My Learning to Code books: the journey

One evening last week, I came home from work to the best package – a batch of my new books, the Learn to Code series. I won’t lie – tearing into that parcel was up there with Christmas Day 1985 in terms of delight! Ross Morrison McGill’s post on his book journey inspired me to put this one together.

So exciting to see the final books

So exciting to see the final books

The set is made up of four pupil books for years 3–6, with a teacher booklet to accompany each one. Each book contains 12 different coding-based activities using three tools. Here’s an overview from the publisher, Rising Stars:

Learn to Code is an exciting new addition to the Switched on family. Written for the non-specialist teacher, it provides step-by-step guidance to give all teachers the confidence to teach coding at Key Stage 2. Linked to Switched on Computing, the fun and engaging units provide additional coding practice, as well as open-ended activities to stretch and challenge more able pupils. They can be used as Learn to Code Pack standalone books to practice coding, or used to consolidate knowledge and skills from Switched on Computing.

The journey

Some lovely people from Rising Stars and I first started discussing the idea of coding books for pupils back in November 2013 – I had actually forgotten it went back that far. The idea was put to me and I wrote a couple of trial units for schools to try out, which were well received, and so we got the go ahead for the full set.

The first big job was getting the contents list sorted and it took quite a while to finalise because it was a vital part of the project and there were many things to consider. We wanted the books to be flexible in terms of how they were used: as consolidation for the other Switched on Computing (SoC) units or as standalone activities for schools that aren’t using SoC. Luckily, throughout the entire project, Miles Berry was at hand as the computing consultant and really helped me shape the contents. As a side note: what Miles doesn’t know about primary computing isn’t really worth knowing – if you need someone to sort your programs from your functions and your parameters from your variables, he is the man! As with other SoC materials, the tools used also needed to be commonly owned or free – so important for schools. Of course, there needed to be clear progression over the four books too. So the contents list went through various drafts before I even got into the nitty gritty of writing the copy.

I started writing the copy for book one over the summer of 2014 and slowly worked my way through all four books right up until December. Some parts took me way longer than initially planned, because maybe the tool being used was newer to me or I just wasn’t 100% happy with the first draft and wanted to make some big changes. There were also screenshots to take at each step and I had to be mindful to keep the copy succinct and yet not just instructional; there needed to be enough explanation too. There were also several rounds of copy editing and then checking and amending the final proofs after the designer had set the text. It’s only after going through this process that you realise how much (and how many talented people – patient publishers, organised project managers, thorough copy editors, innovative designers to name but a few) goes into producing a book.

Finally, came the teacher booklets, in which guidance is given as to how to run the activities, software overviews, how it all links to the computing programme of study and a glossary of tricky terms. This was probably the easiest bit to write at this point.

And then… it was done!

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Summary

So, all in all, this was a project that definitely stretched me, and I learned so much. In fact, I think writing for others has to be some of the best CPD around. Getting my hands on the final copies really made all the late nights and working weekends worthwhile. However, even better than that is hearing from other educators, many of who I know and admire, who have ordered or have copies of the books and have such lovely things to say – thank you to those who have reached out on Twitter, Facebook or some other means. I’ve shared some tweets below.

 

 

 

 

 

Where can I buy it?

You can buy it direct from the publisher, Rising Stars here and they can be found on Amazon too. Had to include this really! If you have used the books, I would love to see some of the work so do get in touch and let me know how you’re getting on.

 

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