Tag Archives: coding

NEW! TechnoPython – Python Lessons for Beginners

Do you need Python lessons for beginners? If yes, then you will be happy to learn more about TechnoPython. It is a new programming technology project from TechnoKids. This curriculum resource includes coding activities that are ideal for middle school and high school students.

In TechnoPython, your students become game developers. They learn the Python programming language by building games such as Pet Monster Rescue, Guess It, and Adventure Quest. To conclude the curriculum unit, students share their favorite Python program in a coding presentation.

Not only do the Python lessons teach fundamental programming concepts, but they also spark an interest in computer science. At the same time, the assignments develop soft skills that are highly valued in a programmer, such as curiosity, logical thinking, persistence, and creativity.

TechnoPython has Python lessons for beginners,

Complete Python Programming Missions

In TechnoPython, students learn the Python programming language by completing programming missions. Each mission begins with the basics and then advances to more complex tasks. With this in mind, you can assign one mission or do them all! In fact, TechnoPython offers so much flexibility, you can use the lessons as part of computer science class, programming unit, Python workshop series, or for an Hour of Code.

Coding Jungle Programming Mission

The goal of the Coding Jungle Mission is to gain an understanding of the Python programming language. The mission has four tasks. To start, students experiment with code to learn about the role of a programmer and about terminology. Next, they play the Python Hunt game and edit the program to discover how it works. Afterwards, they develop debugging skills by adding “bugs” or mistakes to the Catch the Bugs game. These assignments are ideal for beginners.

Coding Jungle Mission
Introduce the Python programming language to beginners in the Coding Jungle mission.

Pet Monster Rescue Programming Mission

In the Pet Monster Rescue Mission, students design a program that matches an owner to their ideal pet. The mission has four tasks. First, students learn about strings, integers, and variables so that they understand how to write text and ask questions. Next, they apply this programming knowledge to inform others about the adoption process. Afterwards, they complete a flowchart that outlines the logic needed to match a person to a pet. Finally, they build the decision-making code that determines if a pet with horns, scales, one eye, or many arms is a good fit. This is done by writing if and else statements that use logical operators. These Python lessons for beginners include extra challenges to improve the program and make it unique.

Pet Monster Rescue
Write if statements using logical operators to match a person to their ideal pet.

Guess It Programming Mission

In the Guess It Mission, students build a guessing game. It asks players to guess a number correctly before they run out of chances. Clues tell the player if their answer is too high or low. Coding challenges help students to enhance the game design. They can format the output, create a cheer, keep score, or switch player feedback. This programming mission has six tasks. Programmers combine the random library, loops, and conditionals to build a fun game that players will want to play again and again.

Guess It Mission
Build a guessing game using Python lessons for beginners.

Adventure Quest Programming Mission

In the Adventure Quest Mission, students create a text-based adventure game. It has players explore a strange land to earn coins and collect special objects. The programming mission has nine tasks. To prepare, students learn how to control data entry. This will prevent typing errors from causing bugs. Next, they describe the places players visit when they travel North, South, East and West using functions. To add interest to the storyline, they then apply their programming skills to create a game that has the player pick the correct color to win money.

Game development continues with a treasure hunt. Players travel East to collect objects and store them in a backpack. To prepare for this part of the programming mission, students learn how to add, remove, sort, and count list items. Once this skill is mastered, they create an adventure with loot and hidden dangers. Will the players find treasure or risk losing it all?

Python lessons for beginners
Design a text-based adventure game using the Python programming language.

Teach Programming Skills to Middle and High School Students

Is student engagement important to you? If yes, then TechnoPython is a great way to start teaching the Python programming language. Instead of having students mindlessly copy code snippets, they build unique games. In other words, everyone follows the SAME instructions, but each person creates an original program!

