This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about computer programming. Designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Computational Thinking, you will find ideas for developing related understandings and ways to use other BrainPOP Jr. resources to scaffold and extend student learning.

Today, students must learn to be critical thinkers, using information to innovate, create, and problem-solve. The best way to hone these skills is by identifying and solving real-world problems. Computer programming (coding), which involves explanatory writing, problem solving, math ability, and more, is one way students can acquire and practice critical-thinking skills. Computer programming requires computational thinking — a step-by-step cognitive strategy for approaching and solving problems. Although the ultimate goal of computational thinking is to use the power of technology to improve problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, computational thinking skills have potential in subjects across the curriculum as well as in the real world.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), in considering how to prepare young students to become computational thinkers, have identified the following attitudes as key to computational thinking:

  • Confidence in dealing with complexity
  • Persistence in working with difficult problems
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Ability to deal with open-ended problems
  • Ability to communicate and work with others to achieve a common goal or solution

BrainPOP Jr.’s Computational Thinking movie and its associated features and activities are intended to help your young students understand and practice computational thinking. They encourage students to recognize problems, break them down, identify solutions, and improve upon their solutions.

Review with children that computational thinking is a way to understand and solve problems by breaking them down and creating steps to solve them. Remind them that computational thinking can help them write a computer program, but that they can use it to solve everyday problems, too.

Brainstorm problems with students, such as long cafeteria lines or not finding books they want in the library, and then have them choose one of the problems. Use a problem and solution chart and write down the problem in the header. Prompt them to think about the problem by asking what causes it and write their ideas into the chart. Help them understand that a big problem is often made up of smaller problems. Then, challenge students to think about possible solutions to each cause so that they can solve the main problem. Finally, have them test their ideas and report back on their experiences. Tell them not to be discouraged if a solution didn’t work. Remind them that computational thinkers iterate by making changes to improve on ideas, and test again. There is more than one way to solve a problem and a solution can always be improved.

Explain that computing today makes it possible for people in all different jobs and fields to problem-solve on a very large scale. Skills like computational thinking will be necessary for students to contribute to solving global problems.

For enrichment or extension, we recommend exploring other BrainPOP Jr. movies that address technology, such as Parts of a Computer, Internet Safety, and Computer Programming.