Computing with LEGO™ WeDo – Classroom Tips

Physical Programming

I recently published two new 4-6 week physical programming units to iCompute’s Key Stage 2 scheme of work; which I blogged about in my post Teach Programming with LEGO™ WeDo

I admit to a rising sense of panic as I approached my first session: young children, small LEGO parts, computers and stuff that moves!  However, we’ve been having a great time and thought I’d share some of the practises I’ve found necessary to manage these very active learning lessons.

First of all, get organised before each session.  I’ve found it’s much better to work on the floor to prevent bouncing bricks, so book out the school hall if you can or clear your classroom of desks.  I’ve assigned each pair of pupils a LEGO WeDo Construction kit and a labelled basket for their models.  I also arranged space in the classroom for a ‘robot parking lot’.  Whenever I need everyone’s attention, or if we’ll be working on the same model a few weeks in a row, we park the robots in their baskets on top of the construction kit boxes.  This helps keep the kits organised so that, combined, the model and the kit = a full construction kit.

You need to be really firm about pupil movement around the space you’re using with LEGO parts!  I use hula-hoops placed around the hall with big gaps between them.  I explain the necessity of keeping the models and construction kits within hoops to that we don’t lose the parts.  The children have been great, understanding the clear rules and why we have them.

pupils-with-lego

Organisation is key!

In order to work on the floor, you’ll need either laptops or tablets.  If you don’t have either, the children can transport their models in their baskets (always with their kits) to the desktops; but make sure they have plenty of space between them to program and operate the models.

I used the amazing LEGO Digital Designer to put together building instructions as a basis for each of the models the children would be making and programming.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to if you are an iCompute school because I’ve done all that for you.  Simply print and hand out to the children.  If you fancy having a go yourself, you can virtually construct a model of your choosing and then opt to create the build instructions which your can display in a web browser or print.  Love it!

LEGO Build Instructions

Build Instructions for LEGO WeDo

Whilst build instructions can be vital for some pupils, there are still plenty of opportunities for creativity  for others and I allow those the freedom to design, create and program their own models with only a rough guide.

I’ve been really impressed with how well the children have responded to physical programming and how smoothly the lessons have gone.  I hope some of you find my tips useful and please let me know how your lessons go.

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KS1 Computing with Scratch Jr

Learning to Program with Tablets & Scratch Jr

KS1 Computing Support Card

iCompute Pupil Support Card

Introduce your KS1 computing pupils to algorithms and programming in a fun, intuitive way, using Scratch Jr on tablets.  I’ve put together a 6-8 week KS1 computing unit and associated teacher/pupil resources that uses Scratch Jr and am struck by just how quickly my pupils pick up some of the fundamental principles of computer science.

I based the unit around Michael Rosen’s “We Going on a Bear Hunt” to give the children’s coding context and purpose.  Over the weeks the children move progressively from adding sprites and programming some basic movement to programming sprites to go a more complex journey in the form of a hunt – just like in the story.  The concepts covered that I found they grasped really quickly are:

  • Understanding and developing algorithms
  • Programming: sequence, selection and repetition
  • Computational Thinking: logical thinking; abstraction; decomposition; generalisation; recognising patterns & relationships
  • Testing & Debugging

Alongside that, the children learn to work collaboratively, develop digital literacy skills as well as persistence and resilience in problem solving.

KS1 Computing Lesson Plan

Snippet of iCompute Scratch Jr Lesson Plan

You can download our glossary of computing terms for help with any of those concepts.  I’ve also created a periodic table of Scratch Jr blocks which have editable blocks use in unplugged computing activities, and some basic blank Scratch Jr blocks for cutting/sticking activities which help support learning.

There are many creative ways to plan primary computing using Scratch Jr and I’m looking forward to starting another unit for our iPad scheme of work very soon!

Scratch Jr is a free app, with a drag and drop interface for visual programming, developed by MIT and available for tablets on the App Store, Google Play, Chrome Store and Amazon

Get it now and get creative in your KS1 computing classrooms.

 

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Editable & Printable Scratch Jr Blocks

Scratch Jr Blocks for Display & Computing Unplugged

I’ve created editable, scaleable, Scratch Jr blocks for you to download and use in your coding lessons.  Click/tap the Periodic Table of Scratch Jr blocks image (see below).  The blocks can be edited using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr).  They are also included in .png format for printing.

It’s important that young children have the opportunity to interact with concrete materials (i.e. printed Scratch blocks) to help them understand both their function and the underlying concepts.  I use them in groups for the children to program me and/or each other before moving on to programming using Scratch Jr itself.

I’ve also made a full set of Editable, Printable Scratch 2.0 blocks, and Scratch 3.0, in other posts, which you can also use.

