10 ideas to develop Computing skills.
There are different strands of the computing curriculum covering e-safety, computational thinking and digital literacy. The following activities cover a range of objectives within them. Not everything has to be done on a computer either!
(1) Stay safe online: Take a journey through the dilemmas of being safe online with the SMART crew. Have a browse through the videos on the following website and take their quiz to see if you can be ‘SMART online’. There are also further activities there as well in the ‘SMART crew guidance and acitivities’ section https://www.childnet.com/resources/the-adventures-of-kara-winston-and-the-smart-crew
(2) Espresso coding: You should all have received a text message with the log in details that all pupils can use. Espresso coding is usually used in a classroom with a teacher so if you are finding this too tricky to help them with, that is ok, they will catch up when they come back to school. However, there are video tutorials that children can watch to help them complete each task. Children can use this on a tablet, iPad or desktop. Some of the lessons are designed for use on iPad and others are for PC or desktop. They say so in brackets after the lesson. At this point in the year most children from year 1 to year 6 have had a go at these so should be familiar with the set up. We have been using coding 1.0 but there is a new version which the children are welcome to try if they are feeling confident at coding.
They can go to https://online.espresso.co.uk/espresso/login/Authn/UserPassword to log in. You could try the challenges in the pdfs attached.
(3) Scratch: Scratch is another program designed to help children learn to code. The following links will give more information about how to set up an account and how to use it. Scratch junior is aimed at younger children, and scratch is aimed at older children.
Setting up a scratch account: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WsrYVyIdjE&safe=active
Scratch jnr tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6XvwEH0xpg&safe=active
Scratch jnr projects: https://www.coderkids.com/blog/scratchjr-projects-for-kids
Introduction to Scratch: https://www.iste.org/explore/course-mind/6-resources-engage-students-coding-scratch
Scratch beginner projects: https://scratch.mit.edu/starter-projects and http://myreadinglog.net/blog/blog/scratch-project-ideas-for-kids/
Things to try on scratch and scratch jnr: https://medium.com/scratchteam-blog/10-things-to-try-right-now-with-your-child-on-scratch-and-scratchjr-defd7f8ad0d1
(4) Publish something: At school the children have all used Book Creator to show their learning. There are other apps children can use, Microsoft publisher is great for posters. Microsoft powerpoint, Prezzi and Keynote are good for presentations. There are loads on the internet available. Can you make poster about staying safe online? What about lending a hand to the government, they need help in getting their message across about washing hands and making sure you stay germ free, perhaps you could create a poster for them? Research and present your findings about something you’re interested in, an author you are reading, a game you like playing, a place you’d like to visit or whatever you are interested in.
(5) Edit a photo: Can you experiment with photo editing software to edit and manipulate a photo – you can do this for comic effect, but remember not to put anything online that would hurt someone’s feelings. Photoshop express editor is a good one that is free.
(6) Understand Algorithms: An algorithm is simply a set of steps that need to be followed in order to solve a problem. These aren’t limited to computing, and there are plenty of opportunities for creating and exploring them in other subjects. These could be represented in a variety of ways: as lists, numbered diagrams, storyboards, or even videos or animations to explain the steps in a particular process.
For example, pupils could create or follow algorithms when:
– working with recipes in Design and Technology
– using a step-by-step process to solve a particular type of maths problem (e.g. two digit by one digit multiplication)
– creating gymnastics or dance routines in PE
– explaining the steps in a science experiment
– writing instructions in literacy
Algorithms at home:
Give your child a set of instructions for moving around the house or garden (take five steps forward, do a quarter turn clockwise, go backwards for three steps, etc.) Ask them to predict where they will end up after they follow the instructions. Repeat using a range of starting points. They could write their own sets of instructions to give to each other and make predictions.
Working in pairs, sit back to back (or with some sort of barrier in place) so they can’t see each other’s work. One person, the ‘sender’, does a drawing (e.g. of a house, or a monster made of simple shapes) and then gives instructions to a ‘receiver’, who must replicate the same drawing simply by following the instructions given. Squared paper could help children to describe size and positions more accurately.
You could link this in with positional language or names of 2D shapes in Maths, or simply use grid paper and colour in squares to make a particular design. As a variation, give each pupil a map and ask the ‘sender’ to mark some landmarks in, then explain to the ‘receiver’ what they are and where to put them.
Word search algorithm:
Help pupils understand the difference between computer algorithms and more general instructions by giving children a word search puzzle to solve. When they have finished, ask them to share the strategies they used to find the words. Did they hunt randomly, or take a more systematic approach?
(7) Practise your decomposition skills: Decomposition — or converting a problem or task into a series of smaller ones — is a key element of designing an algorithm or program. For example, to be able to code a computer game, pupils will need to think about different elements (such as how the player will control the main character or object, the scoring system, enemies and any obstacles, such as walls), and then write code that controls each of these different elements.
