Tag Archives: programming activities for kids

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.

Variables in Python and Teaching Coding to Kids

Variables in Python are used by programmers to store values. These values complete a task within a program. In game design variables can track scores, count the number of turns, or store player answers. However, they have many other uses. When teaching coding to kids, it is important that the purpose of a variable is understood.

variables in python

Variables in Python store values that a program uses to complete a task.

What Are Variables in Python?

A variable stores a value that can change. It is saved in a special spot that is like a numbered storage bin. When the program needs the value in the variable it takes it from the bin.

A variable can store lots of different types of information. For example, the value could be a number, text, or a list of items. In programming, a number is called an integer or int for short. Text is called a string or str for short.

A variable has two parts – name and value. To create a variable, you write the variable name, then an = symbol, followed by the variable value. For example: player=”Alex”

variable name and value

A variable has two parts – name and value.

Variables in Python Must Have Meaningful Names

Naming a variable is a fundamental skill. A programmer should be able to read the variable name and understand its use within the program. It is very important that it is short but concise. It’s name should describe its purpose.

A Python variable must:

  • be meaningful
  • be one word
  • have no spaces
  • use no symbols
  • not be a reserved Python word

Why Use a Variable?

Variables make a program flexible. Programmers use them for many reasons.

Variables Can Count the Number of Times an Event Occurs

Variables can count. This is useful when making a timer or tracking a player’s score. To count, you can create a variable called count=0. Each time the line of code count=count+1 is run than the value of the variable goes up by one.

Variables Can Store Multiple Values as a List

Variables can store more than one value. The list may look like this: pickcolor=(“red”, “blue”, “green”). By assigning multiple values to a variable it allows a program to make a choice. This use of variables creates games that are fun to play because the selection is unknown.

Variables Allow the User to Input Information

Sometimes the programmer assigns the value of a variable. Other times, the user inputs a value. This is done by prompting the user to enter data by displaying a text box or question on the screen. For example, the following code will store a user’s name:
name=input(“What is your name?”)

Variables Report Information

By using the variable name in a sentence you can report important information to the user. For instance, to display a player’s score the following code will join text with the variable value:
print(“The game is over. Your score is ” +str(score)).

Variables Personalize the User’s Experience

Variables can be used to communicate, making a device seem more human or less machine-like. Suppose that a player types in their name. Lines of code can have the computer give a personal greeting, such as Hello Sara. The sentence and variable are put together using this Python code: print(“Hello ” +str(player)).

Variables Can Trigger an Action

A variable’s value can change. If it is a number, it can get higher or lower. If it is a text, it could have another value assigned to it. Conditional logic can be used to trigger an action when a variable meets a specific condition. The value of the variable might need to be equal to, greater than, less than, or does not equal. When the variable value matches the condition, then an action will occur. The code might start like this if guess==”answer”:

Variables Calculate Amounts

Variables can be used in mathematical formulas. This has many practical applications. For example, a business owner can track employee earnings. The variables wage, hours_worked, and earnings can be placed into the formula earnings=wage*hours_worked.

Create Artwork and Build Games using Variables in Python to Teach Coding

Learning how to use variables in Python can be fun. In TechnoTurtle, the programming activities gradually introduce elementary and middle school students to variables. In this project they use variables to count loops and create spirographs that are random colors. As well, they store player answers to build a Mad Lib word game, a carnival game that awards a prize, and a guessing game. These programming tasks make the purpose of a variable easy to understand. Beginners experience first-hand how variables are used in a program to complete a task.

technoturtle and variables

Learning about variables can be fun.

Teach Python Using the Turtle Library

Teach Python using the Turtle Library to ignite an interest in STEM. Python is a popular text-based programming language. It is used every day by programmers.

The Turtle Library is a collection of functions used to control a robotic Turtle. The commands can be combined with Python to build programs that create stunning artwork and original games. The use of the The Turtle Library is a fun way to introduce students to programming.

You may think that using the Turtle Library to teach Python is a waste of time. Shouldn’t students be learning ‘real code’ instead of functions that they won’t use in the workplace? How useful is it for young programmers to move a Turtle through a maze using forward(100) or draw using pendown()? The answer is….very useful!!!

The skills acquired from building programs using Python and the Turtle Library provide a foundation for further learning. By knowing the basics, young programmers can extend their knowledge to more complicated tasks in the future. Discover the 7 reasons you will want to use the Turtle Library with your students.

