Up next in our series on games that help children get to grips with computational thinking, away from any screens or devices, we move on to activities for ages five and six. Check out the previous posts in the series to discover activities for three- to four-year-olds: Leaving the House Routine, the Programmable Parent and Simon Says. Find more fun activities in our free ebook: Beginning Computer Programming for Kids.
Depending on the level of the class, the teacher or parent may choose kick off with a few lessons that bring children up to speed, for which those activities outlined in our previous posts above would do well. Of course, these can be tweaked accordingly. We’ve always liked the idea of a kind of aerobics class where, rather than exercises, the teacher or parent calls out directions as a means to revisit left and right and forwards and backwards commands. Again, these activities can pave the way for tangible coding activities down the line. Once the children are happy with two or three block sequences using their coding toys, try the following activities.
Alongside an opportunity to play around with prediction and abstraction, three different learning styles are catered for in this simple activity.
A large grid is drawn on the classroom floor or playground in chalk. A home square is chosen by the child and confirmed with the teacher (or if it’s at home, the parent). In Round 1, the child is invited to act out the code they’d need to use to arrive at the home square.
In Round 2, the same child is then asked to listen to a set of instructions given by another child or a teacher, and asked to identify on the map where this will take them.
In Round 3, the child is asked to visualise a path to the home square using home-made instruction cards (i.e. square cards with arrows and commands) before programming another child. (Alternatively the child could also program a robot like Cubetto. The child assembles the relevant coloured instruction blocks within the Control Board. When they are satisfied that this combination is correct, they just hit the Go button to watch the wooden robot move to the right square – hopefully! – on the map).
Not only does this exercise encourage the use of unambiguous instructions and then debugging if the sequence of instructions is incorrect, but abstraction and prediction is introduced by asking the child to visualise the route in Rounds 2 and 3. Moreover, it’s also an opportunity for the teacher or parent to see which of several learning styles might suit a child most: visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. Round 1 is kinaesthetic, allowing the child to walk around and interpret the code themselves; Round 2 is auditory, where the child has to make a prediction by listening; and Round 3 is, naturally, visual.
Of course, rather than programming another child in Round 2, the child could instead program a robot. Once the children are happy with programming the robot for a route of, say, four blocks, the teacher or parent can also add in another level of complexity by restricting the number of instruction blocks or steps the child can use. In order to complete the route, the child is forced to use repetition (in the case of our coding toy, Cubetto, this means using the function line).
The parent or teacher can also do exactly the opposite, and provide an overly long piece of code to get to the home square. It’s then up to the child to make it more efficient.