One hour at a coding playgroup, time slips away very quickly because the major portion of the coding class is spent on ‘unplugged activities’ like listening to instructions, following instructions (dancing) and giving instructions (singing).
When we introduce the concept of instructions, and what it is and why it is so important in coding, nothing gets that message across more effectively than actually dancing, listening to and singing songs like Simon Says.
The coding facilitator plays Simon Says with the preschoolers and explains why being able to follow instructions and to give clear instructions is essential when it comes to programming their own stories.
One of our favourite Simon Says videos to dance to is by The Kiboomers:[youtube id=”lob3Q7TKmQQ” width=”400″ height=”250″ autoplay=”no” api_params=”” class=””]
We watch this video and sing and dance along to it. The kids absolutely love it. And it teaches them how to be great listeners and this is demonstrated when some of the kids continue to do things even when the instruction like ‘wiggle your hands’ is said without Simon Says proceeding it.
Playing Simon Says introduces simple commands or instructions like ‘Simon says, Jump Up’, ‘Simon says, lift up your right leg’ and so on. Once we have mastered following and giving simple instructions then we play ‘Program the Robot’ and the Robot can be the children or the facilitator.
Another fun and favourite activity is playing the Program the Robot game. This is where the facilitator will verbally program the ‘robots’ aka the children to perform specific actions like ‘Move forward 5 steps’ and not just ‘move forward’. We take turns being the programmer and the robot so we all get to practice giving clear and specific instructions and following such instructions. This activity reinforces the importance of being specific and ordered when it comes to programming, that is, telling the computer what to do and for how many times.
Then we proceed to spending some time on our devices and the things we have learnt playing Simon Says and Program the Robot, we code them as Scratch Jr stories. So the preschooler with their parent sit down and have fun using Scratch Jr, and program a simple sequence like telling the Scratch Jr Cat to ‘move right 5 steps then move left 5 steps’. This is where the little fingers move faster than their parents and they intuitively start snapping together code blocks to recreate their favourite Simon Says activity.
So, preschoolers get to learn about important programming concepts at a coding playgroup in a fun ‘plugged and unplugged’ way.
Related Article: What is a Coding Class for Preschoolers with Parents