Computer Science is the study of how computers work, among other things. For our purposes, computer science will be programming (or how we talk to computers).
As a teacher, I sometimes say that a computer has a brain too and “sensors” that give information to the brain – just like ours! But the computers “brain” acts a bit different.
We need to give much more specific information to the computer brains.
this weeks goals:
Over the course of this week, we’ll explore the following computational thinking concepts:
- Sequencing: Putting the steps of a task into the correct order
- Decomposition: Breaking down tasks into steps understandable by a computer
- Debugging: Finding the source of a problem in your code and fixing it
- Algorithm: A series of steps that must be followed to accomplish something, such as solving a problem
HERE is a link
||Activity 1: Directional Coding
||Activity 2: Sequencing
||Bonus Activity: Scratch JR
- Copies of this document for each student
- Writing implements
- Glue sticks
||Kindles: Scratch Jr. is a drag-and-drop programming interface for young children. It requires no reading, but allows children to tell stories, make games, and learn the basics of coding. If you have extra time after doing the other activities, or if you want an activity for a fourth day, then check out Scratch Jr.!
- Print copies of this document, one for each student, and prepare other materials
- Introduce the topic
- Watch this video (can end at 4:17 if patience grows thin; after that, it gets into some concepts we won’t cover this week)
- Have the students “program” a blindfolded teacher
- Have each student create a “treasure map” on the worksheet
- Have each student trade treasure maps with a partner, who will write “code” to get through the map
- Print copies of the 3 Little Pigs Sequencing Cards, and the blank Sequencing Cards, enough for each student.
- Introduce the topic.
- Go over the story of the 3 Little Pigs.
- Have students cut out and arrange the 3 Little Pigs cards in order.
- Have students make their own sequencing cards and give them to a partner to put in order.
- Ensure Scratch Jr. is installed on enough of your Kindles for each student to have their own.
- Explore Scratch Jr. yourself. It’s quite simple, but if you need any help, check out the guide on their website here.
- Students will begin to understand sequential programming through use of arrows to move from one space to another.
- Students will begin to understand debugging as they “debug” their initial programming responses
- Students will begin to understand sequence and order as they order stories they already know
- Students will dig deeper into sequential thinking as they build their own story
- Introduce the topic: “What is computer programming? It is telling a computer or robot what to do, step by step, but you have to say it in words that the computer or robot will understand. Let’s watch this video to find out more.”
- Show the video
- Arrange the classroom into an obstacle course, even if you’re just using desks and chairs. Have the students help you. “Now you get to program me! I will pretend to be a robot, and I will put this blindfold on and spin around. Then you need to tell me how I need to get around all the obstacles to [arbitrary end point]. This is just like a real robot that doesn’t have eyes and doesn’t know how to get anywhere without being told what to do.”
- Put on the blindfold, spin around so you’re disoriented, and ask the students to direct you around the obstacles toward the goal. You may find that they don’t properly decompose their steps, for instance telling you to “Go left” without telling you when to stop, so that you run into an obstacle. This will give them an opportunity to debug. You may also have to tell them to give instructions one at a time, so they don’t speak over each other and give competing instructions.
- After you reach the goal, explain the treasure hunt worksheet activity. They will each need to make an “obstacle course” of their own on the grid by cutting out the obstacles and gluing them on the grid. They can choose the mermaid or pirate as their “robot,” or draw their own (they should not glue their robot). They may also draw additional obstacles. The treasure will be their goal space.
- After the students are done making their treasure map, have them trade with a partner. The partner should use the third page to draw arrows directing the “robot” how to move from its starting square to the treasure. Have the original mapmaker try out the algorithm to see if it works. If not, debug!
- Point out vocabulary words like algorithm, debugging, and decomposition as appropriate!
- Introduce sequencing. Ask if anyone has ever heard of it. Explain that it means putting the steps of a task in the correct order, and that, when programming a computer, it’s important for commands to be broken down into tiny steps and put in the correct order so that the computer can understand them.
- Ask students to retell the story of the 3 Little Pigs. If they have any trouble, use this summary (from this website, and originally from a book by Sue Ryono): “The Three Little Pigs set out to build homes of their own. The first little pig threw together a simple house of straw, but soon the wolf came and blew it away. The pig ran to the second pig’s house of sticks. Again the wolf came and blew the house down. The pigs ran to the third pig’s strong brick house. The wolf could not blow it down. He tried the chimney, but the pigs had a pot of hot water in the fireplace.”
- Hand out the 3 Little Pigs Sequencing Cards. Have the students cut them out, then arrange them in the correct order. Once everyone has arranged them, go over the correct order. Optionally let the students color and glue the cards.
- Now hand out the blank sequencing cards. Have the students select a well-known story or task. Ask them to draw/ color or write the steps of the story/ task in the cards, then cut them out, and hand them, scrambled, to a partner.
- The partner should put them in the right order. After they check that the order is correct, they can glue the cards on a large piece of legal paper. Optionally, they can draw a path between each card.
- Introduce Scratch Jr. to the students by telling them that they’ve been doing “unplugged” coding activities all week, but now they’re ready to try applying what they’ve learned to a computer! A tablet is a kind of computer, after all.
- Show the class how to use Scratch Jr. briefly. You may want to turn on your computer’s webcam, connect to the big screen in your room, and hold a Kindle up to the webcam, so the class can all see you demonstrate Scratch Jr.
- The first thing you should show them is how to rename their project—tap on the yellow shape in the top right corner, and there they should rename their project with their name and a number indicating which number project they’re on (their first project should be called [Name]1, the second [Name]2, and so on).
- Then show a few other simple instructions, like how to drag and drop movement and triggering blocks, add a background, add a new character, remove characters, edit characters and backgrounds, and add audio.
- Let the students explore the app as they wish!
- Ensure they’ve all renamed their projects with their name and a number before you pack up for the day, so you can find their projects if they ever want to work on them again.
Note: If you have any students who are old enough to read comfortably, and also have access to computers, then feel free to let them explore the full version of Scratch at https://scratch.mit.edu/.