A lot of people will often say they can’t introduce Computing into their school because they simply don’t have the hardware to do so. However, it’s very easy to teach Computing skills without even touching a computer. On this page you’ll find practical, easy-to-implement ideas which teach a variety of computing-related skills and can be used across several different subjects.
Tweet as a Famous Person
Ask the children to send a Tweet as a fictional or historical figure. This will make them think about how to use social media as well as make them think about what the person they’re imitating would say. You don’t need a Twitter account for this, just tell the children they have 140 characters to create a Tweet.
Create a Fake Facebook Profile
A quick Google search for “Facebook profile template” will give you a template you can print out. Asking the children to fill this profile in as a famous person or fictional character is great for character descriptions.
Use A Jam Sandwich
I introduce\ coding by placing some bread, a jar of jam and a knife on a table and asking the children to tell me how to make a jam sandwich. When they say “spread the jam” I smear it all over the table with my hand, forcing them to think about giving specific instructions such as “spread the jam over the bread using the knife”. It’s always a fun lesson that the children enjoy.
Here is a video of a “jam sandwich lesson” in progress.
Use A BeeBot
Ask the children to input code into a BeeBot to send it to different locations. This works really well if you have a play mat with buildings on it that you can place on the floor. This will teach children to be specific when giving directional instructions to a computer and make them think about building code.
You can teach children to use Computing terminology such as “forwards, backwards, turn” by asking them to write directions for each other to follow from one classroom to the other. You can encourage computational thinking by asking them to simplify their code to move from Point A to B in the smallest number of steps.
e-safety is an important part of the Computing curriculum, why not ask your children to design a poster about e-Safety.
Similarly, you can ask the children to write a story or playscript about e-safety.
Design a Website Homepage
When studying information texts or non-chronological reports, instead of asking the children to design a leaflet, ask them to draw the homepage for a website using Links instead of subheadings.
Ask the children to write an instruction guide for using a computer or particular software.
Ask the children to identify different uses for technology in everyday life. This will allow them to realise that coding is almost everywhere, even in traffic lights and door scanners.
Impact of Technology
Can the children think of alternative ways to contact somebody if there was no technology? How would they get information without the internet? How would they organise an event? Asking the children to explore different questions such as this will help them to be more aware of the impact of technology in everyday life.
A Technological Timeline
It’s difficult for children to understand how fast technology is developing. Asking them to research older versions of technology can give them a deeper understanding of how new processes and devices work.
Design an App
After you’ve studied a topic with the children you could ask the to plan an app related to that subject. This would allow them to think about different aspects of ICT such as the format of the app, how they’d copyright their digital work and how it could be made.
Develop a Marketing Scheme with Social Media
This might be more for older students who study marketing in more depth but you could ask the children to devise a marketing scheme that incorporates social media. They would have to considor the budget they’ve got to spend on advertising, which demographic to target and how to write a catchy headline.
Write an E-mail
e-Communication is also a key part of the computing curriculum but you don’t need a computer to develop this skill. Ask the children to simply write out an e-mail with their intended audience in mind. This allows them to considor the language they’d use (formal/informal) and can lead to discussion about including certain information since they can’t guarantee who’ll see the e-mail.
Improvements to Technology
Host a competition and ask the children to come up with an inventive way to improve either the use of technology or the hardware itself (braille keyboards etc). This can lead to a deeper knowledge of how computers are used and why they’re developed certain ways.
Draw a simple algorithm on the board or ask the children to devise their own algorithms. Then ask them to either improve your algorithm or peer assess their friends, focusing on making the algorithm as efficient as possible.
Debug a Problem
Show the children a simple algorithm or basic code and ask them to debug it. This will make them think about each step until they find where the problem is and teach computational thinking as well as introduce terminology such as debugging.
Give the children a list of animals or shapes and ask them to sort them into different groups based on their unique properties.
Allocate each child a number in the class and then ask them to sort themselves into order from smallest to largest. Then ask them to sort themselves into a different pattern (all 3x table sit down or remove prime numbers). You can ask children to predict where they think they’ll end up before they move.
One of my favourite ways to teach branching databases is to give the children a long list of possible answers and have them play 20 questions to eliminate the possibilities until they find the right answer. I always draw the branching database on the board as we progress.
Compare and Contrast
The Computing curriculum states that children have to learn to identify valid information on the internet and which websites are best to use. Print off several different webpages and ask the children to annotate them and identify which is most appropriate to answer a question (that you’ve given them).
Pass The Parcel
Arrange the children in a line or shape around the room and ask them to pass an object from one end to the other. Ask them to identify the quickest way of completing this activity. This will teach computational thinking as they logically solve problems and find the simplest way (or code) to solve the problem.
When asking the children to write code (instructions, directions etc) ask them to make basic predictions about what will happen if they are faced with certain situations. This will allow you to develop their programming skills as they considor different variables.
Light a Bulb
Whilst it’s a good idea to make the children use coding software to light a bulb. You can introduce basic circuits in Computing by allowing them to put together the basic components to light a bulb using a circuit. You can then ask them to compare which is easier, lighting a bulb using a computer or a circuit.
Teach Input and Output with a TV
Teaching children to understand the function of “input” and “output” is arguably easier when you don’t use a computer in my opinion. Explain to the children that input ultimately affects the output and use physical electronic devices to demonstrate this. Simply flick a light switch and explain the output (light on or off) or press the power button (input) on your board remote to switch it on or off (output.)
Gathering data is generally easier using a data logger because the computer does the work for you, but teaching the children the appropriate questions to ask when gathering data can be achieved by creating a simple survey and conducting it with their classmates.
Draw a Shape
As children can’t use a knife in school to make a jam sandwich, ask them to work in pairs and have one partner tell the other exactly how to draw a shape. This will help them understand that they need to be specific when giving instructions and incorporate measurements (angles, lengths etc) when coding.
Variables (a quantity which can be changed by different factors) are an important part of any coding project but they can also be difficult to teach. I’d recommend giving a child a bag of mixed shapes and explaining that each time he pulls out a circle he will receive 1 point but each time he pulls out a different shape he will lose 1 life. This is a good way to introduce variables, especially when using Scratch to code a game with a points system.
Picture Fortune Tellers
Allow the children to make picture fortune tellers and then allow them to use them in class. This will help them learn that certain sequences have certain outcomes and you can ask them to make predictions (after a couple of turns) about what outcome a new sequence will have based on the knowledge they’ve gained from previous sequences.
It’s very possible to teach computing skills without a computer as long as you focus on teaching Computational Thinking and focus on the different skills needed to successfully use a computer. Using the ideas on this page, you’ll introduce the children to coding skills, e-Safety and e-Communication, database management and data collection. Once the children have these skills, they’ll be able to access the Computing curriculum with a much greater knowledge.