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Teaching computing at KS1

Tagged In:  ITN Mark
24 October 2016

Why is it important that children learn programming skills?

Computing is all about giving computers commands from powering machinery to building an online game. In today’s technological world, it’s becoming increasingly important for young people to have a good knowledge of computer science. Not only can programming help a child hone their computer skills, but it will also help them develop essential problem-solving skills that they can apply to a range of situations.

What’s the difference between a computer science lesson and a standard ICT lesson?

ICT teaches pupils how to best employ the wide variety of computer programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. A computer science lesson allows pupils to gain a better understanding of how computers actually work and focuses on the creation of new applications.

Is it really possible for young children to learn about something as complex as computing?

The answer is yes! Like any other subject, there are many different levels of computer science. Key Stage 1 (KS1) students would primarily be learning about algorithms - the basic programming instructions. More advanced items would be introduced in higher key stages.
The key to teaching younger children about coding is to use the right language and methods; you could engage pupils with games and exercises that make learning code lots of fun!

Teaching pupils about algorithms

Algorithms are an important part of the fundamentals of computer science.

What are algorithms?

Algorithms are essentially a set of instructions; they are defined as ‘a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer’. Algorithms vary in complexity, so at KS1 pupils will be learning the basic principles of these.

Activity 1

An effective and fun way to teach the basics of algorithms to KS1 pupils is to undertake the ‘Crazy Character Algorithms Activity’ . The basis of this activity is that a picture of a crazy character (usually some sort of cartoon monster) is divided up into shapes. The instructions for completing the character are shared with the class, and it is their task to follow the instructions and attempt to repair the monster and restore it to its complete form.

The outcomes of this task will differ greatly and will teach pupils the importance of accuracy and skill when creating and following algorithms.

Activity 2

This activity is very simple and will demonstrate the importance of giving precise instructions in a specific order. Pupils will see the results of ‘programming’ one another through a set of specific instructions.

Create a set of direction cards (each card shows a one-step direction forwards, backwards, left and right).

Nominate a ‘programmer’ to put the cards in a specific order to direct the ‘machine’ from a start object to an end object e.g. a chair.

A nominated ‘machine’ then follows these instructions and hopefully ends up at the end object!

You can develop this task to increase the complexity as your pupils get the hang of it.

Some useful resources for teaching code

Quickstart Computing CPD Coding Toolkit for primary teachers

Tynker’s Hour of Code Free Activities

Exploring code using Bee-Bots

What is HTML anyway?

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