Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
In this computer programming basics lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources (including online coding games) to learn about programming.
Preparation:BrainPOP's GameUp offers four interactive games from Tynker to teach students coding and computer programming:
- Lost in Space: Students learn to drag function blocks together to build applications of increasing complexity that move an astronaut named Biff and his spaceship toward desired goals. As challenges get harder, students will learn to use logic skills to bundle commands and create algorithms.
- Puppy Adventure: Students learn to drag function blocks together to build applications of increasing complexity in order to move a lost puppy named Pixel toward various desired goals. As challenges get harder, students will learn to properly bundle commands and create algorithms. The puzzles are designed to teach students about sequencing, repetition, and conditional logic.
- Sketch Racer: Students program a turtle named Snap to mimic geometric shapes and follow set patterns. Each puzzle presents a pattern and a starting position for Snap. Students are required to program the turtle using the tile-based commands such as "move forward," "move backward," "turn to the left" and "turn to the right." Each puzzle may have a number of correct solutions, but players are encouraged to solve them using the fewest possible blocks. With Sketch Racer, students will learn about sequencing, repetition and algorithmic logic. They will need some prior knowledge of angles and geometry to successfully complete the puzzles.
- 15 Blocks: Students create a simple computer app using no more than 15 blocks. The activity allows players to work with pre-loaded characters, backgrounds, and movements to create an animation that requires logic and creativity to build. Programming commands are based on the Tynker system of visual programming blocks, which simulate basic coding commands and processes.
This lesson plan will help you determine how best to use these resources with your students. You may want to spread out the games and activities over the course of several days.
- Play the BrainPOP movie Computer Programming to introduce students to the topic. If students have no background information on programming, you may want to have them complete the activities in our Program Your Partner lesson plan.
- Tell students that they will have the chance to explore simple computer programming through four online games. Project the Lost in Space game, and demonstrate how to drag function blocks together to build applications. Introduce the term Logo and explain that it is a simple programming language.
- Allow students to explore Lost in Space independently or with a partner for 10-15 minutes.
- You can then introduce the Puppy Adventure game. We recommend briefly playing this first as a whole-class demonstration with student volunteers so you can reinforce vocabulary terms (such as 'commands' and 'algorithm') and ensure understanding. Then release students to try on their own.
- After 10-15 minutes of game play with Puppy Adventure, have students compare and contrast the game with Lost in Space. How are the commands the same? Different?
- Tell students they will now explore a game called Sketch Racer, in which they will program a turtle using the tile-based commands such as "move forward," "move backward," "turn to the left" and "turn to the right." You may want to quickly review students' prior knowledge of related geometry concepts with the BrainPOP Angles movie prior to replacing students to play the game.
- Provide at least 10-15 minutes for students to explore Sketch Racer. Challenge students to find the solution that uses the fewest possible blocks.
- Afterward, debrief with students on the three games they played and discuss their strategies. You can use the Computer Programming Quiz or any of the game quizzes to assess student learning.
- For a cumulative assessment or final project, introduce students to the 15 Blocks game, which requires them to use their creativity as they build with pre-loaded characters, backgrounds, and movements. After they've had some time to experiment with the game, challenge students to pair up and think of their own programs. They can assign a specific program to their partner and challenge them to produce it. You can find more ideas for using this game in the 15 Blocks Lesson Plan.