Practising breaking complex tasks into smaller, manageable parts can help with this.
For younger children: Introduce young children to a character (puppet / soft toy) and explain that he / she needs help with getting ready for school. Tell them you want them to give him some instructions to help.
Ask children: what are some of the things you do before you come to school? As each suggestion is made (i.e. have breakfast, get dressed, brush your teeth), ask children to break these down into parts and give the correct instructions (e.g. if he needs to brush his teeth, we should tell him to: put the toothpaste on the brush, brush his teeth, rinse the brush). Concentrate on a small number of steps and simple language, using actions to help reinforce the steps. Chant the instructions and actions several times, before repeating with a different activity (e.g. getting dressed).
For older children: Learn a dance that has a series of steps, and then talk about how this can be broken down into parts, to make it easier to remember. Children could come up with different names for the different parts, or a child could be in charge of learning a dance or part of a dance and teaching it to the rest of the family.
For advanced learners: Fermi problems: Fermi problems are ones that initially sound impossible to answer, but a reasonable solution can be reached if they are broken down into a series of related questions whose answers can be estimated. A famous example is: ‘How many piano tuners are there in England?’, which can be answered by estimating (or making assumptions) about the population of England, how many households (on average) have a piano, how often pianos need to be tuned, how many can be tuned in a day, etc. Set pupils a similar problem (e.g. how many hairs are there on a dog?; how many mobile phone calls are being made at this exact moment?), and ask them to think of ways it could be solved, by breaking it down into simpler questions.
Here’s a supporting link for this: https://www.mathcircles.org/files/Fermi_Estimates_Lesson_Plan.pdf
And some example Fermi problems:
How many hairs are there on an average dog?
How many mobile phone calls are being made at this exact moment?
If everyone in our school lay head to toe in a straight line, where in the UK could the last person’s toes be?
How many words are there in the book you are currently reading? How many letters? How many times does the letter ‘e’ appear?
How old would you be if you have lived for exactly 1 million seconds?
How many blades of grass are there on a football pitch?
If you had a stack of £2 coins which was as tall as you, how much money would you have?
How much water does your household use each week?
How many times would your bicycle wheel turn if you rode from home to school?
(8) Spot patterns: The ability to recognise patterns is important in computing, to help with efficiency. If programmers can spot similarities between different problems, or even between the steps of an algorithm, they can reuse the same solutions or pieces of code instead of always starting from scratch. Pupils might be surprised to learn that this is common practice. There are plenty of opportunities to explore pattern across the curriculum, and it will already be part of many subjects, particularly in Maths, Science and Art and design.
Going on a picnic: Play a game where children suggest food they might bring on a picnic. Decide on a rule but don’t tell them it (e.g., children must suggest food which starts with the same letter as their name) and challenge the children to guess it by telling them whether or not they will be able to come, depending on whether their suggested item fits the rule (e.g. Sally can come if she brings sausages, but Tim wants to bring bananas so he can’t). You could vary this by only letting them come if their suggested food has the same number of syllables as their name, has a double letter somewhere in it, is not yellow, etc.
Spelling sort: Give children a set of words that use different spellings to make the same sound, or give them a silly sentence that contains the words and ask them to identify the words that contain the sound. Challenge them to sort these into groups according to spelling pattern. Older children could do this with prefixes and suffixes; e.g. ant /ent (or –able /-ible).
Extend the activity by asking children to look for similarities within groups, to see whether they can make generalisations about when the different spellings are most likely to be used. (e.g. k is used for the ‘c’ sound before e, i and y.)
(9) Abstraction: Abstraction involves removing unnecessary information. It helps us to solve a problem by focusing only on the relevant details. An example is the London Tube map, which shows the order of stations along the different lines, as well as the point at which they intersect, but doesn’t include information about the distance between them or their relative locations.
Quick draw: Play a game where one child has to draw an object in the room as quickly as possible, while the everyone guesses what it is (as in the board game Pictionary). Give them a time limit to see how many drawings they can guess in one minute, or have teams race against each other. Afterwards, compare the drawings with the original objects and look at which details did / didn’t need to be included. What is the simplest version that can still be recognised?
Give me a clue: Vary the quick draw game (above) by instead asking children to think of an object they can see, and giving clues about what it is. Again, focus on giving the least detail (or the fewest words) possible to describe the object, and comparing different versions.
(10) Spend time away from screens: With the amazing array of things which technology is capable of, it is easy to spend lots of time on screens when having to stay at home. WE all know that too much time looking at screens, especially close to bedtime, can impact on sleep as well as eye sight. Make sure that you and your children spend time chatting, playing, reading and (if you are fortunate enough to have outside space) getting some vitamin D through being in the Spring sunshine.