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

Learning how to code helps students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and prepares them for a successful future. Computer programming also empowers young students to create their own projects and learn independence and perseverance in the process. It’s also fun! There are countless apps and websites that teach coding in different ways, so we encourage exploring and finding the resource that works best with your young students.

Review with children that a computer program is a set of instructions that a computer follows to do something. Brainstorm different computer programs together, such as apps, digital toys, movie-making tools, and drawing tools. Explain that writing the step-by-step instructions that a computer follows is called coding. The code tells a computer how exactly to complete a task. Emphasize that the instructions must be very, very clear and written in the right sequence. Together, write instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Be sure you cover every step, including opening the jar of peanut butter and using a knife to scoop it out and spread it on a slice of bread. Point out to students that the step for spreading the peanut butter and jelly has to happen before you put the two slices of bread together. Invite children to write instructions on how to do simple tasks, such as getting ready to go to school, walking a dog, or eating breakfast.

Review with children that coding involves using different instructions. A command is an instruction a computer can follow. For example, in certain coding programs, you can command a character to move one step to the right. A loop is a set of commands that are repeated. So if you want a character to move one step to the right, then another step to the right, and then another step to the right, you might use a loop to show that a command is repeated three times. Remind children that when they code, they might make mistakes, and that’s perfectly fine! Debugging is the process of finding errors and fixing them. Part of the challenge of computer programming is finding mistakes, addressing them, and improving the code. This requires patience and determination.

Remind students that an algorithm is a set of instructions that is used to complete a task. No matter who or what is doing the task, the result is always the same. It may be helpful to think of an algorithm as a recipe for a cake. Anyone can follow the recipe to make the same cake. Algorithms are made up of commands, loops, and other instructions. A computer program might be made up of different algorithms.

Help children recognize that knowing how to use technology is important, but understanding how it works is both exciting and an important skill in today’s digital world, especially as our dependence on technology continues to grow.

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

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