Scratch Jr Blocks

Click/Tap to download

Published by iCompute and licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

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Christmas Computing – Make a Santa Game with Scratch

Saving Santa with Scratch at Christmas

iCompute Xmas Plan

Click to download our free lesson plan and computing resources

Looking for Christmas Computing lessons and activities? Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to have some fun and challenge pupils to show what they know about coding in Scratch.

I’ve prepared a step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing lessons to celebrate all that is Christmas and festive.  Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.

Scratch-Santa-Game

 

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is off on his travels around the world delivering presents when catastrophe strikes!  He’s fallen out of his Sleigh!  Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program Santa to get back into his sleigh in any way they know.Pupil Support Card

Lots of opportunities for differentiation here.  For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Catch Me Card which is included in the pack) and/or write a simple program where Santa is moved using arrow keys.  Your more able pupils could:

  • program Santa to follow the mouse
  • change the sleigh to make glide randomly across the sky
  • add sound effects when the sleigh is caught
  • program presents to appear/disappear
  • program presents to change effects (e.g. colour or size)
  • program presents to fall, so the player must dodge them
  • program Santa to throw snowballs at randomly appearing presents – Angry Birds style

Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan.  Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative with my gift to you!

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Primary Programming – Guide to Scratch Skills Progression

Download and use as a guide to primary programming skills progression with Scratch

Please note that children progress at different rates and this is intended as a guide only.  iCompute’s whole-school primary computing scheme of work provides computing lesson plans that have built in differentiation, extension and enrichment activities to include, engage and challenge all pupils in primary computing.

Skills Progression

Primary Scratch Skills Progression – Click to download

Computational Thinking – Primary Computing

Computational Thinking Across the Curriculum

Computational Thinking is a life skill for everyone. It’s analytical problem solving: finding solutions to ‘problems’ using logical reasoning and systematic approaches.  By ‘problem’ I mean something you want to achieve.  This could be anything from designing and building a physical structure to creating a piece of art.

CT Poster

Click to download the poster

Fundamentally, Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve.  It involves taking a complex problem and breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable parts (decomposition). Each part can then be looked at individually, considering how similar problems have been solved in the past (pattern recognition), and focusing only on the important details whilst ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms).  Once we have a working solution, we then use evaluation to analyse it and ask – Is it any good ? Can it be improved? How?

Computational Thinking

Computational Thinking

Teaching computational thinking is not teaching children how to think like a computer.  Computers cannot think.  Computers are stupid.  Everything computers do, people make happen.  It’s also not teaching children how to compute.  It’s developing the knowledge, skills and understanding of how people solve problems.  As such, it absolutely should not be confined to computing lessons and should be used throughout the curriculum to approach and solve problems and communicate and collaborate with others.

Search our blog for our free cross-curricular computing resources and try six free units from our cross-curricular computing scheme.

iCompute for iPad app – teaching resources at your finger tips

iCompute iPad Apps

Click to find out more

At this time of year, with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having throughout the UK, it’s not hard to see the benefits of teaching primary computing with iPads.

One of the main advantages that my pupils point out about iPads over pcs/laptops is that you can pick them up and carry them around.  So carry them around we have throughout this summer term.  I’ve been teaching from our iPad pack and taking our computing lessons outside.

children with ipads

Taking computing learning outside

Teaching our iPad units just got easier with the launch of our iCompute for iPad apps that now also sell as individual year groups on the App Store.

I can now tap and share resources like pupil support materials and worksheets using AirDrop, play our video screencasts and model how to use the programming apps on the interactive whiteboard using AirPlay.  Our teaching resources are now literally at my fingertips.  All I need is my iPad, iCompute for iPad and appropriate programming apps and I’m good to go.  Anywhere.

children with ipads

Fun in the sun

The possibilities are limitless and I’m so enthused by the success of teaching computing using iPads that I’m currently developing a new product – iCompute Across the Curriculum.  This will help consolidate the children’s learning in computing, allow them to practice their skills and enhance other areas of the curriculum.

For now though, the children are enjoying the great outdoors and creating some fantastic apps to compliment their forthcoming sports days.  Fingers crossed the weather plays ball!

 

Find out more about our whole-school scheme of work and iPad packs at http://www.icompute-uk.com

Teach primary computing with iPads

iCompute for iPad

Teach primary computing with iPads

Our best-selling iPad pack is now available in the Cloud!

Instant access to comprehensive lesson plans and all the resources schools need to teach primary computing using the very latest apps with iPads.

We have big plans for our iPad pack and will soon be adding a new pack – iInvestigate – step-by-step lesson plans and resources for enhancing Primary Science using iPads.