Coding is one of my favorite things to teach our students! They are able to catch on so quickly, and it opens up so many possibilities for them. There are a lot of robots that you can use to help students learn to code- you can see my blog post about using a Sphero, and how we have used a Bee-Bot (there is also the Dash and Dot, Ozobots, and countless others). These can be expensive, and there is only a limited number of students that can use a robot at one time. So instead of starting students off with a robot, try some Unplugged Coding activities to introduce your students to the world of directional coding. This sets students up to be able to move on to more complex coding languages like block coding.
What do you need for Unplugged Coding?
A grid, some arrows, and some sort of start/finish goal. That’s it. These can be in any form- I’ve seen people use tape on a carpet to make a grid, and wooden arrows. You can also print these items and laminate them to use over and over again.
The grid helps students see the space in which they will move. They can place one ‘move’ in each of the grid spaces as they code their way to their goal. The arrows are their ‘code’. This shows how they are moving across the grid. A goal is set so that they know where to start and end their code.
How to get students to start coding:
You can start your students off with a simple activity: get them to place their own start area and goal. Then they can use their arrows to code their way to it. They can place obstacles on their grid that they will have to go around to make it more challenging. Once they think they have completed their code, get them to go back and ‘check’ it, are all the arrows lining up? If they got the code, they can move on to more challenging tasks.
How can I challenge them?
Give them grids that they have to replicate, then solve. They have to figure out how to code their way to the goal, while avoiding the obstacles. This is great for challenging students to think about placement on the grid, and how they are going to move across it.
You can also get students to record the code they made. They just need to draw the arrows that they used to move to the goal. This is a great step for getting students ready for programming actual robots.
Are you ready to try some Unplugged Coding activities with your students? I have the set showcased in this blog post, as well as other themed Unplugged Coding Activities available. Find them here!