Resource: Monster Maker! https://groklearning.com/hoc/activity/monster-maker/
This activity examines writing a sequence of instructions (algorithms) and can be utilised as a whole class activity. Students write their first programs and draw fun monster characters. Along the way, they are introduced to the concept of algorithms as a sequence of instructions to be followed in a specific order.
Learning experience 1:
It would be beneficial to commence this activity by determining students prior knowledge. For example, asking students what does it mean to program a computer? Then to explain, to program a computer means to give it instructions to follow. Another word for a sequence of step-by-step instructions is an algorithm.
Learning experience 2:
Then, project a YouTube clip that explores a step-step instructions such as someone reading instructions to bake a cake or how to make a Vegemite sandwich. Afterwards, have discussion questions in place such as:
- What algorithm did the children in the video need to write?
- What problems did they run into trying to write their algorithms, and how did they solve those problems.
Then, let students know that they will shortly be having a go at writing their own algorithms. This means that, like the children in the video, they will need to:
- Break a whole problem down into small steps (decomposition).
- Make sure the steps are in the right order.
- Make sure the steps are very precise and specific.
Learning experience 3:
As a class, come up with an algorithm for a common activity (like pouring a bowl of cereal or brushing your teeth). Use this activity to model to the class how they should set out their algorithm —start with a statement defining the problem, and then write out the algorithm as a clear sequence of instructions. For example, step by step instructions for how to brush your teeth.
Next, have students come up with their own algorithms, individually or in pairs. Have example ideas written up on whiteboard for students to reflect on.
Learning experience 4:
Direct students to the Monster Maker activity on the Grok Learning website. This beginner-friendly activity introduces students to the visual programming language Blockly — students use drag and drop blocks to to write and debug their own programs, and draw and colour monsters!
- Students read the interactive notes and solve the coding challenges by writing their own programs.
- Each block is an instruction for the computer to follow. Join the blocks together to create longer algorithms.
- Click the Run button to run and check your code. Click the Mark button to check if you are correct and see instant feedback on your solution!
As students are designing their own monsters in the Playground get them thinking more about sequencing. How many different algorithms can they come up with which all draw the same monster? Sometimes problems have more than one possible solution!
Students learn to build programs by connecting coloured blocks together. This scaffolding allows real coding, but with a simpler interface.
Monster maker has a purchase fee.
Monster maker would need to be explicitly taught/ modelled prior to children completing activity.
Students can read through the notes independently, but depending on grade and reading level, it might be appropriate to go through the notes as a class or have a text to speech technology utilised.