Programming Lesson Plan: Program Your Partner

Submitted by: Andrew Gardner

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this hands-on, movement-based lesson, students will use BrainPOP resources as they are introduced to the concept of coding and programming. They will create short programs and sequences and then follow the computer programs from their individual partners.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Create short programs using simple commands.
  2. Interpret and process programs from their peers.
  3. Create their own programming language.

Materials:

  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP
  • sticky notes
  • pencils/pens
  • blank paper

Preparation:

You may want to watch the BrainPOP Programming movie beforehand and get the sense of the concepts explored. Like the movie, students will write programs that direct each other to move. You may want to prepare students for the physical activity by reminding them of your classroom rules about movement.

Your students will work in pairs for this activity, and they will need to navigate through the classroom to a certain “goal”/location. In advance of the lesson, identify good student pairings, and write individual numbers onto sticky notes. After the group demonstration, each partnership will need to go to one of the sticky notes.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Activate prior knowledge by asking students to consider various situations in which they require instructions to get something accomplished (recipes, games, etc).
  2. Ask students which senses they use to understand instructions (sight allows them to read a recipe or watch a how-to video, hearing allows them to listen to instructions, follow a coach, and so on).
  3. Play the Computer Programming movie for students, and explain to students that they are going to write a program. Programming is the way to make computers and inanimate objects follow instructions.
  4. Tell students that computers often have sensors that act like the senses, like sight or hearing. They are inputs, and humans program computers to do things in response to specific inputs. In this activity, students are going to use their eyes as sensor inputs: student will create and follow their own codes.
  5. Give each student 5 sticky notes. On each sticky note, a student can write a symbol INPUT and a written verb/noun action called OUTPUT. Examples: circle = clap hands, square = lift left arm, squiggle = lift right arm, rhombus = scan the classroom for something red.
  6. Ask students to create up to 5 symbols that used together can get their partner to do something useful in the classroom . This is the “goal.” Examples: get a book, pick up a pencil, get a tablet computer, pat a friend on the back.
  7. Explain that students can create simple code commands OR code “functions” (refer to the definition of function in the movie)
  8. Have students hold up each sticky note for their partner. Partners practice “reading” each individual code input. The partner’s action is the output.
  9. Tell students they will be “programming” each other to reach the “goal”. One partner needs to write out code for the other partner to follow.
  10. Can students use the 5 units of code to guide their partner successfully? If not, students may need to create additional code. By discarding old code and writing new code, they are “iterating.”
  11. Partners can switch roles. If there is extra time, they can write more complex “goals” for one another.
  12. After both partners have had the chance to code and be programmed, come back to the meeting area and share stories of success and failure in programming one another. Ask for examples of both. Highlight that programmers learn more from failure than from success.
  13. Have students share the specificity of the output associated with each unit of “code.” Ask if any student used “functions”.
  14. Ask students to reflect on how codes, functions and programming is apparent in one of their favorite technologies.