Tag Archives: coding

5 Reasons to Teach Offline Coding Activities

Offline coding activities are an excellent way to introduce children to programming concepts. Consider the inclusion of unplugged exercises to promote computational thinking. These can be interwoven throughout a coding unit or as a jump-off point prior to beginning a project. Refer to the bottom of the article for a free offline coding activity from the technology project TechnoTales published by TechnoKids Inc.

Why Teach Offline Coding Activities?

Why teach offline coding activities when kids can use apps to build their own scripts and watch them run? Isn’t hands-on learning by building scripts more meaningful?

It is true. There are many apps and text-based editors that are ideal for teaching children about programming. Primary or elementary students will find Scratch Jr or Scratch a fun and easy way to create interactive stories and animated scenes using color-coded blocks. As well, middle or high school students will enjoy writing scripts to build a web page using HTML or a simple game in Python.

In these cases, the focus of instruction tends to be upon knowing the function of coding blocks or commands. However, a prerequisite skill to coding is the ability to decompose complex tasks, express ideas using symbols, sequence steps, apply logic, and plot coordinates. This is where offline coding activities are beneficial. They remove the emphasis from the technology and instead place it upon computational thinking skills.

Consider the four ways offline coding activities can provide a foundation for learning about programming:

Divide a Task into a Set of Instructions

A program is a set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Most have many parts that work together to complete a task. Before students can start to build scripts, they must first have the ability to divide a task into smaller pieces. Offline coding activities that have students make an ordered list of steps are a great way to teach decomposition. For example, writing how-to instructions, recipes, or directions will help students develop the analytical skills required to think like a programmer.

Form a Connection Between Symbols and Ideas

A programmer writes code which is like a secret language. They use commands in the form of symbols, keywords, or phrase to produce a set of instructions. This requires an abstract way of thinking. Offline coding activities can help students represent ideas using objects. For example, writing directions to reach a specific destination using up ↑, down ↓, left ←, and right → arrows is an ideal way to practice expressing an idea using symbols.

offline coding activities

Offline coding activities help students to think like a programmer. Design a set of instructions to move the knight to a place on the map.

Sequence Steps

The commands in a script must be sequenced to complete a specific task. A programmer must determine what should happen and when. Offline coding activities that require students to order items is one way to develop a systematic way of thinking. For example, sequencing story events, listing significant milestones chronically, or reorganizing stages of a life cycle are some ways to foster logical reasoning.

Apply Logic Reasoning to Control an Outcome

Some parts of a program will only run if a condition is true. Conditional logic can be complex to code for beginners. Offline activities that connect daily life to if-then statements are one way to establish understanding of this concept. For example, students can identify what happens if a power button is pushed on a tv, the school bell rings, or the teacher is talking. These common occurrences will help students understand how conditions are used to control events.

Plot Coordinates to Position Objects

The function of some programs is to place or move objects. This may be done to control the action of a robot, video game player, or character. This requires an understanding of x and y coordinates to plot the movement. Typically, plotting ordinals is not taught until middle school. However, some coding apps such as Scratch require this knowledge to animate objects efficiently. Fun offline coding exercise can help provide a foundation for understanding how to position objects. For example, identifying a location on a map using longitude and longitude is one way to establish the purpose of coordinates. Another option is to design a dot-to-dot drawing on a grid that has an ordered list of x and y values for each dot.

Free Offline Coding Activity

If you are interested in helping students develop computational thinking skills download the free offline coding activity Design Your Own Quest. It is from the technology project, TechnoTales. In the activity, students write instructions to move a knight to a specific place on the map using up ↑, down ↓, left ←, and right → arrows.

TechnoTales uses Scratch Jr to animate a modern fairy tale. Scripts are used to tell the story of a hero that embarks on a quest to solve a problem. The character must find a hidden item and a helper to live happily ever after. This fun storytelling activity blends creative writing with coding. The lessons are ideal for primary and elementary students.

free coding activity

Code an interactive story using Scratch Jr. Download a free offline coding activity.

NEW! TechnoTales Coding Activities for Beginners

TechnoTales is a new STEM project by TechnoKids Inc. It includes coding activities for beginners. Primary and elementary students in Grades 2-4 follow the detailed instructions to create a modern fairy tale using Scratch Jr. They learn how to build scripts to animate the story action.

coding activities for beginners

TechnoTales has coding activities for beginners. Build scripts to create an interactive story.

