For the first part of the lesson, students need to understand the basics of computer coding. They need to understand that there is a specific language that programmers use to design a computer program or app. We discuss this and I show them pictures of what these codes look like. Many of my students recognize this and can explain to the class that they have seen this on their own devices or when playing specific games. I then explain that they are going to practice with coding to understand how technology works to help solve problems or make life more fun. I go over the objective and explain how they need to see how we look at solving a issue by understanding all the steps needed to create a solution.
This activity was taken from the My Robotic Friend Lesson by Thinkersmith. The teachers guide is a wonderful resource to adding more to the lesson and to really push how students look at computer programming. This lesson requires only the use of stackable cups and white boards. I used the cup design papers from the teacher packet.
To begin the lesson, I created groups of three to four students. In each group, one student would be the group's robot and the others are the computer programmers. Each group is also given a set of stackable cups. I explain that each group will be given a picture of stackable cup design and they will need to figure out how to write the code for the computer using arrow and directional terms.
For the class to understand I model what this will look like. I choose a three cup design and stack the cups in the corner of the desk. I practice with taking the three cups from the stack one at a time and how it might look to place them. I then explain I need to then write a code for a robot to then create the design. I model how to use arrow and directions to tell the robot commands like, "pick up one cup." On the white board I write the number 1 and then an arrow up. I then model using the same arrow symbols to show moving an arrow forward and a down arrow to place it down.
I make sure to model the whole process and demonstrate the job of each group. The robot will take his book into the hall, while the group works on writing a code to create a cup design. The robot can only following the code that is written for them. The goal is to write a code for the robot that they can then follow to build the correct cup design.
I then have the groups choose the robot. The robot then leaves the classroom. I hand out a cup design to each group. For the first one, I hand out the same design to each group. I cut the designs from the teachers guide and to help them focus only handed it one at a time.
Student then use their white boards to begin writing down the steps the robot will need to take to build the design. I remind students to act out the steps to make sure they are written correctly. When each group is ready, I let the robots come in and stand by their desks and cups. I remind the programmers that they can not talk but only watch and make notes on what they see as the robot followers their directions.
When the process is complete, I ask the robots to share what they learned and the feedback that they have for their groups. Many of the robots comment on how it was written and the handwriting used. This is a good lesson for students as they move to the next design. I ask the class to then tell me what they noticed when they watched their robots follow their code. I want them to learn from this first trial and then get better each time as each student gets a turn to be a robot. We debrief after each design is complete.