Lesson 1: What’s a network?

Pupils learn what is meant by the terms “network”, “device” and “wireless”, which are essential to their understanding of computer networks

Before the lesson

Note one

The topic, ‘Networks and the internet’, is often the most jargon-heavy for new learners as it is one of the areas we know least about as a society.

This topic will include plenty of vocabulary-based activities and it is important that we constantly model the correct vocabulary and encourage pupils to use it when answering questions.

You may choose to ask the children to create their own glossary/dictionary throughout this unit of work which they can add to as they learn new vocabulary. An example template is included in the Activity: Network glossary in the Classroom resources in this lesson.

Note two

Before the lesson, ensure you know the locations of all the parts of your school network, planning a route beforehand which passes each of these things:

  • network switch
  • wireless access points
  • server 
  • any other networked items, such as printers and photocopiers

Note: You may want to speak to your tech support team to ensure you know where the components are located and draw these on to a spare floor plan to help you locate some of the harder to find items, e.g. the network switch.



  • Teacher video: What’s a network? Part 1 
Teacher video: What's a network? Part 1

  • Teacher video: What’s a network? Part 2 
Teacher video: What's a network? Part 2

  • Teacher video: Network safari
Teacher video: Network safari

Have ready

  • Presentation: What’s a network? (see Attention grabber)
  • Find out where parts of the school network 
  • Print and cut out Component Names for pupils needing extra support
  • If using digital cameras, make sure children have a ‘Google’ login they can use
  • Create a network map for your school based on Resource: Model network map (see Classroom resources)
  • A floor plan of your school (or get children to draw it as part of a Geography lesson )- one per group of two/three pupils
  • Clipboards – one per group
  • (Optional) Tablets with ‘PicCollage’ app installed – one per pair *
  • (Optional) Tablets with ‘BeFunky’ app installed – one per pair **
  • (Optional) Tablets with ‘Pixlr’ app installed – one per pair ***



* App must installed on Android and Apple tablet and on Chromebook as an add-on

** BeFunky is a free online photo editor. BeFunky can be used in an internet browser such as Chrome or Safari or it can be used free on an Android or iPad tablet.

*** Pixlr is a free online photo editor. Pixlr can be used in an internet browser such as Chrome or Safari or it can be used on an Android or iPad tablet.


  • Activity: Networks glossary (see Classroom resources) – one per pupil
  • Activity: Networks sorting (see Classroom resources) – one per table group
  • Resource: Model network map (see Classroom resources) – (optional) one per pair
  • Resource: Network devices answers – (optional) one for the teacher

Download classroom resources

Activity: Networks glossary
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Activity: Networks sorting
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Resource: Model network map
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Resource: Network devices answers
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Learning objective

  • To understand what a network is and understand our school network

National curriculum

Pupils should be taught to:

  • Understand computer networks, including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the World Wide Web, and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration
  • Select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information

Success criteria

  • I know that a network joins things together
  • I can explain the purpose of a network
  • I can include information on what a network is and why we use them
  • I can name the key parts of network
  • I can identify which components are connected
  • I can explain which connections are wired or wireless

Cross-curricular links

English: Speaking and Listening

  • use relevant strategies to build their vocabulary

Attention grabber

Display slide 2 of Presentation: What’s a network? to discuss the Learning objective and Success criteria.

Presentation: What's a network?

Show on your interactive whiteboard

Slide 3: the image of two laptops connected with a line:

Screenshot 2020 08 14 at 10.50.36

Ask: Why would it be useful for laptops to be connected?

Or to give more context, ask: Why would it be useful if my computer were connected to that of another teacher?

Give the children time to talk about this with a partner and then share as a class.

They may say “To send messages to each other” and this is possible, but it’s unlikely you have a program to do this on your laptop. Most messaging programs use the internet and it’s important that the children recognise that the internet and a network are not the same thing.

Slide 4: now, ask the same question but about different devices: a printer and a photocopier. A network doesn’t just connect computers together, but other devices too. Again, it’s best to have photos of things that are within your school that the children may have seen.

Screenshot 2020 08 14 at 10.52.35

Ask: Why is it useful to have these devices connected? What would you do if they weren’t connected? (If the computer wasn’t connected to the printer or photocopier, it wouldn’t be able to print anything.)

Slide 5: if you’re on a wireless connection, point out to pupils that there are no wires connecting your laptop to the printer, yet you can still print. Ask the children to discuss and then mention wireless technology.

Slide 6: your computer is connected to wifi, as is the printer and so these things do not need wires. This does not require the internet to work. If the internet is turned off, you will still be connected to the network.