7 Reasons to Teach Python Using the Turtle Library

1. Produce a Wide Range of Coding Projects

The use of the Turtle Library is not limited to moving a Turtle around the canvas or making artwork. Although this is really fun to do, it can be used for so much more! Want to hook students’ interest in STEM? Then teach Python using the Turtle Library. Consider programming these games using the Turtle Library:

  • Etch-a-Sketch: Invent a drawing game that uses arrow keys to draw lines to create artwork.
  • Carnival Game: Design a game using conditional logic that awards a prize to players based on the option they pick.
  • Mad Lib: Create a word game that stores players’ answers as variables to form silly sentences.
  • Guess the Number: Combine the Random Library with the Turtle Library to build a game that has players pick a number between 1 and 10. Will they guess correctly?

2. Develop the Computational Thinking Skills to Sequence Instructions

Programming requires each line of code to be in the correct order to achieve a goal. When writing code with the Turtle Library of commands, students must apply computational thinking to determine what comes first, second, and third. This ability to sequence instructions will be helpful later when programs are longer and more complex.

3. Effectively Apply Debugging Strategies

No matter whether a programmer is using Python or has code that includes commands from the Turtle Library, the errors are the same. Mistakes in coding generate the identical name and syntax errors. For example, if a : (colon) is missing at the end of a loop, there will be an indent error. Understanding how to identify the problem and fix it is transferable to new programming tasks.

4. Understand How to Organize Scripts

No matter the programming language, programmers add comments to describe each section in a program. A comment is a brief description that acts as a summary. It explains the purpose of the code. Comments are used by programmers to communicate with others about the intent of the code. As well, they can act as markers to identify each part of a program. This makes it easier to locate a specific section for writing new code or debugging errors.

In Python a comment begins with a hashtag #. The symbol tells the interpreter to skip the line as it does not contain an instruction. For example, #store a word list is a useful descriptor that explains the purpose of the following lines of code. It is important for young programmers to get in the habit of using comments as it is good programming practice used by professionals.

5. Import Libraries to Build Programs

The Python programming language uses special words to tell the computer what to do. A function is a word that does a specific task by executing a stored set of instructions. Many Python functions are stored into libraries. Professional programmers use Python libraries to create responsive graphs, display the time, or grab information from a web page. The ability to import the Turtle Library is similar to importing any Python Library, making it a useful programming skill.

The ability to import libraries is an important reason to use the Turtle Library to teach programming skills. Programs that use the Turtle Library to create artwork and build games can include other Python libraries. For example, students can use the Random Library to pick a random number or item from a list. This is a fun way to make surprising geometric patterns or a Guess the Number game. As well, students can use the Time library to set the timing of events. This is very useful when flashing the word “WINNER” across the canvas in Carnival game. The programming skills that are introduced when using the Turtle library can be transferred to more complicated or work-related tasks in the future.

6. Appreciate the Importance of Accuracy When Writing Lines of Code

When students are writing programs using Python and the Turtle Library, they quickly learn the importance of accuracy. A reader can understand a story or report that has a few spelling or grammar mistakes. A computer cannot. If a program has a command spelled incorrectly it will not run. Moreover, if the code is missing a bracket, colon, or indent than an error will display. The emphasis on precision when coding is best taught early, as it is required by all programmers. Teach Python using the Turtle Library to support STEM.

7. Instant Feedback Develops Confidence

The Turtle canvas instantly shows the result of the code. This visual is helpful during program development. Nothing is more frustrating then trying to figure out why the code does not work the way it is supposed to when the program runs. Young programmers can quickly become frustrated. With a lack of immediate success, they can start to believe that they are not good at programming. Since the Turtle Library displays the output on a canvas, the programmer can see what they need to change to improve their program. For example, they might notice that the Turtle moves in the wrong direction, the pen needs be picked up to stop drawing a line, or the game title is too small to read. Seeing what needs to be fixed helps young programmers understand how to improve their code.

Support STEM. Teach Python using the Turtle Library. Spark an interest in programming.

TechnoTurtle Has Lessons to Create Artwork and Build Games

TechnoTurtle is a technology project, by TechnoKids Inc. that has lesson plans to teach Python using the Turtle Library. It has over 30 assignments that gradually introduce programming skills to elementary and middle school students. The instructions guide students to build programs, with additional open-ended challenges to spark creative exploration of code.

Introduce Beginners to Python Using the Turtle Library

Why not introduce beginners to Python using the Turtle Library? Python is a text-based programming language. To prepare elementary and middle school students to master this language, a good starting point is the Turtle Library. The Turtle Library is a collection of commands that can be used to create artwork and games.

What Is Python?

Python is a programming language created by Guido van Rossum about thirty years ago. His goal was to invent code that was easy to read, write, and understand. Today, Python is used by programmers to develop programs that:

  • analyze large amounts of data
  • build models to test ideas
  • find information on a website
  • host websites
  • design and launch mobile apps
  • support machine learning, which is when a device can improve how it works by itself

Python’s use by programmers is one of the reasons why teachers should introduce beginners to Python using the Turtle Library. It is important to hook student interest in programming in a fun way. The skills and knowledge they learn will provide a solid foundation for future learning.