Teach essential programming skills using Python lessons for beginners:

  • build an algorithm using a flowchart that describes the steps in a program
  • write Python code to achieve a specific goal
  • apply debugging techniques to identify and fix errors
  • format the output of program to make it easy to read
  • collaborate with others to review program design
  • name a variable and assign a value
  • prompt the user to input a value for a variable
  • convert a variable from an integer to a string or vice versa
  • manipulate the case of a string to upper, lower, or sentence case
  • calculate the values of variables
  • create an editable list of items; add, remove, sort and count items
  • loop a set of instructions forever or until a condition is met
  • repeat a set of instructions a specific number of times
  • break a loop to stop running a set of instructions
  • control the outcome using if, elif, and else statements
  • trigger actions using logical operators (==, !=, <, >) and True/False values
  • develop a function to run a block of instructions
  • import Python libraries
  • select a random integer or choice

Python Lessons for Beginners

Are you teaching programming to kids? It should be noted, TechnoPython is jam-packed full of Python programming activities. The technology project has:

  • 24 Python Assignments: The TechnoPython assignments are divided into sessions. In each session students complete a programming mission. The assignments have detailed steps, troubleshooting tips, and coding challenges. By following the instructions, students gradually learn how to independently plan, write, and debug original programs.
  • 8 Extension Activities: The extension activities are additional assignments for enrichment. They present a wide range of learning opportunities. Some are programming tasks that introduce a new skill while others are reflections about the coding experience.

What Do I Get with the TechnoPython Technology Project?

Do you want to save time designing your own lessons? TechnoPython has everything you need to teach a computer science unit or hands-on programming workshop:

  • TechnoPython Teacher Guide: The teacher guide has six sessions. It has lessons for teaching each programming mission. As well it includes preparatory steps, teaching strategies, and learning objectives. It also has simple explanations of code snippets to help explain how a program works to children ages 10 and up.
  • TechnoPython Student Workbook: The student workbook is a complete booklet of assignments. This file is in PDF format. Use it to double-side print. Place the instructions into a binder or duo-tang for distribution to students.
  • TechnoPython Student Worksheets: The assignments are available as individual worksheets. These files are in a secure PDF format and require Adobe Reader or Kami to view and annotate. Import these worksheets into an LMS such as Google Classroom or Canvas to create assignments.
  • TechnoPython Resources: TechnoPython includes a folder that has customizable assessment tools, task lists, certificates, templates, and samples.

Simplify Teaching with the TechnoPython Resources

  • 6 Python Reviews: The reviews are quizzes. Questions are true/false, fill-in-the blank, or multiple choice. They assess students understanding of programming terminology, Python commands, or computer science concepts. These files are in a customizable Word/Docs format allowing teachers to add or remove questions.
  • 5 Python Skill Reviews: The skill reviews are additional assignments to solidify learning. They encourage the transfer of knowledge to a new task. Many of the skill reviews in TechnoPython require students to enhance the program built in the session. These files are in a customizable Word/Docs format making it possible for teachers to edit the content.
  • 3 Python Peer Reviews: The peer reviews are question sheets that have students play each other’s games and then provide feedback. They are an excellent way to promote collaboration and celebrate learning.
  • Game Marking Sheets: Each game built using Python has a marking sheet. There is one for Pet Monster Rescue, Guess It, and Adventure Quest. These files are in a customizable Word/Docs format so that teachers can adjust the scoring or criteria.
Quest Task List
Track programming mission progress using a task list that looks like a gameboard.
  • Python Task Lists: The task lists are gameboards with an outline of each part of the programming mission. Students can use them for self-monitoring or to recognize accomplishments. These are available as customizable Word/Docs files, allowing teachers to modify the programming mission.
  • Programming Mission Certificates: Each programming mission has its own certificate to recognize student achievement. These are available as customizable PowerPoint/Slides files. This allows teachers to customize the award by adding the student name or a school logo.
  • Programming Templates: The programming templates are used at the beginning of the TechnoPython technology project. They introduce Python to beginners. Students open the Python file and follow instructions to edit the content.
  • Over 30 Python Program Samples: Every program that students build has an accompanying sample file. These Python files can be used for demonstration purposes to explain the task or inspire learners. They also provide an answer key. For example, all coding challenges have solutions.

Contact TechnoKids to Learn More about TechnoPython

To get started teaching the Python programming language contact TechnoKids today or get TechnoPython right now!

Teach Debugging to Beginners to Build Confidence

It is important to teach debugging to beginners right away. Debugging is when a programmer finds “bugs” or errors in their code and fixes them to improve the program. This is an essential programming skill. So much so, that it should be taught at the beginning of a coding unit.

