Best ways to teach a beginner to program? [closed]


Original Question

I am currently engaged in teaching my brother to program. He is a total beginner, but very smart. (And he actually wants to learn). I've noticed that some of our sessions have gotten bogged down in minor details, and I don't feel I've been very organized. (But the answers to this post have helped a lot.)

What can I do better to teach him effectively? Is there a logical order that I can use to run through concept by concept? Are there complexities I should avoid till later?

The language we are working with is Python, but advice in any language is welcome.

How to Help

If you have good ones please add the following in your answer:

  • Beginner Exercises and Project Ideas
  • Resources for teaching beginners
  • Screencasts / blog posts / free e-books
  • Print books that are good for beginners

Please describe the resource with a link to it so I can take a look. I want everyone to know that I have definitely been using some of these ideas. Your submissions will be aggregated in this post.

Online Resources for teaching beginners:

Recommended Print Books for teaching beginners


Python is easy for new developers to learn. You don't get tangled up in the specifics of memory management and type definition. Dive Into Python is a good beginners guide to python programming. When my sister wanted to learn programing I pointed her to the "Head Start" line of books which she found very easy to read and understand. I find it's hard to just start teaching someone because you don't have a lexicon to use with them. First have him read a few books or tutorials and ask you for questions. From there you can assign projects and grade them. I find it hard to teach programming because I learned it over nearly 15 years of tinkering around.

By : Acuminate

I recommend Logo (aka the turtle) to get the basic concepts down. It provides a good sandbox with immediate graphical feedback, and you can demostrate loops, variables, functions, conditionals, etc. This page provides an excellent tutorial.

After Logo, move to Python or Ruby. I recommend Python, as it's based on ABC, which was invented for the purpose of teaching programming.

When teaching programming, I must second EHaskins's suggestion of simple projects and then complex projects. The best way to learn is to start with a definite outcome and a measurable milestone. It keeps the lessons focused, allows the student to build skills and then build on those skills, and gives the student something to show off to friends. Don't underestimate the power of having something to show for one's work.

Theoretically, you can stick with Python, as Python can do almost anything. It's a good vehicle to teach object-oriented programming and (most) algorithms. You can run Python in interactive mode like a command line to get a feel for how it works, or run whole scripts at once. You can run your scripts interpreted on the fly, or compile them into binaries. There are thousands of modules to extend the functionality. You can make a graphical calculator like the one bundled with Windows, or you can make an IRC client, or anything else.

XKCD describes Python's power a little better: "You're flying! How?" "Python!"

You can move to C# or Java after that, though they don't offer much that Python doesn't already have. The benefit of these is that they use C-style syntax, which many (dare I say most?) languages use. You don't need to worry about memory management yet, but you can get used to having a bit more freedom and less handholding from the language interpreter. Python enforces whitespace and indenting, which is nice most of the time but not always. C# and Java let you manage your own whitespace while remaining strongly-typed.

From there, the standard is C or C++. The freedom in these languages is almost existential. You are now in charge of your own memory management. There is no garbage collection to help you. This is where you teach the really advanced algorithms (like mergesort and quicksort). This is where you learn why "segmentation fault" is a curse word. This is where you download the source code of the Linux kernel and gaze into the Abyss. Start by writing a circular buffer and a stack for string manipulation. Then work your way up.

By : Magus

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this here, yet, but You might want to check out Zed Shaw's Learn Python the Hard Way

Hope this Helps

This video can help you solving your question :)
By: admin