Need advice in motivating a girls only group

  • Hi, in our dojo we have a special “girls only” group.
    9 girls, 11 to 15 years old, they all have asked to join the group and they have choose the project to realize: a web site of quizzes about films and books.
    The girls have no experience with HTML or PHP or Python so there’s a lot to do, we have warned them that there would be a little to study at home. The girls agreeded with the commitment.
    the first meeting was discouraging: we had to choose the subject of the web site, 3 hours of silence or whispering. “What do you do on the web?” “What are your favourite hobbies?” Silence! I was shocked: why so much insecurity?
    the first home assignment “Share a link of a website like the one we will realize” : only one reply! IThey use this kind of websites a lot, is a 5 minute task to copy and paste the link and write a small review!

    We can meet only once a month, I can’t figure out how to keep them interested. Is not a problem with “coding” is a problem with the group itself.

    There’s some pressure on us because there’s a sponsor who gave us money and people to teach to the girls and wants to show the project to an internal convention next summer. Our team of mentors has worked hard to catch this opportunity: how can we save the project?

    (I hate “girls only” groups: girls downplay each other, boys are less afraid to try even to say something stupid!)

  • @Federica-Triglia Hi, just had a quick thought on your trouble. when people do not know what the thing is , then they cannot find out the interests on that. maybe first share something relevant with them and provide some options for each steps( or for some of the steps.). Gradually they will get their own creative thoughts and find theire own way. Do not worry, education of kids will not go quite smoothly, but it will for sure go forward gradually. Hope this will help.

  • Hi @Federica-Triglia,

    Firstly, it’s great that you are encouraging more female Ninjas to get involved, even if it is off to an unexpected start!

    My first thought would be: allow the girls to explore, learn, be creative and make mistakes. In our society, girls are socialised to be ‘perfect’ and this leads to them being afraid of failure. I appreciate that you are under pressure from your sponsor, but it would be best if the girls don’t feel this pressure. Ideally, the environment should be informal, exploratory and relaxed, and they can learn through ‘trial and error.’

    If the girls have no previous experience of HTML, then perhaps you could start them off on some simple beginner projects first. Otherwise they might feel that the set project is an unachievable mountain to climb. You can find lots of awesome beginner projects on our resources page. Once they have practiced some HTML projects, then it will become more familiar for them and less abstract. They can also start brainstorming ideas once they have learned the basics. It’s important that they are allowed to experiment, explore and make mistakes. All efforts should be valued as part of the learning process.

    For inspiration, you might like to show them some of the cool project examples that other female Ninjas have created. You can see some examples here :)

    Lastly, below are some tips to help girls feel more comfortable at a Dojo:

    • Allow friends to sit together: Girls in particular can be strongly influenced by their peers. Having a peer attend with them increases regular uptake. If a girl has a friend at the Dojo, encourage them to sit near one another. Consider speaking with parents / guardians in advance in order to facilitate this.
    • Show them you’re still learning too Show that you are learning in tandem with the Ninjas. This creates a supportive learning atmosphere. Young girls who see the champion / mentors / parents helping out and learning too are often more engaged with their own projects.
    • Support a growth mindset: With a growth mindset, failures become part of the learning journey. Support the girls at your Dojo to make mistakes without viewing them in a negative light, and to ask questions without worrying how others will perceive them. Research has shown that this is achieved through experience-based layouts (e.g. beginners’ tables) at a Dojo.

    I hope this is helpful Federica! Let us know how it goes :)


  • CoderDojo Foundation

    Hi Federica!
    Thanks for getting in touch, this is really interesting and really does highlight how children are shaped by social pressures from such a young age. Amy has some great points.

    There are many other ways of building up girls confidence to speak up. Please don’t be perturbed, the first time anyone does something is always the most daunting. Once the girls develop a rapport with the mentors and other girls they will be more comfortable and less likely to over-think before talking.

    I agree that the atmosphere the mentors and you set is important. The more relaxed the mentors are, the more relaxed the girls will be. If there is a mix of women and male Dojo leaders, make sure that the women mentoring are talking up too.

    At the beginning of each session highlight that the Dojo is a safe place for trial and error. That making mistakes is how some of the best things have been discovered. Encourage girls to see trying as the aim, not getting things correct. Highlight that FAIL, really stands for: First Attempt In Learning, and that it a good thing.

    Give name tags to the girls when they come in. This encourages them to learn each others name and get to know each other.

    Games and Ice-breakers: can help relax and energise young people. Many are also designed to encourage them to talk to each other. Here are some examples.

    Art: is a great way to encourage creativity in a way that young people are very used to. Why not get them to draw, paint out their idea of what they want their website to look like. Gemma has a great blog on integrating art with coding to make it more approachable.

    Examples: these give the girls a benchmark to know what suggestions are relavant and so makes them more confident in giving a response. Give at least two examples when asking anything.

    Small Groups: Instead of asking a question out loud to the whole group, break the girls into small groups. Start off breaking them into pairs the first time, then into threes, then into fours. As they get to know each other and get used to talking in small groups they’ll build up their confidence. After two sessions of this you can get a member of each group to share what they discussed with the larger group.

    Writing: I myself find it easier to write out my thoughts in a cohesive way than say them out loud. Use markers and sticky notes so girls can write out different responses and stick them up. Give some examples yourself first. Give them 5 minutes to write ideas and then a minute for them to all go and stick them up on a board/wall. Then you can read them out. Over time once the girls have done this approach a few times you can start nominating girls to read out responses.

    A Dojo in DCU had a similar experience as this when their girls group went from being in a room with the wider Dojo to a space on it’s own. They found girls were more likely to speak up when there was more noise in the space generally - the silence can make them more afraid to say anything as they are much more conscious of being heard saying something incorrect, whereas if their is a buzz of activity and noise going on in the background, they are less afraid of speaking. If you don’t have a big enough space or enough mentors to run the girls Dojo with your regular Dojo going on in the background even playing some background music can help. Here is a video of the lead mentor discussing her experience of managing the Dojo for girls and her insights.

    Basically, the more you can relate it to what they are used to, things in their everyday life or activities they are already doing the more approachable it will seem. The more relaxed the space is the better. In terms of encouraging girls to speak out, it’s about building up their confidence, not only in technology, but also with each other and with those in the Dojo.

    Make sure each Mentor knows to never laugh at a girls suggestion, or point out a child is wrong in front of the wider group, and that the girls know this too.

    It won’t happen over night but it will be very rewarding after a few sessions when girls start developing confidence in themselves and ability to create with technology :) Thanks for all your work!

  • CoderDojo Foundation

    I also seen this today which I thought might be useful to think about when asking questions to the group: alt text

  • Thanks everybody, there are a lot of useful suggestions in your replies. I bet I’ll be back again asking for guidance because this project will last all this year.
    THE problem is that the expectation on this group is too high and we can’t meet regularly. I’ll do the best I can to support my girls because at the moment my first concern is that they don’t lose confidence. It has to be more fun than doing homework.

    I’ve set a google classroom to share examples and exercises. Do you know other ways to keep in touch? Emails are too messy.

Log in to reply

Looks like your connection to CoderDojo Forum was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.