Where Were the Debugging Strategies in the Instructional Materials and Python Courses?

When I was asked to develop Python materials for TechnoKids Inc. I jumped at the chance. I began to read books about Python. They had titles emphasizing that the instructions inside were for “absolute beginners”. I noticed that none had activities or advice on debugging. Instead, if the code I was copying from the page didn’t work I was left guessing why. It was frustrating!

My reaction was one that I knew students would feel. I worried that young programmers might begin to think “I am not good at programming” when they encountered an error they could not fix. This belief might turn them away from learning more about coding. I knew it was necessary to reframe how students respond to mistakes in their programs. They needed to feel empowered, not defeated.

The books were helpful in understanding the types of instructional materials available to teachers on teaching Python – but I needed to learn more!

I wanted to understand the difference between what young children and young adults were learning about Python. I signed up for a first year course at the university where I did my undergraduate degree. This course did have a section on debugging, but it was at the end of the course. I asked the professor why it was introduced so late and was told it was because beginners could not understand the error messages until they had learned how to code. As a result, I spent a good portion of the course inefficiently applying debugging strategies. I knew there had to be a better way!

When it came time to create the TechnoKids Python STEM projects I had reached a decision…debugging needed to be taught right away. I wanted students to be able to understand the meaning of the errors they would see. More importantly, I knew they needed simple strategies to fix their code.

teach debugging to beginners

Teach debugging to beginners.

What Happens When the Program Keeps Shouting ‘You Are Wrong’…But You Don’t Know How to Make it Right?

When Students Lack Debugging Strategies, Red X’s Tell the Learner They Can’t Code

During my investigation of Python programming with kids I noticed that there were common errors made. These mistakes would trigger several responses by the IDLE Python program. The Python Editor Window, which is where programmers build the code, will display a box with a red x on Windows devices. Those are for syntax or indent errors. In this case, there might be a forgotten bracket or # in front of a comment: simple to fix, but not without knowledge of debugging.

The angry red x’s that show up on the screen mock a novice. Unintentionally they seem to say “you can’t code”. To prevent students from becoming discouraged, teachers should provide strategies for decoding error messages. This will build confidence and promote independence.

syntax and indent error boxes in Python

When a student lacks debugging strategies the Python error messages can be a source of frustration.

When Students Lack Debugging Strategies, They Can’t Find the Problem

Another technique the IDLE Python program uses to assist programmers is to identify a spot within the code where there is an issue. This is accomplished with a reddish-pink box around text. The skilled programmer knows to look BEFORE the highlight.

However, those without debugging strategies can stare at the code forever and never know what is wrong. This is because children and young adults are literal. They look at the reddish-pink text and say “Oh, the problem is right HERE”. Beginners lack sufficient knowledge to locate the error. This shortcoming can easily be overcome by explicitly teaching debugging strategies.

Python error

The word highlighted is not the error. It is the missing bracket BEFORE shape.

When Students Lack Debugging Strategies, Red Text Tells a Beginner They Do Not Understand How to Program

The error response by the IDLE Python program is to show a message in the Python Shell. The text is red. It often tells the programmer there is a name or type error. These errors can occur if a library is not imported, a command is spelled wrong, a variable is not used properly in the code, or a sentence does not use the correct punctuation for joining text with variables. The Python message identifies the line number and reason for the problem. However, with no debugging strategies it can seem like gibberish.

The red text in the Python Shell is the equivalent of using a red pen to grade student work. Many educators have given up this practice as it promotes self-esteem issues, which can turn students away from wanting to learn. Studies have show that for many learners red pen is like ALL CAPS. It yells “You are wrong!” When red text is the method for highlighting errors, it can make a student feel angry or sad. This is avoidable when educators teach debugging to beginners at the start of a coding unit.

Python error messages can seem like gibberish to beginners.

Teach Debugging to Beginners at the Start of a Coding Unit

To avoid making students feel bad about themselves, why not just give students perfect code to copy? Then when they run the program, no errors will happen. Or if they do, they can quickly refer to their sample to find the typo. Problem solved!

No. Not really.