Key questions

  • Why do we need to connect two computers together?
  • What could we do with two computers connected?
  • What other devices do you think are on our network?
  • Why can’t you see wires connected to a laptop?
  • What is a network?
  • What is a device?

Main event

Slide 7 and 8: Ask the children to explain what a network is and what it’s for. Explain that, as a class, the children are going on a ‘network safari’ around the school. Put the children into groups of two or three and hand out the floor plans you have prepared, making sure the children understand where they are currently. Explain that they will mark the key parts of a network onto their floor plans.

The children should take cameras/tablets with them to take photos of devices that they think are connected to the school network, such as laptops, tablets, desktops, printers, photocopiers, server, network switch, wireless access points, etc.

Once back in the classroom, the children share the photos they have taken with another group and discuss what they think is the purpose of each device on the network.

Slide 9: bring the class together and share a set of photos that you have taken. Start with the devices that the children will be most familiar with and discuss each in turn. Ask:

  1. What is the device called?
  2. What is the device for?
  3. How does the device connect to the network?
  4. Is the device wireless or wired?

Refer to Resource: Network devices answers to help children answer these questions.


Sorting activity

Slide 10: hand out the Activity: Networks sorting to each table and ask the children to discuss the images and definitions. Ask pupils to sort them into three separate groups: Network, Wireless and Device.

Get the children to find appropriate definitions and images to match each of these words, warning them that not all groups may have the same number of pictures or definitions.

A brief definition of each:

  • Network – one or more devices connected together.
  • Wireless – a connection that doesn’t need wires.
  • Device – technology; more than just computers, for example, printers.

Although the images and definitions were added with one of these terms in mind, as long as children can use sound logic to justify why they put them in a specific group, they can sort them in this way. For instance,  they might put a mobile phone in wireless because it doesn’t need wires to connect.


Network map

Slide 11: pupils are going to create a map of the school’s network today.

  • If the children have used tablets, model how to use ‘PicCollage’‘BeFunky’ or ‘Pixlr’ to add the network device photos onto the page and how to add text to name them. When each of the components in the network has been named, get them to draw lines connecting the devices in the way that they think they are connected, using a key (such as dotted lines for wireless and solid lines for wired).
  • If the children have used digital cameras, you can get a set of photos onto your computer, display them on your interactive board, then open them in Google Slides. Work as a class to create a network map, adding text and lines. (If you’re not sure how to do this, take a look at the Year 1 topic Digital Imagery.) Alternatively, if you have time, you can model to the children how to move the photos from the camera into a folder and then get them to use Google Slides to insert the pictures and add text.

Remember that everything connects to the server via the network switch, although wireless items will connect to a wireless access point first then the wireless access point connects to the network switch. The server is the central hub of the network.


Key questions

  • What is a computer network?
  • What is it for?
  • What devices are connected to our network?
  • Why are they connected to our network?
  • Are they connected wirelessly or do they use wires?
  • What’s a server for?
  • What’s connected to the network switch?
  • Is that a router?


Pupils needing extra support: If creating a glossary, allow them to stick in the pictures and definitions used in the Activity: Network sorting. Focus on what a network is over other success criteria.


Pupils working at greater depth: Should explain clearly what a network is and why they are useful in their posters, as well as using appropriate images and layout.

Wrapping up

Show children the completed network map that you created before the lesson.

Ask them to check their connections are in the correct places and change them if not. Also check the wired/wireless connections.

Children now score each other’s posters against the success criteria:

  • I know that a network joins things together
  • I can recognise networks can be wired or wireless
  • I can explain the purpose of a network
  • I can give my poster a clear title
  • I can include information on what a network is and why we use them
  • I can select appropriate pictures, colours and designs

Assessing pupils' progress and understanding

Pupils with secure understanding indicated by: Recognising that a network is two or more devices connected and showing this information in a poster that combines text and images.


Pupils working at greater depth indicated by: Explaining why networks are used and what they’re used for as well as justifying their colour/font/size choices in their poster.


  • Network

  • Wired

  • Wireless

  • WiFi

  • Device

  • Internet

  • Component

  • Laptop

  • Tablet

  • Desktop

  • Printer

  • Photocopier

  • Server

  • Network switch

  • Wireless access points

  • Network map

  • Router

Created by:
Cat Lamin,  
Computing specialist
Cat was a committed primary school teacher for twelve years. After starting her independent consultancy ‘Crossover Solutions’ she has travelled to Argentina, Brazil and America to share her wealth of knowledge of computer science with other teachers. Her enjoyment for…
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