An introduction to computational thinking

21 August 2018 By Amy Shelley, Buyer - Educational ICT

Early years computing

Starting primary school presents children with many new challenges and skills to learn – including computer programming.

As an early years provider, you’ll want to give your little ones the best possible start but introducing the subject of computing may seem like a daunting task.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be! Computational thinking underpins everything that children will need to learn for computing and can be introduced in the EYFS before a child even sits in front of a computer.

In this blog, we’ll look at the six main areas of computational thinking:
- algorithms
- abstraction
- logic
- decomposition
- pattern recognition evaluation.

We’ll provide some example activities and hopefully make the introduction of computing – even to young learners, a bit more manageable.

1) Algorithms
Creating step by step instructions or rules to solve a problem
Keep this simple to start with, ask children either individually or in groups to describe the actions of getting ready in the morning or their journey to nursery. Naturally they will break down the process into individual steps. This is a great pre-cursor to mapping out coding directions on a floor mat for a floor robot and introducing if/or rules.

2) Abstraction
Identifying important information and removing unnecessary detail
Using maths counters of different shapes and colours, task the class with some activities which will encourage grouping ‘important’ things with ‘unnecessary’ ones. For example, “please group together all the red counters” – would prioritise the importance of the colour of the counters but not the shape.

3) Logic
To analyse and make predictions
The use of strategy games is an engaging way to introduce logical thinking. Use old favourites such as draughts and dominoes to encourage discussion around predicting what
their opponents’ next move will be and why.

4) Decomposition
Breaking a problem down into smaller manageable parts
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Engage the class with what initially seems like a complex task and focus on decomposing it down into smaller parts. Let your children become detectives and give them a mystery to solve by breaking down what the mystery is, identifying any witnesses, finding evidence etc.

5) Pattern Recognition
Observe patterns, trends and spot similarities
A nice way to engage the class in pattern recognition is by using matching pairs or top trump cards. Ask small groups to see how many similarities they can spot between the cards, including ones that may not be immediately obvious – look for shapes, colours, patterns and much more.

6) Evaluation
Assessing the solution and making judgements
At the end of every lesson or task, take time to reflect on the activity itself and the outcomes. Did everything go to plan? What could be improved next time? There are lots of questions which can be applied across all areas of learning.

Categories: Education

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