The limitation to this instructional approach is that it restricts learning. One of the goals of teaching a STEM project should be to support students so they produce their own original creations. Aside from developing programming skills, the learning objectives in a programming unit should include: fostering an interest in programming, developing computational thinking skills, and applying logic and reasoning to solve a problem. The aim should not be improving typing skills.

Spark an ongoing interest in programming. Teach debugging strategies at the beginning of a coding unit. This will build confidence and promote independence.

Python Lessons that Explicitly Teach Debugging to Beginners

Teachers need to deliberately teach debugging strategies at the start of a programming unit. This empowers students. Using this instructional approach, the TechnoTurtle STEM project includes activities that teach students about common errors and how to fix the code.

TechnoTurtle has 30 coding assignments. Elementary and middle students solve mazes, create artwork, and build games. Several of the lessons emphasize debugging strategies. They are interwoven throughout the project to introduce or reinforce computer science concepts:

  • Edit a Python Program: Modify values to understand the purpose of code.
  • Bug Zapper: Add mistakes to a program to learn how to debug Python.
  • Clean Up the Code: Fix coding errors by selecting from the list of choices.
  • Trial and Error: Test different ideas to move a Turtle through a maze.
  • Draw a Robot: Write one line of code at a time and make corrections as you go.
  • Edit an Invitation: Change code to discover how to join text with variables.

Beginners Coding Guide Online Resource for Educators

Attention teachers and home school parents, AT&T has just released an online Beginners Coding Guide. It is a free interactive learning resource to introduce basics of coding. By reading information and answering questions students gain valuable programming knowledge. Upon completion, they earn a certificate to celebrate their accomplishment.

This online resource contains four modules about Programming, Data and Variables, Control Structures, and Sorting. Each module is divided into short assignments. An assignment begins with text that students must read to learn about programming. Afterwards, they answer multiple-choice questions to demonstrate their knowledge.  

Students control the pace of learning. By clicking the Next button, they move from one section to the next. At the end of each module is a Lesson Recap.

Tips to Use the Beginners Coding Guide in Your Curriculum

Set Aside a Block of Instructional Time: The modules must be completed in one class. Students cannot bookmark their place and return to it later.  For this reason, allocate about one hour for completion.

Guide Students Through Resource: If instructional time is limited or students struggle with their reading skills you may want to act as a course tour guide. Read the information together as a class, and then have each student on their device select an answer to a quiz question. This will allow everyone to progress through the modules before the class period ends.

Monitor Quiz Taking: To foster a love of learning, if students select the wrong answer during a Beginners Coding Guide quiz they can try again. This is a great way to empower students and keep them motivated. However, there is the possibility that students could skip the readings and then mindlessly pick a, then b, then c; until the correct answer reveals itself. Theoretically, your students could earn a certificate without reading the content or critically thinking about their answers. To promote learning, actively monitor students to verify they are using the resource as an opportunity to learn in a fun way.

Coding Resources

Do you want your students to create coding projects? TechnoKids has instructional units, called technology projects, that include a teacher guide, workbook, and resources. You will have everything you need to teach programming including step-by-step lessons, sample programs, templates, coding journals, and quizzes.

  • TechnoWhiz: Code animations and games using Scratch Jr. TechnoWhiz includes fun coding lessons for primary students. Introduce students in Grades 1-3 to programming concepts.
  • TechnoTales: Produce an animated story using coding blocks in Scratch Jr. TechnoTales has easy to follow programming lessons for elementary students. Combine storytelling with coding.
  • TechnoTurtle: Solve a maze, design a spirograph, or code a Carnival game using Python and the Turtle Library. Activities in TechnoTurtle are ideal for students in Grades 4 and up.
  • TechnoCode: Code animated scenes and games using Scratch. Reflect upon the experience using coding journals. Activities in TechnoCode are ideal for students in Grades 6 and up.
  • TechnoHTML: Design a web page using HTML and CSS. Format text, images, and hyperlinks. Lessons are ideal for middle and high school students.

Python Variables and Offline Coding Exercise

Young programmers need to understand the purpose of Python variables. In a program, variables store values that can change. They are very powerful. They can be used to count, create lists, store user input, report information, personalize the user experience, trigger an action, calculate amounts, and more!

