Encoding and decoding with lego blocks
I adapted this activity from the resource I attach with this post. In this activity, students work with patterns made of lego blocks that make up a set of secret codes representing the 26 letters of the alphabet. For example, ‘A’ may be represented by a single blue lego block and ‘B’ by two blue blocks and so on. This can be extended depending on students’ readiness into longer pattern, such as four blue blocks to represent ‘A’ and three blue blocks with one yellow block for ‘B’. For younger years, teachers should make a reference sheet for the codes but in older year levels, students can have a go at creating their own codes. The code sheet would look something like this:
This activity teaches specifically about encoding and decoding text and helps to provide beginning understanding that would extend to how digital texts are communicated.
Application in classroom: Name writing
One lesson idea to incorporate this encoding/decoding activity is to task students to write their names using the secret codes and for another student to decode them back into alphabet. Teacher should explicitly model the activity on the mat before sending the students to do the activity in small groups. Mat session can be used to talk about what is encoding and decoding as well as how they apply to everyday lives, including in Digital Technologies. Using the code sheet for reference, each student would build their names using the lego blocks and place them on top of a place mat. The place mats are then switched with those from another group and each student in the group must decode the name on the place mat given to them.
This activity is suitable for Year 1 students, however, it may also be implemented in Pre-Primary classroom using simpler codes like one lego block to represent one letter (or simple ABAB patterns). Below are some areas of the curriculum (Pre-Primary) that this activity links to:
- Data can have patterns and can be represented as pictures and symbols (ACTDIK002)
- Sort and classify familiar objects and explain the basis for these classifications. Copy, continue and create patterns with objects and drawings (ACMNA005)
The effectiveness of this activity depends on students’ ability to recognise alphabets to write and read names. Most students would be able to write their own names by Pre-Primary, however, reading and writing someone else’s name may be difficult for some students who are not familiar with letters or have strong letter-sound knowledge. For the second part of the activity where they would need to decode a friend’s name, students who are weak in letter and letter-sound recognition will struggle to figure out whose name they are decoding. Diagnostic testing is good to see where students are at with their letters before deciding how to implement this activity.