Fun & Effective Ways to Teach Code Commenting to Kids

Joe Goodwin

Fun & Effective Ways to Teach Code Commenting to Kids

Ever tried solving a jigsaw puzzle with no picture to guide you? That’s what coding without comments feels like. I’m here to tell you why it’s essential to comment your code, especially for kids who are just starting their coding journey.

Commenting code might seem like an extra step. But trust me, it’s a game-changer. It’s like leaving breadcrumbs for yourself and others to follow, making the code easier to understand and debug.

Importance of Commenting Code

Understanding commenting code is much like learning a new language. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why do I need to learn yet another language? Well, let me assure you that just like speaking a foreign language, understanding the language of code opens up a brand new world of possibilities.

The piece of code you write today might seem easy to understand. You might think it’s straightforward enough to bypass using comments. But just like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered across the table, your code can quickly become complicated. Now imagine trying to solve that puzzle without a picture to guide you. Pretty tough, right?

As you dive deeper into coding, you’ll find that it often requires jumping back and forth between various parts of the code. Without comments, this can become a hectic and confusing task. Moreover, suppose you’re sharing your code with a friend. In that case, comments serve as a guideline for understanding your thought process and the functionality of your code segments.

Think of commenting as communicating with your future self and others who might be reading your code. They are crucial silent guides that help you and others find your way through the code.

As you gain more experience in coding, you’ll also find the concept of debugging. Here, comments play a vital role in improving code efficiency and fixing errors. This process is all about identifying and correcting bugs or errors in your code to make it run smoother and faster. Without comments,** debugging could be like finding a needle in a haystack!**

More importantly, commenting is an excellent practice for beginners. Not only does it clarify the functionality of different code components, but it also reinforces learning by requiring you to articulate your understanding of the code.

So remember, next time you code, don’t forget to comment! They serve as the breadcrumbs leading back to an understanding of your code’s functionality and structure. Leave no code uncommented, for the future of your code depends on these silent guides.

How Comments Help Kids Learn Coding

As an experienced coder, I can’t overstress the importance of comments, especially for young learners. A key thing to note is that constant repetition doesn’t always lead to mastering a task. Sometimes, it’s about understanding the logic behind what’s written. That’s what comments in code enable. They unwrap the mystery behind a string of code and make it less intimidating for beginners.

Kids are innately curious, and when they see a line of code, they naturally want to understand “how” and “why”. Here’s where comments come in handy. Identifying the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of code with comments can increase comprehension and maintain engagement.

When I teach code to kids, I always liken comments to bookmarking a page in a book. It’s a way to mark progress, but also a handy reference tool. We might not remember every detail of a page we’ve read, but a bookmark can jog our memory. Similarly, well-placed comments can remind us about the specifics of a function or operation.

In the course of learning, kids often work collaboratively on projects. What if kid A writes a piece of code that kid B fails to understand? That’s where proper commenting can save the day. It’s like leaving a breadcrumb trail, guiding others through the woods of code compilation and algorithm design.

Let’s not forget about debugging. Debugging is like finding a needle in a haystack without the right guidance. Comments in code, however, illuminate the haystack. They guide beginners to find exactly where the code failed. Without comments, debugging becomes a daunting task.

Finally, commenting code isn’t just about understanding or helping others understand, it’s also about cultivating good programmer habits early on. It’s a practice that demonstrates planning, organization and respect for others who might use the code.

By actively encouraging kids to start commenting as they code, we’re giving them more than just a hobby; we’re equipping them with essential life skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative work.

Best Practices for Commenting Code for Kids

Let’s dive into the best practices for commenting code. While it may seem intricate at first, it’s about creating a habit which in turn aids learning and understanding.

The first rule to bear in mind is ‘be clear and to the point’. Comments should explain what your code is supposed to achieve and how it does so. To be more precise, comments should reveal the intent of your code. Sticking to this rule provides greater clarity not just for you, but for others who may need to navigate through your code in the future.

While commenting is crucial, it’s equally important to appreciate the big picture. Remember, excessive commenting can be as bad as not commenting at all. If your code is drowning in comments to the extent that the comments are hindering the code’s readability, then it’s time to reassess. Strike a balance between readability and adequate explanations.

In the context of coding projects involving multiple people, it’s imperative to establish a consistent pattern or style for commenting. This helps individuals quickly understand the structure and follow the flow of the code. This uniformity in code documentation is crucial, especially when it comes to deciphering the workings of programs in the long run.

