Stage 4: Graph Paper Programming

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by binx


Today’s Stage 4 Lesson takes us from the Algorithm (the directions) to the symbolic language which is the Program or Coding. provides the following that I’ve screenshot, as way of an example.  The Algorithm is on the right using words.  The Program or Coding is on the left with the symbols: arrows, squiggly lines etc.  The task is to provide the program in order to draw a picture on graph paper.

Program Key

Program Key


Here are examples of programs we wrote.   Note the original drawings, the Program, and the attempt to follow the program by someone else. (I call the attempt a “replication” but I don’t know if that is the correct term.  It’s so obvious to me that I’m operating in a new medium as I struggle to find the correct words to even blog about the experience.)

Programming a Kite

Programming a Kite

Here are some more examples. Click to enlarge for a closer look.

During New Year celebrations, it’s important in the Chinese culture to not argue with your family members as it will bring bad luck and disharmony in the new year.  I would not advise you to try this exercise during the New Year week.  The exercise appears easy but there are many ways that you can mess up.  There was a lot of arguing and debugging going on!

In order to make the program a bit easier, we could invent a short-cut in our program. For example, instead of  (—>   —>   —>) which means move ahead 3 times,  we could create a short-cut that might look like (3 —>)  The is now called a FUNCTION.   The 3 is the number that defines the parameters of the Function.  So, the number is called the PARAMETER.

In summary (as defined by

Algorithm— a series of instructions to accomplish a task

Program— algorithms put into symbolic language.  (I think the word “Code” would be a synonym for Program?)

Coding— transforming actions into symbolic language

Debugging–finding and fixing problems in code

Function–a piece of code that can be called over and over

Parameters–extra pieces of information that you can pass into a function to customize it

The unplugged activities are simple activities in that they are just plain paper & pencil activities.  However, behind the activities are very big concepts that even I have to re-visit over and over in order to make clear in my mind what they are.  The simple” activities give us all something concrete to attach the concepts to and help us to remember what the concepts mean.  

In reality, the “simple” activities are not easy to do well.  You have to be focussed, careful, and to check your work.  If not, you end up having a lot of hiccups and a lot of arguments 😉 .

Happy programming! 🙂


About Vivian

Vivian @ChezVivian is a Canadian-born Chinese, currently living in Switzerland. She has also lived in Hong Kong and Indonesia. She holds a M.S. (focus: Educational Technology Integration), B.Ed and a B.A. and graduate studies in Kodály and Orff music pedagogy. She is an elementary school classroom generalist, but has also taught as a music specialist, ESL/EAL and also in Learning Support. Most of her teaching career was in International Schools in Hong Kong. She is excited about the IBPYP and the possibilities of using technology to Inquire. Recently, she has been looking at the opportunities that computer programming gives to put #TECHXture back into the hands of children. In other words, technology need not be just about looking at screens. It can be about building things with our hands; and computer programming levels-up what children can do with the things they build---encouraging higher thinking skills. She is a Coetail Post-graduate Certificate grad ('13-'14), a former Coetail Coach and one of the co-founders of #CoetailChat. Her blog home curates her assignments for Coetail and her M.S. graduate studies about Educational Technology integration and anything else educationally-related that she feels inspired to write about. Her twitter tagline sums it up: "Mom to 4, Mentor, Educator, Musician (in that order)".
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2 Responses to Stage 4: Graph Paper Programming

  1. Loving the summaries so far Vivian. Great job on dedicating your holidays to this! I think I might try this over Easter and then with my class in the summer term.
    Just wondering if the word “Code” would be a synonym for the symbolic language, whereas the program in the the entire thing? Kind of like an school report (program) is written in a language (code).

  2. Vivian says:

    Hi Jayne @jaymizusoh

    I think you’re right about the definition of “code” versus “program”. Boy, it’s hard to write about something when I’m only acquainted with it in the abstract. As I do more of the puzzles and have more examples under my sleeve, slowly the light is dawning.

    The program has been very well scoped and sequenced so I don’t think a teacher necessarily needs to go through the program first before using it with the children. I think recognizes the fact that most teachers don’t have computer science backgrounds and don’t have the time to learn it before “teaching it”. If we wait for teachers to be trained first, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

    The main reason I made myself do some over the Christmas holidays is because I wanted to propose it at my kids’ school. I don’t teach there. I’ll be delivering the program as a parent and didn’t want any rude surprises about the program. I am glad the school trusts me enough to do this. It will form part of my final project for Coetail Course 5. I didn’t want to disappoint their trust—–so I had to try a test-run before proposing it.

    If you’re a teacher in a school (like most teachers delivering this program), you can feel confident allowing the students to self-guide themselves through it. The challenges increase in difficulty incrementally and I think the kids can help themselves with a puzzle if they’re stuck on it. You can always ask me. Use my blogposts as “Coles Notes” to each stage to see the concept each stage is addressing. There are also forums on the website to ask questions:

    These are recorded Google Hangouts for PD about the 20 Hour Program. There are three PD sessions, thus three links:

    If your school has room for this in their curriculum, I highly recommend it. (If you need an after school club, too!)