One of the best ways to learn about computer science concepts is hands-on learning. In other words, writing programs that use variables. Talking about variables will generate a limited understanding. Having said that, before jumping into Python programming, it is worthwhile to begin instruction about variables with an offline coding exercise.

Variables can seem a bit abstract to a child. It is worthwhile to make the concept tangible. A quick activity that connects variables to daily life will help elementary and middle school students to form an understanding of their use.

Have your students apply computational thinking to think about the world around them as a set of variables that store and direct events. This knowledge can then be transferred to programming activities. Refer to the connections below as a way to create an offline coding exercise about Python variables.

The Value of a Variable Changes

Just like the weather, a variable is a value that changes. It could be sunny in the morning and then rainy in the afternoon. What is the weather?

Complete the value of the variable weather. For example: weather="sunny"
weather="   "

A Variable Stores Different Types of Information

A variable can be text, a number, or a list. In the above example, the value stored was a word. However, you can also store numbers as variables. Temperature is a numbered variable that changes. It could be 5°C (41°F) at night and then 15°C (59°F) in the afternoon.

Write the value of the variable temperature. For example: temperature="15"
temperature="   "

The Value of a Variable Can Trigger an Event

The value of a variable can cause an action to occur. For example, if it is hot outside you might wear shorts. Or if it is rainy you might use an umbrella.

Complete the script using weather as the variable. What will you wear?

if weather=="snowy":
    what will you wear?

An Event Can Trigger the Value of a Variable to Change

When a program starts, a variable has a specific value. However, an event may occur that changes the value. This event could make a number higher or lower. Or, it could assign a new word to a text variable.

When making a decision you might change your mind depending on what is happening. Programs do the same thing! Pretend you are getting dressed for school. What piece of clothing do you want to wear?

Complete the value of the variable clothing
clothing="   "

The item is in the laundry. What piece of clothing will you wear now?
clothing="   "

A Variable Is Stored in a Numbered Location

The value of a variable is saved in a spot that is like a numbered storage bin. When the program needs the value in the variable it takes it from the bin. The computer knows where to find the value because it has a unique location.

Labeling a location to store things is done everyday at school. For example, your school locker may have a number. Or the library may have a numbered bin of books.

Look around your classroom. What bins are used to store things? Are they labelled?

Write your discovery as a variable. For example: mylocker="1215" or period1bin="homework"

bin="item"

A Variable Is an Efficient Way to Refer to Information

A variable is like a container that stores information. The label on the outside is the name. The item you put inside is the value. When giving an instruction, the program uses the variable name, not the data stored in it. This is done to save time and keep things simple.

Imagine it is recess time. The teacher needs to tell the students what to do. The teacher gives the instruction, “Please go and get your snack”. The teacher does not say, “Please go and get your apple, crackers, cookies, carrots, chips, or banana.”

The word “snack” is used to refer to many values. It also allows the values to be unknown. The teacher cannot know what you or your classmates brought for a snack. Using one word that is meaningful is an efficient way to refer to information.

People often use one word to quickly refer to many things. Turn the word lunch into a variable. What is in your lunch today? Make a list of the values in your lunch. For example:

lunch=("orange juice", "ham sandwich", "apple", "blueberry muffin")

lunch=

A Variable Can Store User Information

Sometimes the programmer assigns the value of a variable. Other times, the user inputs a value. This can be done by prompting the user to enter data by displaying a text box or question on the screen. The program can then use this information to sign into an account, customize the settings of an app, or pick a selection.

Think about a game you play on a device. What information does it ask you to input? Each of the pieces of information is a variable.

List two pieces of information you must enter into a game before you could play it. For example:

playername="technokid"

playermode="single player"

Python Variables and Fun Programming Activities for Kids

If you are looking for some fun programming activities for kids that use variables, take a look at TechnoTurtle. This STEM project introduces beginners to Python variables in a way that is easy to understand. Students develop programs that have players play Mad Libs, a Carnival Game, and a Guess the Number Game. Each uses variables to trigger action. These coding activities are a great way to make Python variables meaningful to kids. The lessons provide a foundation for further learning.

Python variables and TechnoTurtle

Teach children about Python variables using the STEM project TechnoTurtle.