Here are some pointers to help you remember the process:

  • Use full sentences for major comments.
  • Comment every code block and loop.
  • Write comments as you code.
  • Break down your code into functions and comment on the functionality.

Finally, keep updating your comments as your code evolves. Code and its accompanying comments should grow and evolve together for the most effective programming. Merely writing a comment at the time of creating a function or method isn’t enough. As you update the code, ensure your comments stay relevant too.

The journey of learning to code doesn’t have to be a daunting one. The hefty strings of functions, loops, and language-specific syntaxes become far less intimidating when you use comments strategically. So, nurture this practice from the get-go.

Examples of Well-Commented Code

Understanding theories and best practices is important, but let’s bring it all home with some real-world examples. They’ll demonstrate how clear, concise, consistent comments play a crucial role in code readability and understanding.

Let’s kick things off with a simple Python example, which includes a multi-line comment using triple-quoted strings and inline comments using a hash.

This function adds two numbers and returns the result.
Inputs: num1, num2 - must be numeric values.
Output: sum of num1 and num2.
def add_numbers(num1, num2):
# adding two numbers
sum = num1 + num2
return sum

The function definition starts off with a clear description of what the function does, what its inputs are, and what it outputs. The line inside the function has an inline comment to explain what that line is doing.

Here’s an HTML example with short but powerful comments that let others understand this code’s objective.

<!-- Main navigation menu -->
<ul class="main-nav">
<li><a href="#">Home</a></li>
<!-- Drop-down menu for the Services section -->
<li class="dropdown">
<a href="#" class="dropbtn">Services</a>
<div class="dropdown-content">
<a href="#">Design</a>
<a href="#">Development</a>
<a href="#">Marketing</a>
<li><a href="#">Contact</a></li>

Each comment is succinct, yet offers solid insights into what each code block does. Pay close attention to the second comment that specifically signals a drop-down menu within the Services section.

Let’s remember: it’s crucial to update comments when code changes. Failing to do so may lead to confusion or misunderstanding. Meaningful comments positively amplify the learning experience, specially for young learners new to the coding world. Reviewing well-commented code is an excellent starting point for them, and an ongoing practice for established coders.

Encouraging Kids to Comment Their Code

Kids are naturally curious, and when I first introduce them to coding, it’s important to spark their interest by making the process enjoyable. Encouraging kids to comment their code right from the start carries long-term benefits that will pave the way for their future coding endeavors.

Every programmer needs to understand the value of clear code comments. Exposed early, young coders develop an appreciation for well-commented code. It’s a common mistake to write code without comments, thinking it’s clear enough on its own. But let’s remember, what’s clear to us today might be fuzzy tomorrow. More importantly, others who’re trying to understand our code might struggle without helpful comments.

More than just being a best practice, commenting code is a way of expressing oneself. Kids love this aspect the most. Commenting allows them to inject their personality into their code, it gives them ownership, and they gain so much satisfaction when someone else comprehends their code easily.

One practical way to get kids onboard with commenting is by making it a habit rather than an obligation. Every time kids write a new piece of code, prompt them to explain what it’s designed to do. For example, if a Python function is written to calculate the square of a number, the comment could be stated as:

# This function will return the square of a given number

This simple yet effective strategy generates a mindset shift in young coders, gradually promoting a code-commenting culture.

Promoting code commenting with kids is all about keeping it fun. A good technique is to turn it into a game or a challenge. Kids could be asked to guess what specific pieces of code do, based on comments while emphasizing the need for precise, concise, and clear comments.

By using these strategies, we are not just creating better programmers; we are fostering a community of coders who value clarity. We’re building a future where code is no longer only for the tech-heads, but a universal language that everyone can understand.


So, there you have it. We’ve discovered the power of code commenting, especially when it comes to teaching kids. It’s not just about making their code understandable now, but instilling a practice that’ll serve them well in the future. By making it enjoyable and engaging, we’re helping to shape a generation of programmers who’ll appreciate and prioritize clear, well-commented code. Remember, it’s not just about the code they write, but the explanations they provide. And who knows, maybe they’ll even turn it into a fun game or challenge. The future of coding is bright, and with these young coders at the helm, it’s sure to be a well-documented journey.

Joe Goodwin