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Dancing To Teach Coding and Algorithms

I love computing and coding, but I always start my computing unit without touching a computer!

The word algorithm seems like a difficult word and concept for young children to understand.” This is what I have heard teachers say before but really, an algorithm is just a set of instructions. If you think about it, we use algorithms in everyday life. An algorithm is a list or set of instructions in to do something.  Think about the start of the school year, we have our set routines, and we make sure that the class understand and follow the instructions in the correct order = algorithms!

My first coding lesson always starts with a dance or routine that the children are into at the time. Dance floss two years ago…check. Foot shake last September… check. This year? I saw a dance on social media that uses a grid with each person that enters the grid, following the same set of instructions, the same algorithm. It looks fab when they get going and is a visual representation of an algorithm.

I start with a chat with the kids about instructions, cause and effect, when and do. I than share a lovely video form the BBC that explains algorithms in its simplest form

Next I show the dance, asking the children if they can figure out the algorithm, what is each dancer doing as they enter the squares? How can we record this? Can we use words/diagrams/pictures? With their table partners, I get the kids to discuss their thoughts. Then, off we go outside to give it a go!

During the practice, if the kids bump into each other, they are encouraged to use the word ‘bug’ and that they need to ‘debug’ their algorithm. The fact is, the kids love going outdoors and having a go at the dance and as a teacher, you step back and take it all in. The smiles, the giggles and as a bonus, the learning and understanding that oozes out is a joy to see.

I posted a video about this lesson on Facebook and within a couple of days, it had over 250,000 views. The best part was the comments from not only computing leads and teachers, but from dance teachers, PE specialist and teachers from all over the world. I even received videos from teachers in Australia, teaching a lesson that I did only a few days before in rainy Bury, being taught all the way on the other side of the world! The uniforms were different, so too the accents of the kids, but what was the same in every video, was the smiles and pure joy of the children taking part in the lesson. For me, that is what its all about.

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The author

Mr Hunt is a primary school teacher who has taught Reception, Year 6 and now a mixed year 3/4 class. He loves creative and innovative ways of teaching to engage children. He is an SLE, specialising in creative and innovative teaching ideas. He shares some of his ideas through his Facebook page and connects with teachers in the UK and around the world. He has presented at various educational conferences and has provided CPD sessions, staff meetings and bespoke twilight sessions. He has also been invited to speak at the international Superpod 6 conference held on San Jaun Island, Washington USA.

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