National Coding Week

In short...

Themes: Communication; working together; checking work; learn from mistakes.

Summary: National Coding Week is a volunteer-led event for schools, libraries, clubs, businesses and anyone else interested in computers, robots and programming. Its aim is to 'help build people's confidence and skills by encouraging volunteers to run fun and engaging digital events'. The first National Coding Week was held in 2014. This year the event starts on 13th September.

Resources: the framework to download / print (pdf) and an image of computer code on a monitor.

The video

Minna Kane visits Marish Primary School for BBC Teach to find out how pupils there use coding to guide a robot car through a maze of town streets. The children can only use three instructions: 'Forward', 'turn 90 degrees right' and 'turn 90 degrees left'.

It's a tricky assignment, but when things go wrong the pupils don't give up. They work together, learning from their mistakes, until they finally manage to get the car through the town to where it needs to be.

As the video says: 'You have to find and fix mistakes until your code does exactly what you want.'

Duration: 5' 15"

End of speech: 'And getting rid of the bugs is all part of the fun.'

Video questions

  • What are the three coding instructions the children can use? (FD, Rt 90 and Lt 90)
  • What are mistakes in computer code called? (Bugs)
  • Can you name three places marked on the pupils' town map? (Answers might include any of: hairdresser, florist, gym, baker, sports shop)
  • What is the word for a list of coding instructions, like the one that the car follows? (A 'procedure')
  • What name do the pupils choose for their procedure? ('Drive')

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Image: computer code

Suggested framework

1. Entry music
'Iamus, Ugadi' for violin (also in Related links below). This piece of violin music is played by a human being...but was composed by Iamus, a computer! (Or you might choose songs from the Computing collection detailed below in Related links).

2. Introduction
Display the image of computer code and ask: 'Does anyone know what this is?' Confirm that it's a piece of computer code, the instructions we give computers and robots to tell them what to do. Tell the assembly: 'We're going to find out more about coding today - what it is, how we can do it and how coding can help us with our lives.'

3. The video
Play the video. The duration is 5' 15" and the final words are: 'We call mistakes "bugs". And getting rid of the bugs is all part of the fun.'

4. After the video
You could ask a group of children to replicate the car's journey seen in the video. Invite pupils to stand at the front of the assembly hall to represent a maze of town locations. Each child should do an appropriate mime - eg kneading bread (the baker), snipping scissors (the hairdresser) or lifting weights (the gym). Blindfold another pupil and invite individual classmates to call out instructions - 'forward', 'right 90', 'left 90' - to guide the blindfolded pupil through the maze. To avoid accidents, encourage the blindfolded child to practise the slow, one-step-at-a-time movement shown in the video.

5. Time to talk
Ask: ‘What kinds of thing can we do with coding? Why is it important?’ The pupils' responses might include computer games, as well as programs used to help us with our lives (eg online searches / school or hospital records / etc). You could suggest that, back in the classroom, pupils browse the BBC videos and resources in the 'Related links' section below, to find out more about the possibilities of coding. Ask: ‘What does "debugging" mean? What do we do when we debug computer code?’ Establish that debugging is tracking down and fixing mistakes in the code.

You could develop the point with: ‘So does this mean mistakes are a bad thing?’ and guide pupils to an understanding that, in coding as in life, mistakes can be a positive thing. They are opportunities for us to learn how to get things right. Ask: ‘What personal qualities do you need to be a good coder? What makes someone good at coding?’ Pupils might suggest that patience and persistence, attention to detail, the ability to work well with other people and a willingness to learn from our mistakes all go to make someone good at coding.

6. Opportunity to sing
If your assembly is to include a song this would be a good time for it. Suggestions from BBC collections below.

7. Opportunity to reflect
Coding is all about communication, saying clearly what we want. But it's also about listening to others, being patient, working hard and learning from our mistakes. If we can do all that, we'll be good coders. But more importantly, we'll be good people too. Think to yourself: are you good at all of those things? Could you find ways to improve?

8. Opportunity for prayer
Use your standard form of address ('Dear God' etc) and:
We thank you for our inventive minds that can make wonderful things such as robots.
Help us to learn how to communicate and say clearly what we want.
Help us to listen to others, to be patient, to work hard and to learn from our mistakes.
That way, we'll be good coders. But more importantly, we'll be good people too.

Suggested songs

Song: 'While we live we learn' (All about our school, no 3. Vocal version)

Song: 'You've got to move'. Come and Praise, no 107. Vocal version.

Song: 'Code-o-de-oh!' (from Songs: Computing / Science)