Lesson 3: Real-Life Algorithms: Plant a Seed

Unplugged | Algorithms

Overview

In this lesson, students will relate the concept of algorithms back to everyday, real-life activities by planting an actual seed. The goal here is to start building the skills to translate real-world situations to online scenarios and vice versa.

Purpose

In this lesson, students will learn that algorithms are everywhere in our daily lives. For example, it is possible to write an algorithm to plant a seed. Instead of giving vague or over-generalized instructions, students will break down a large activity into smaller and more specific commands. From these commands, students must determine a special sequence of instructions that will allow their classmate to plant a seed.

Agenda

Warm Up (10 min)

Main Activity (20 min)

Wrap Up (10 - 20 min)

Assessment (15 min)

Extended Learning

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Decompose large activities into a series of smaller events.
  • Arrange sequential events into their logical order.

Preparation

Links

For the Teacher

Vocabulary

  • Algorithm - A precise sequence of instructions for processes that can be executed by a computer

Support

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Teaching Guide

Warm Up (10 min)

Vocabulary

This lesson has one vocabulary word that is important to review:

Algorithm - Say it with me: Al-go-ri-thm

A list of steps that you can follow to finish a task

What We Do Daily

  • Ask your students what they did to get ready for school this morning.

    • Write their answers on the board
    • If possible, put numbers next to their responses to indicate the order that they happen
      • If students give responses out of order, have them help you put them in some kind of logical order
      • Point out places where order matters and places where it doesn't
  • Introduce students to the idea that it is possible to create algorithms for the things that we do everyday.

    • Give them a couple of examples, such as making breakfast, tying shoes, and brushing teeth.
  • Let's try doing this with a new and fun activity, like planting a seed!

Main Activity (20 min)

Real-Life Algorithms: Plant A Seed - Worksheet

Lesson Tip

You know your classroom best. As the teacher, decide if you should all do this together, or if students should work in pairs or small groups.

You can use algorithms to help describe things that people do every day. In this activity, we will create an algorithm to help each other plant a seed. Directions:

  • Cut out the steps for planting a seed from Real-Life Algorithms: Plant A Seed - Worksheet.
  • Work together to choose the six correct steps from the nine total options.
  • Glue the six correct steps, in order, onto a separate piece of paper.
  • Trade the finished algorithm with another person or group and let them use it to plant their seed!

Lesson Tip

If deciding on the correct steps seems too difficult for your students, do that piece together as a class before you break up into teams.

Wrap Up (10 - 20 min)

Flash Chat: What did we learn?

  • How many of you were able to follow your classmates' algorithms to plant your seeds?
  • Did the exercise leave anything out?
    • What would you have added to make the algorithm even better?
    • What if the algorithm had been only one step: "Plant the seed"?
      • Would it have been easier or harder?
      • What if it were forty steps?
  • What was your favorite part about that activity?

Journaling

Ask the students to go back to their desks to reflect individually on what they learned. Write a couple of the questions up above on a whiteboard. Ask the students to discuss these in their journal. Sample prompts include:

Journal Prompts:

  • Draw the seed you planted today.
  • Write the algorithm you used to plant the seed.

Assessment (15 min)

Real-Life Algorithms - Assessment

  • Hand out the Real-Life Algorithms - Assessment and allow students to complete the activity independently after the instructions have been well explained.
  • This should feel familiar, thanks to the previous activities.

Extended Learning

Use these activities to enhance student learning. They can be used as outside of class activities or other enrichment.

Go Figure

  • Break the class up into teams.
  • Have each team come up with several steps that they can think of to complete a task.
  • Gather teams back together into one big group and have one team share their steps, without letting anyone know what the activity was that they had chosen.
  • Allow the rest of the class to try to guess what activity the algorithm is for.
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Student Instructions

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Student Instructions

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Student Instructions

Standards Alignment

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CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards

AP - Algorithms & Programming
  • 1A-AP-08 - Model daily processes by creating and following algorithms (sets of step-by-step instructions) to complete tasks.
  • 1A-AP-09 - Model the way programs store and manipulate data by using numbers or other symbols to represent information.
  • 1A-AP-11 - Debug (identify and fix) errors in an algorithm or program that includes sequences and simple loops.