Blend Creative Writing With Coding

The lessons in TechnoTales guide students through the writing process. The project begins with an exercise that forms a connection between storytelling and scripts. Next, students answer questions about an example fairy tale to recognize the story elements. Once familiar with the task, they use a planning sheet to select the setting, characters, and plot. Afterwards, step-by-step instructions explain how create the story pages. A checklist is used to help students review the completed fairy tale to make revisions. Upon completion, the Techno Tale is shared with viewers.

story planner for a coding unit

Imaginative resources support learning.

Storytelling and Coding Activities for Beginners

TechnoTales gradually introduces students to programming concepts. Each story page applies a different coding technique:

Page 1 – Once Upon a Time: Introduce the problem in the story. Animate the hero embarking on a quest using Motion and Looks blocks.
Page 2 – Find a Hidden Item: Engage the viewer. Tap objects on the story page to reveal a hidden item that will help the hero.
Page 3 – Get Help: Seek someone that will help to solve the problem. Count the number of steps to produce an animated sequence that triggers an event when characters bump each other.
Page 4 – Happily Ever After: Create the story ending. Send and receive messages to show the characters celebrating.

Download Scratch Jr to Complete TechnoTales

To use the coding activities in TechnoTales you must have Scratch Jr installed on your devices. Scratch Jr is a free coding app for iPad, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. The interface is designed specially for children. To introduce programming concepts, colored blocks are sequenced together to form scripts. It is fun and easy to build interactive stories, animated scenes, and games.

Scratch Jr interface

Combine coding blocks to build scripts that animate the story action.

Teach Coding to Kids Using TechnoTales Instructional Resources

When you purchase TechnoTales, you will receive:

  • Teacher Guide: Detailed instructions for teaching a coding unit provide tips and strategies.
  • Student Workbook: Digital worksheets with screenshots and illustrated scripts support learning.
  • Example Videos: Sample fairy tales created with Scratch Jr help students gain an understanding of the task and spark inspiration.
  • Scratch Jr Flashcards: Large colored or black and white coding blocks can be used to build scripts as a visual aid.
  • Review Questions: Multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer questions assess knowledge of Scratch Jr tools and scripts.
  • Skill Reviews: Optional activities solidify learning by transferring skills to a new coding project.
  • Assessment Tools: Customizable checklists and marking sheets evaluate the fairy tale.
  • Extension Activities: Enrichment lessons challenge students to expand their coding skills.
  • Offline Coding Exercises: Board game that applies computational thinking to have a player complete a quest.

Teaching If Then Statements, Make Real World Connections

Make real world connections when teaching if then statements to beginners. If then statements are conditionals. A conditional is an action that occurs if something specific happens. If then statements are used in programming to trigger a set of instructions.

teaching if then statements

Before learning how to code if then statements, students need to understand the logic.

If then statements can be a difficult concept for young children to understand. To help them comprehend the logic, compare it to situations in their daily life. For instance, you may go home from school but only if it is the end of the day – then you can leave. Or you may get a treat, but only if you eat your dinner – then you can have a cookie.

Teaching If Then Statements to Beginners

Think about a school day. IF an event occurs THEN what happens?

  • if it is math class then ___
  • if it is library day then ___
  • if the fire alarm rings then ___
  • if the teacher is talking then ___

Think about a sporting event. IF an event occurs THEN what happens?

  • if the referee blows the whistle then ___
  • if a time limit is reached then ___
  • if a racer crosses the finish line first then ___
  • if a player touches a friend during tag then ___
  • if a soccer ball goes out of bounds then ___

Think about weather. IF an event occurs THEN what happens?

  • if it is hot then wear ___
  • if it is cold then wear ___
  • if it is rainy then wear___

Think about your daily life. IF an event occurs THEN what happens?

  • if the clock alarm goes off in the morning then ___
  • if you do not clean your room then ___
  • if the traffic light is red then ___

Think about gadgets. IF an event occurs THEN what happens?

  • if a cell phone battery charge is 0 then ___
  • if a person forgets to sign out of a device then ___
  • if the microwave reaches the time set for cooking then ___
  • if the SHIFT key is pressed when typing a letter then ___
  • if the Fill tool is clicked by the mouse in a drawing program then ___

Teaching If Then Statements using Scratch

When teaching if then statements it is essential that students understand the logic FIRST – before programming begins. Once connections have been made to daily life, students are ready to build scripts with if then coding statements. The if then coding block in Scratch, a coding app for children, can be used to direct the action in animated scenes, puzzles, or games. It uses blocks that are joined together to form scripts. The if then coding block has a blank spot that is filled with the condition.

if then coding block in Scratch

if then coding block in Scratch

In Scratch the if then condition can be:

  • if a sprite is touching another sprite
  • if a sprite touches the mouse pointer
  • if a sprite reaches the edge of the stage
  • if a sprite touches a color
  • if one color is touching another color
  • if a keyboard key is pressed
  • if the mouse button is pressed down
  • if a value equals an amount
  • if a value is less than an amount
  • if a value is greater than an amount

Lessons to Teach If Then Statements

Are you interested in teaching a coding unit that applies if then logic? TechnoCode uses if then statements to have students build scripts to control the action of characters. Several assignments use conditionals:

  • Animated Fish Tank: Sense if a sprite is touching a specific fish. If it is, then alter movement. Children can program the sprite to swim to a new spot, change direction, or spin.
  • Maze: Sense if a sprite touches a color outside the path. If it is, then move back to stay inside the path.
  • Game: Sense if a player touches a target. If it does, then increase the score.
  • Game: Determine if a final score in a game is greater than a value. If it is, then display a message such as “You won!”

How to Create a Timer in Scratch, Game Design

Want to know how to create a timer in Scratch to set a time limit for a game? Follow the instructions to create a counter that tracks each second that passes. When a specific time is reached, the timer stops counting and the game ends.

create a timer in Scratch

Create a timer in Scratch to set a time limit for a game.

About the Scripts and Your Game

The directions listed below explain how to add a timer to an existing Scratch project. You may need to adjust the scripts slightly to suit your game.

About the Timer Variable

The script requires the use of a variable. A variable is a factor that can change. Create a timer variable. It will be used to hold the number of seconds.

Scratch Coding Blocks Used to Create a Timer

Scratch has several coding blocks that you will use to build the script:

change my variable by 1 Increase the (timer) variable by a specified amount.
Reset the (timer) variable to zero when a new game begins.
Display the timer variable to see the counter.
repeat until Do an action until the something specific happens (time limit is reached).
An operator that tests if the first value (seconds that have passed) equals the second value (time limit).

About the Timer Script

Before making the variable and building the script it is important to understand how the timer script works. Study the script below.

Does the timer equal 15? If no, wait 1 second and then increase the timer by 1 second. Repeat until the timer equals 15.

Code used to create a timer in Scratch.

Code used to create a timer in Scratch.

Game Design with a Timer Video

Watch the video to understand how a timer can be used to set a time limit for a game. If this is a coding project that you would like to make, TechnoCode has a game design coding unit. The instructions explain how to build scripts to have a player touch targets to earn points. The lessons also include a planning sheet, game consultant checklist, coding journal log, Scratch quiz, and marking sheet.

How to Create a Timer in Scratch

Create a Timer Variable

  1. Open the saved game project in Scratch.
  2. Select the sprite that you will use to track the time (it might be the player).
  3. From the Variables palette, click Make a Variable.
  4. Type timer as the variable name. Click OK.
  5. Create a timer variable.

    Create a timer variable.

  6. Select the timer variable to display it.
  7. Use your skills to build this script:
    How do you want the script to start? Notice that in the sample script below, it begins with when I receive play game. This is a broadcasted message that you may have already created. If the broadcast message was not made, you can use the when Go clicked Hat block. To learn about broadcasting read the post, How to Broadcast a Message in Scratch.
  8. Set the time limit using an Operator block.

    Set the time limit using an Operator block.

    Tip to Setting the Operator Coding Block:

    • View the Operator palette.
    • Drag __=50 into the if-then block if-then.
    • Edit the number of seconds to the time limit. For example, 15.
    • View the Variable palette. Add the timer. timer

    Test the Timer

  9. Play the game. When done, click Stop.
    • Does the timer increase when one second passes?
    • Does the timer stop when it reaches the time limit?

    Set the Timer to Zero When a New Game Begins

  10. Play the game again. Does the timer start at zero? NO, it doesn’t.
  11. Select the sprite that tracks the time.
  12. From the Variables palette, add set my variable to 0 to the start of a script. Click the Variable arrow and select timer.
  13. Add a coding block to reset the timer.

    Add a coding block to reset the timer.

    WHERE SHOULD THE CODING BLOCK GO? Notice where the set timer to 0 block is located in the script above. It was placed after the when Go clicked Hat block of an existing script. Look at your scripts. Where should it be placed in your game?

  14. Play the game again. The timer should start at 0.

Programming Lessons – Coding Units

Interested in Scratch lessons? Learn more about TechnoCode published by TechnoKids Inc. TechnoCode is a technology project that includes a teacher guide, workbook, and resource files. Use the instructional materials to teach a coding unit to students in Grades 6-9.

TechnoCode lessons