Procedural Text: Computer Coding Directions

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SWBAT describe steps in technical procedures in text.

Big Idea

How do procedural text help us in the real world ? As students explore what makes a computer so efficient, they begin to connect the computer's coding directions to procedural text formatting.

Introduction to Coding

20 minutes

Our district participates in a technology awareness activity called "Hour of Code".  I see this as an opportunity to apply procedural text.  The Computer Science activities involve coding, which is a symbolic language that the computer or robots use to interpret and transform into action steps, much like procedural text to humans.  Also, students are introduced to another vocabulary word:  Algorithm.  Algorithm is a series of instructions on how to accomplish a task.  So, there is definitely a procedural text that exists for computers and robots.

To begin, we discussed the two activities that we will incorporate into our lesson today:

  1. My Robotic Friend:  This activity involves students writing a set of symbolic directions on how to stack cups into a chosen pattern.  One student acts as a robot that will follow the set of directions the other team mates create.  So, this student, who is the robot, is sent away while the team creates the procedural symbols.
  2. Binary Coding Activity:  Students work with partners.  One student creates a code using the guide and another student decodes the message.

Both of these activities promote understanding of how things connect in a procedural text because students must follow step by step directions created by students who must create clear directions for others to follow in order to obtain the desired results.

     Students read the Directions for Activities with their collaborative group.  They discuss the components that are effective in communicating the tasks involved in this activity. Students share their findings of this text analysis with the class.  Our discussion revealed that the basic components of procedural text:  materials needed, step by step directions, diagrams and pictures to model examples are incorporated in the text.  

Teaming Together

20 minutes

     Students work in teams of four to six for the My Robotic Friend Group Activity or partners for the Binary Code Partnering Activity.  Each team is assigned one of the activities mentioned in the introduction.  As students work in their teams, they focused on the accuracy of their directions that must be written in another language.  It is a symbolic language for computers. I noticed that students were very engaged because they have to be precise with their step by step directions in order to guide the other team member to the desired results.

Reflect on Learning

20 minutes

At the conclusion of this activity, students rated their performance on the rubric.  They shared that it was very difficult to write accurate directions for a computer.  We discussed further why it is harder to write directions for computers or robots.  I suggested that humans can interpret procedural text with errors and self-correct.  However, computers and robots follow algorithms the way the programmer writes them.  They do not interpret whether it makes sense or not.  Therefore, you must be exact when writing procedural text in technology. During a Student Presentation, one student tries to explain this process .

To meet the rigorous demands of Common Core, I try to integrate technology into lessons whenever I can.  This was a great activity in understanding computer programming.  The 21st century is very technologically advanced, however; not many students are aware of the programming involved behind the scenes.