Tag: communityELC


Dundee practitioner, Judi Regan has very kindly shared resources for some wonderful Code-a-pillar play activities for early level learners. If you were at SLF 2019, you may have been lucky enough to attend her seminar. Among the resources, there are the ‘human’ Code-a-pillar arrows for children to wear. Judi them laminated these and added string for children to wear to remind them which ‘direction’ they were during unplugged CS play and also when creating their algorithms with the Code-a-pillar . The children would decide on the directions the Code-a-pillar was to travel, and form a line, holding on to the person in front. The ‘head’ would listen for each child in turn to call out their ‘direction’ and would then move in that way to make the ‘human’ Code-a-pillar travel. This could be extended by planning in advance how to reach a particular object/area; recreating the actual Code-a-pillar algorithm and moving alongside as it moves or making a plan for moving in a shape, e.g., “let’s see if we can get our human Code-a-pillar to move in a square shape?”

We have popped all of Judi’s resources into a folder on OneDrive, you can access and download here.


by Susan Ward, DHT Kingsland Primary, Scottish Borders

Finding the time for computing science can be tough. With a slimmed-down recovery curriculum to contend with and a ‘to do’ list stretching to infinity and beyond, primary teachers could be forgiven for consigning CS lessons to the ‘would be nice’ pile rather than firmly rooted in the weekly plan’s must haves.

But computing science is too important to be sidelined.

There’s a viral video doing the rounds just now of a toddler demanding that an Amazon Echo play her favourite song (Baby Shark, in case you’re wondering). The person filming watches with great amusement as the little girl talks to the machine as if it is alive: “Alexa, play my favourite song!” When Alexa obliges, the little girl claps her hands in delight: “Alexa you my friend!” she squeals.

And as any stumped parent will tell you, ‘asking Google’ quickly becomes a regular response to the steady stream of “But why?” enquiries from curious offspring from their earliest days.

The message inadvertently given to children is that technology knows best, that Google and Alexa are the smart ones, that they just magically “know”.

The point here is that to a generation used to asking machines to do everything from play CBeebies to shutting the curtains, making computing science visible becomes a real struggle. Technology is now so integrated into the fabric of everyday lives it becomes unseen, unknowable, just ‘there’.

In the absence of good-quality computing science teaching, we are faced with a generation growing up who will believe Alexa is the ghost in the machine. All-seeing and all-knowing, machines will provide all the answers and children won’t think to question how they know.

But if our children and young people don’t know how the machines work, how can they design them to work better?

Teaching children to think computationally is essential learning and should start as young as possible. Children in nursery can understand the importance of sequencing and pattern making, the idea that instructions have to be clear and sensible. Tinker tables where children can take machines apart and look inside make technology visible and encourage curiosity about how things work. Like the technology all around us, the principles of computing science are woven into our everyday lives. We just have to show our children where to look.

There are lots of nifty gadgets out there that can help and one of the best and most underused is the humble Bee-Bot. Sturdy enough to cope with enthusiastically sticky hands yet sophisticated enough to demonstrate simple programming, Bee-Bots are a brilliant option. In our school, P4 learned to program using Bee-Bots, initially by using paper ‘fakebots’, available free from Barefoot Computing, to design and debug before moving onto the real thing. Problem-solving and collaborative working were in plentiful supply as children sought out and tested their own solutions.

Once confident in their programs, P4 created some furry costumes and story mats and, in the era before class bubbles, they were able to head to nursery to teach the younger children what they had learned. Big fans of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen, the Bee-Bots became bears and the nursery children learned how to program the bears to go through the swishy grass and oozy mud, just like in the story.

This is a small example of how computing science can open doors to learning and collaboration across the curriculum and across your school. It is a great leveller, a chance for children to shine in unexpected ways when the pursuit of a logical solution becomes a shared goal.

Computational thinking doesn’t require lots of resources or even constant access to a computer. It’s not about ‘doing coding’. We can grow problem solvers, careful sequence checkers, creative thinkers and logical predictors long before the word ‘algorithm’ is ever mentioned.

Showing children and young people how machines work, drawing back the curtain on the ‘magic’ and opening their eyes to the amazing and inspiring power of computational thinking will ignite your classroom and the potential that lies inside every child.

When you get right down to it, computing science is about careful attention to a problem and the curious and methodical pursuit of an effective solution.


What weekly plan cannot make space for that?


Dedridge Primary School, West Lothian shared this wonderful example of how early level learners created algorithms to programme BeeBots to retell the nativity story at Christmas time. How many areas of the curriculum can you identify in this clip? 

We would love to continually add examples of how you are embedding computing science through play in ELC settings and with the young learners you are working with. Please click on this link to share your examples of unplugged computing science and how children are exploring programmable devices if you have access to them 


There is so much maths in computing and that presents excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. Why not plan to introduce directional language through these engaging challenges form code.org? Learners simply drag blocks of ‘code’ together like jigsaw pieces to solve mathematical puzzles. There’s help videos and hints for each challenge and even an educator section to support you teaching it.

Here are some great places to start your maths/coding adventure:

Pre-reader challenges – Ice Age

The Ice Age-themed ‘pre-reader’ challenges only ask learners to use one or two blocks of code at a time and the directions are represented by arrows, so they can start to code without needing to read.

Play it

Introducing directional words – Star Wars

This Star Wars-themed challenge introduces the use of directional words on screen. So as your learners develop confidence with directional language, they can try more challenging code too.

Play it

Exploring degrees – Frozen

This Frozen-themed challenge introduces the use of degrees and angles to control the characters on screen.

Play it