Hour of Code Lesson Ideas: Back to Basics

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have a plan to take over the world, starting with the classroom; to be more specific, starting with my eldest spawnling’s classroom and just for the Hour of Code this week. Well, there may be a few other coding opportunities in 2017. But let’s start at the beginning because I have a plan. A Lesson Plan. Be afraid.

Okay, let’s be honest. I am not a teacher. I don’t have enough patience for that. I’m struggling to manage my three spawnlings, let alone being held responsible for 25 spawnlings belonging to someone else.

So when I say “I have a Lesson Plan,” it comes with a disclaimer. I have no idea what I am doing when preparing a lesson plan, nor should any teacher reading this think I am telling them how to do their job. But yeah—I am totally taking over the world, and their classroom, for one single hour next week.

As with any subject taught at school, coding is a little more complex than most people realise. If you are enrolled in a specific computer programming course, you usually have access to a greater foray of resources (including more time to delve into the complexities).

If you are a primary school or elementary school teacher, strapped for time and thrown in the deep end of the Hour of Code by an over-zealous parent… well, your resources are a little more finite and you may find yourself having to cut corners to provide a more entertaining opportunity for the kids.

The thing is: you shouldn’t just jump into the first coding activity you find on Code.org. Don’t get me wrong—there is a plethora of excellent activities to explore with any kid. Trust me. My spawnlings have already noted three each for next week.

Computer programming is so much more than just coding. It’s not just “drag-and-drop” Scratch, or developing your own mod in Minecraft. First up, you need to understand logic and step-by-step processes.

Back in my day, after riding my dinosaur home from school, I would hit the Commodore 64 and start creating some games in Basic. If there is ever a programming language that would teach you the most simple of programming skills and logic, Basic would be it. I still long for the simple step-by-step codes, with each line starting in natural progression from 10 to 20 to 30. I could program my little turtle to turn around in a circle. Or make Jump-Man leap across two whole floors! Of course, the graphics left a lot to the imagination.

C64 screenshot code

Confession time: My spawnlings have no idea what Basic is. I am so ashamed.

So how can you introduce your spawnlings (or students) to some logic concepts BEFORE they start programming?

Well, here is where my lesson plan kicks in. (You knew I’d get to the point. Finally!)

Clear a space in your classroom, or better yet, take the class outside for the first 15 minutes. Take one stooge/teacher/volunteer, and blindfold them.

Then sprinkle some Corn Flakes (or other small, crunchy, and annoying breakfast cereal) in front of them to create a bordered path. It doesn’t have to be very long. Wide enough so they can walk comfortably along the path; If they could see what they were doing. Make sure to include plenty of turns and corners, because that is where the fun part is.

Each of the students then takes it in turn directing the blindfolded victim along the path—but only one step at a time. And the victim has to follow the instructions EXACTLY.

  • Take one step forward
  • Turn left 90 degrees
  • Take a step forward
  • Take a step left

If the directions are bad, the victim will step on the Corn Flakes and CRUNCH!! Programming fail.

Benefits: The students can boss their teacher around for a few minutes while learning the importance of step-by-step process with programming. And they have a bit of fun.

Once they have this understanding, then you can take them back inside and start showing them the coding activities available online. For example, Code.org has a great activity with Disney’s Moana using Scratch. It starts off with the same concept of step-by-step logic. And comes with great music. I like the music.

There are plenty of other activities available anywhere online. But remember, your House of Coding is only as strong as the foundation you build it on. Start with the basic logic, and then work your way up from there. If you just throw the kids into the coding without any preparation, they will struggle at the first bug in their code. Computer programming is nothing other than problem-solving. The code is just the way of solving the problem.

Hour of Code starts today (5 December) and can take place anytime during the week up to 11 December. Check out the website for more details. If your school or local community group is not doing anything, why not put your hand up and organize it yourself?

Look—I even did half the work for you.