Lesson 5: Input and Output


In this lesson students consider a number of computing devices to determine what types of inputs and outputs they use. Groups are assigned to a computing device and based on a teacher-provided definition of input and output, list the inputs and outputs of their device. Earlier in the activity students are prompted to focus on more obvious physical inputs and outputs (e.g. a keyboard as an input or a screen as an output) but later discussions lead students to consider less obvious examples (e.g. that a touch screen is both an input and output, or the fact that the Internet can serve as both input and output). Throughout the lesson the teacher records inputs and outputs that are identified on a T-Chart at the front of the room. To conclude the lesson students examine common activities they do on a computing device and select the inputs and outputs used for that activity from the chart.


In the previous lesson students were introduced to the input, output, store, and process model of a computer. Since this model of a computer is still fairly abstract, this lesson grounds it in the ways a computer actually input and output information.


Warm Up (5 mins)

Activity (30 mins)

Wrap Up (15 mins)

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Students will be able to:

  • Identify the inputs and outputs of common computing devices
  • Select the inputs and outputs used to perform common computing tasks



Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Students


  • Input - A device or component that allows information to be given to a computer
  • Output - Any device or component that receives information from a computer

Teaching Guide

Warm Up (5 mins)

Computer "Stuff" is Information

Discussion Goal

Goal: In today's lesson students will be talking about how to get "stuff" in and out of a computer. This discussion just aims to replace the word "stuff" with a more useful long-term vocabulary word of "information". It's fine if what that word means is still a little fuzzy at the end of the conversation.

Possible Responses: Photos, documents, videos, music, apps, games, spreadsheets, websites, etc. If need be you can jumpstart conversation by naming one or two of these and seeing if that helps students think about other examples.

Prompt: In the last lesson we learned that a computer is a device that "processes information". That phrase is still a little vague, so let's see if we can clarify it a bit. What kinds of "stuff" do you use, look at, create, or edit on a computer that you think might actually be information?

Discuss: Students should brainstorm silently, then share in pairs, then discuss their ideas with the whole class. This conversation should be pretty open-ended.


Great work, and I'm sure we could think of more examples if we tried. All the examples you just provided are the "information" that we use computers to process. Today we're going to look at an important question of how this information gets in and out of the computer in the first place.

Activity (30 mins)

Teaching Tip

Give them Physical Examples: This activity guide includes small photos of each category of device but students can and should look at actual computers if they're on hand. Depending on your classroom rules you might say this is one of the only days they should have their phones out in class!

Brainstorming Inputs and Outputs

Group: Place students in small groups of 2 or 3.

Distribute: Copies of Input and Output - Activity Guide to each group. Four versions of the activity guide are available, each with a different device in the final row of the chart. You may choose to give every group the same version of the activity guide, or give different versions to different groups.

Display: At the front of the room place a large poster or project a document where you will record all the inputs and outputs students brainstorm in this activity.

Input and Output Activity Guide

Vocabulary: As a class review the two vocabulary words found on the top of the activity guide, input, and output.

Content Corner

Possible Responses Desktop: The following is a possible list of responses.

  • Inputs: Keyboard, mouse, other buttons, camera, microphone
  • Outputs: Screen, Speakers, Printer

Inputs and Outputs - Desktop: Have students complete the first row of the activity guide by listing all of the possible inputs and outputs to a desktop. Encourage students to think about the actual computer, as well as devices that they connect to one.

Discuss: Have students share the results of their brainstorm. As they share them record their answers on the poster at the front of the room.

Content Corner

Possible Responses Tablet: The following is a list of possible responses

  • Inputs: Touch screen, Buttons, Microphone, GPS, Motion sensor (e.g. to rotate the screen), Light sensor (e.g. to make screen dimmer at night), Camera, Internet connection
  • Outputs: Touch screen, Speakers, Headphones, Internet connection, etc.

Inputs and Outputs - Tablet: Have students complete the second row of the activity guide by listing all of the possible inputs and outputs to a laptop.

Discuss: Have students share the results of their brainstorm. As they share them record their answers on the poster at the front of the room. In particular call attention to the fact that a screen can serve many roles as both the input and output of a tablet. Some less obvious inputs may require you to provide examples to students.

For example, if a tablet shows you where you are on a map then it must somehow know where you are. In other words there must be some kind of input (a GPS system) that provides that information.

Similarly if a tablet knows when it's been rotated then there must be some kind of input device that is detecting how a tablet is positioned.

Teaching Tip

There are a lot more inputs and outputs on a smartphone than you students might think of right away. If your students struggle here, consider asking them the following prompts:

  • How does the phone know it has to shut down when it is too hot?
  • How does the phone know where it is?
  • How does the phone know to switch from playing music through the speakers to playing music through the headphones?
  • How does the phone know to turn off the screen when you put the phone up to your ear?
  • How does Apple know that you got the phone wet?

Inputs and Outputs - Third device, (e.g. Smartphone): Have students complete the final row of the activity guide by listing all of the inputs and outputs for the device on their respective activity guides.

Discuss: Have students share the results of their brainstorm. As they share them record their answers on the poster at the front of the room. In particular call attention to the fact different devices need different inputs and outputs to better serve their particular purposes.

Wrap Up (15 mins)

Discussion Goal

Goal: Use this wrap up activity to assess how well students have understood the role of input and output in some common activities on a computer. For example:

  • Typing on a Keyboard (Input) Makes Letters Appear on a Screen (Output)
  • Moving a Mouse or Touch Screen (Input) Changes What Appears on the Screen (Output)
  • Pressing play on a touchscreen (Input) Makes a Song Play through the Speakers (Output)

If you need give students this or other examples to prompt more examples

What Inputs and Outputs Do I Use?

Prompt: Brainstorm three everyday activities you or people you know do with a computer.

What is the input used for that activity?

What is the output?

Circulate: Have students brainstorm with their groups and record their ideas on their activity guides. Point students towards the list of inputs and outputs you've listed on the board.

Discuss: As a class discuss the examples students brainstorm.

Standards Alignment

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CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

CS - Computing Systems
  • 1B-CS-01 - Describe how internal and external parts of computing devices function to form a system.
  • 1B-CS-02 - Model how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.