Lesson 3: Precise instructions

In this 'unplugged' lesson instead of using technology, the children physically assume the roles of programmer (giving instructions) and Bee-Bot (carrying out the instructions)

Before the lesson

Watch

  • Teacher video: Precise instructions

Have ready

  • Presentation: Precise instructions (see Attention grabber, Main event and Wrapping up)
  • One charged Bee-Bot
  • A large space, the school hall or playground
  • Several coloured cones, this will depend on the size of the space you are using

Print

  • Activity: Bee-Bot mask and controller (see Classroom resources) – one per group of three pupils, laminated if desired

Download classroom resources

Activity: Bee-Bot mask and controller
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Learning objective

  • To plan and follow a set of instructions precisely

National curriculum

Pupils should be taught to:

  • Understand what algorithms are; how they are implemented as programs on digital devices; and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions

Success criteria

  • I can take on all of the following roles:
    • Bee-Bot (following instructions given by the controller)
    • Controller (giving instructions to the Bee-Bot)
    • Judge (checking that the instructions given by the ‘controller’ are correct)

Cross-curricular links

  • Nothing relevant to this lesson

Attention grabber

This lesson is ‘unplugged’, which means that the children will not be using technology but instead will act out how technology works.

The real Bee-Bot moves 15 centimetres for each instruction.  You need to make it clear to the children how far they will go for one instruction. You could say, for example, that for each command they move three steps. This gives them a sense of having moved in a direction and will work for most of the lesson.  A slightly different approach will be needed for the Wrapping up as is explained.

Display Presentation: Precise instructions.

 

Presentation: Precise instructions

Show on your interactive whiteboard

Display slide 3 of the Presentation: Precise instructions and show the children the Activity: Bee-Bot mask and controller, which comprises a cardboard Bee-Bot mask and a Bee-Bot controller. Explain that the children are going to be set a task that will show how good they are at following instructions. Ask who they think will be better at following instructions – Bee-Bot or them?

The children will work in groups of three and each group will be given a mask and a controller from the Activity: Bee-Bot mask and controller.

Display slide 4 and explain that it is a rotational activity, so that at any one time during the lesson, each person in the group has a role as follows:

  1. Controller, who gives the instruction and presses the corresponding button on the cardboard controller.
  2. Bee-Bot, who listens to and watches the Controller press the button on the cardboard controller and then follows the instructions accordingly.
  3. Judge, who listens and watches the instructions being given and what the Controller does to make sure they are correct, ie: press ‘x’ (clear) and ‘Go’.

Place cones at random all over the large space you are using. These are for the children to direct their partner to, without bumping into another group of three or going in the wrong direction on their way.

 

Key question

  • Who would like to be a human Bee-Bot and follow the instructions we have come up with?

 

Main event

Show slide 5 of the Presentation: Precise instructions. To begin with, tell the children that when they are the Controller, they should only give the human Bee-Bot one directional arrow at a time. An example would be pressing on the cardboard controller as follows:

‘x’ (clear) > ‘forward’ (direction) > ‘Go’

This is to get the children used to pressing ‘clear’ every time and ‘Go’ to get their code to run. Get the children started and observe to check that they have got the hang of it and are swapping roles.

Stop the children when they have conquered giving one direction using ‘x’ and ‘Go’ and are ready for a new challenge.

To introduce the new challenge, ask for a volunteer to be your Bee-Bot.

Show slide 6. Have a cone in mind, then model pressing two to three directions on your program, then set your volunteer Bee-Bot off! Discuss:

  • What cone did you have in mind?
  • Did they reach it?
  • Did they turn on the spot and not move in the direction of the turn? (When children think about Bee-Bots they often think turning is like you taking a step to your left. In reality, a Bee-Bot stays on the spot and just rotates. If you want to move left one and you’re not facing that direction, you would need to turn to face that direction first and then move forward one to reach that space.)

If your volunteer Bee-Bot did not follow your instructions correctly, take their place and model what should have happened.

Show slide 7 and set groups the task of getting the ‘Bee-Bot’ to chosen cones. The cones should be quite near as the Controller should not enter more than three direction instructions.

The Controller should (secretly) tell the Judge which cone they are aiming for before they give the Bee-Bot instructions by ‘pushing’ buttons on the cardboard controller and saying out loud what the instructions are.

Use a whistle or another signal every few minutes to indicate to children that they need to swap roles within their group.

It’s really important to circulate and listen to what the children are saying and pressing on the cardboard, as clear instructions are crucial at this point both for the Bee-Bot and the Judge.

 

Key questions

  • Which cone did you have in mind?
  • Did they reach it?
  • Did they turn on the spot and not move in the direction of the turn? (When children think about Bee-Bots they often think turning is like you taking a step to your left. In reality, a Bee-Bot stays on the spot and just rotates. If you want to move left one and you’re not facing that direction, you would need to turn to face that direction first and then move forward one to reach that space.)
  • Did you remember to give clear instructions?
  • Did you wait until you were told to GO?
  • Did you direct your partner to where you were meant to?

Differentiation

Pupils needing extra support: Keep executing the programs with single directional commands.

Pupils working at greater depth: Challenge the pupils by starting the Bee-Bot child facing away from the goal.

Wrapping up

Display slide 8 of the Presentation: Precise instructions. Compare the human children Bee-Bot to the Bee-Bot robot.  Write a set of instructions on the board and then input them into the Bee-Bot.

Display slide 9. Ask the children to look at the instructions on the board and tell you where they think the Bee-Bot will stop. Now you will ask for a volunteer to pretend to be the Bee-Bot and to carry out the instructions.  Tell your volunteer to take baby steps (ideally you want them to be moving only 15 centimetres at a time, which will be roughly the length of their foot).  Once your volunteer has carried out the instructions, they should stand still on the spot. You will now press ‘Go’ on the real Bee-Bot and see how close your volunteer was.

Complete this a couple of times with different children. Focus on the clarity of the instructions.

Assessing pupils' progress and understanding

Pupils with secure understanding indicated by: Recognising which buttons are necessary in the sequence of instructions. Predicting correct instructions to reach a pre-planned destination.

Pupils working at greater depth indicated by: Predicting and planning an increasing number of steps. Correcting instructions that do not work first time.

Vocabulary

  • Bee-Bot

  • Precise

  • Instructions

  • Video recording

  • Explore

  • Explain

  • Controller

  • Judge

  • Algorithm

Created by:
Sway Grantham,  
Computing specialist
Sway Grantham (@SwayGrantham) is a Primary School Teacher, a CAS Master Teacher and Specialist Leader in Education for Primary ICT. She also has a BCS Certificate in Computer Science Teaching (Primary). She has written several curricula and conducted research into the…
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