ outside of a classroom setting (more common than you might think), try to aim for a spot in the building that provides the most visibility. Reserve that spot early!” — Steve S.

4. Empower students to teach each other or act as volunteers.

Consider looping in student volunteers to organize and run your Hour of Code and empower them to help others during the event. Not only will it boost their self-confidence, it’ll make them excited to help (or even run their own Hour of Code) for years to come. The Hour of Code is meant to be a fun, positive experience for everyone involved, and achieving that is a success in itself!

“If you’re working with exceptionally-motivated students, empower them to be volunteers. Student word-of-mouth almost always carries far.” — Steve S.

Allow students to organize themselves into groups to try activities, and consider arranging desks into pods or circles if possible to encourage collaboration. You can pick a tutorial to try as an entire class or allow students or groups to choose their own. New activities will be available the week of Nov. 1, but taking a look at last year’s activities can give you an idea of the breadth and depth of what’s available at all skill levels.

“Also, allow the students to interact with one another — and move the seating arrangement so there are small groups facing one another instead of all facing to the front of a classroom.” — Charles K.

5. Plan for follow up learning.

The goal of Hour of Code is to uncover and foster interest in computer science, so hopefully students will be hungry for more when your activity is over. Consider allowing time for students to share their activity or creation, or have a discussion about a difficulty they overcame, something they were proud of, or how they achieved something in an activity.

“Be patient with the first-timers, connect the concepts with the real world, and make sure the students continue learning after the event for this, have a plan for students to follow-up with you (like email or phone).” — Vibhav T.

You can host an Hour of Code at any point during the year, so consider hosting an Hour of Code on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Here are a few more options for going beyond the Hour of Code to keep the momentum going!

Hosting an Hour of Code is easier than you think, and you’ve got the support of millions of teachers, parents, educators and students who all started as newbies at some point. Have fun, be fearless and embrace your inner computer scientist!

—Kirsten O’Brien, Code.org


*IMPORTANT: Code.org has performed no references or background checks on potential volunteers and neither recommends nor certifies any volunteer. It is entirely your responsibility to thoroughly check references or perform any background checks required by your school or district. Code.org provides no warranty, guarantees of suitability, or information other than the ability to contact these potential volunteers, and all liability in any use of volunteers rests only with you. Under no circumstances is Code.org responsible for any loss or damage resulting from any person’s reliance on this potential volunteer.