What Is the Turtle Library?

The Python programming language uses special words to tell the computer what to do. A function is a word that does a specific task. Many Python functions are stored into libraries.

The Turtle Library is a set of commands that control a robotic Turtle making it move, draw, and write. When programming with Python, students must import the Turtle Library using the line of code: from turtle import *. This will then allow them to use all the commands from the Turtle Graphics Standard Library.

introduce beginners to python using the Turtle Library

The Turtle library has commands that control a robotic Turtle making it move, draw, and write.

5 Reasons to Introduce Beginners to Python Using the Turtle Library

1. Create Fun-Looking Programs that Excite Young Programmers

Python is a text-based programming language. The program output can be viewed in a Python Shell. However, the Python Shell only shows words. There are no graphics or animation. Instead, it is just plain text. This is not exciting to young programmers.

python shell

The Python Shell only shows words. There are no graphics or animation.

The Turtle Library of commands uses a canvas to show the program’s output. This invites creativity! Students can program a robotic Turtle to move around the screen to solve a maze. Programmers can create colorful artwork. Or, they can invent games for players. The possibilities are endless! The appeal to using the Turtle Library is that the program’s output looks fantastic – which is a great way to hook young programmers.

carnival game

Introduce Python in a fun way! Create colorful artwork or invent games using the Turtle Library.

2. Spark Creativity and Ignite an Interest in Programming

Kids are naturally drawn to making things. Whether it is painting, coloring, or writing they want to express their ideas and share their creations with others. Python programming combined with the Turtle Library invites artistic expression.

Students can design programs that draw pictures from lines, shapes, and symbols. In addition, by looping a set of instructions they can produce colorful spirographs or surprising geometric patterns. The ability to make things encourages students to enjoy programming.

create artwork

Use the Turtle library to spark creativity and ignite an interest in programming.

3. Code Make Sense

The first introduction to text-based programming should be fun. Typing line after line of code that looks like gibberish is not gratifying. Instead, you want students to feel empowered. The good news is that the Turtle Library of commands make sense.

The Turtle command names hint at what they do. For example, pensize(5) sets the thickness of the pen line; pencolor(“blue”) makes the outline color of the pen blue; and circle(20) draws a small circle.

The commands sequenced together make a simple program that draw a circle:

#draw a circle
from turtle import *
pensize(5)
pencolor(“blue”)
circle(20)

Imagine the possibilities! Since the Turtle Library of commands are understandable it makes programs easier to write and debug. Moreover, the simplicity provides a solid foundation for programming original creations. For example, students can extend their knowledge of drawing a circle to make a picture of a snowman, ant, or another object from circles.

draw snowman with Turtle Library

The simplicity of the code provides a solid foundation for programming original creations.

4. Only a Few Lines of Code Do A Lot!

Young programmers tend to have limited typing skills. This makes writing line after line of code tiresome – and boring. Moreover, it can cause a programming task to take exceedingly longer than the time allocated for instruction.

The great news is that by combining Python with the Turtle library, students can write fun programs in only a few lines. For example, they can have the computer respond to a player by displaying a personalized message in just 3 lines! The simple code will show a text box that has the player type in their name. A message will then display that says “Hello Player Name“.

from turtle import *
name=textinput(“Name”, “What is your name?”)
write(“Hello ” +str(name))

5. Illustrate Programming Concepts in a Meaningful Way

Programming concepts such as loops or variables can be so abstract that they are difficult for beginners to understand. However, blending Python with the Turtle Library makes them tangible. This is because the output on the canvas allows students to see what is happening.

For example, you can tell a student that a loop is a set of instructions that repeat. However, if they build a simple program that draws and counts circles on the Turtle canvas then suddenly
for shape in range(4): makes sense. They can watch four circles being drawn, forming a direct connection to how the code makes loops work.

from turtle import *
loop=0
for shape in range(4):
    circle(60)
    loop=loop+1
    write(loop)
    forward(50)

four looping circles

Count the circles to understand that loops repeat a set of instructions.

Introduce Beginners to Python Using the Turtle Library and TechnoTurtle

If you are looking for teaching ideas designed for elementary and middle school students check out TechnoTurtle. This project, published by TechnoKids Inc., has over 30 programming activities. Young programmers blend Python and the Turtle Library of commands to solve mazes, create artwork, and invent games.

python programming for kids_2

Introduce programming to beginners with Python and the Turtle library of commands.