Teaching Loops and Triggers through Dance

We are always dancing in our classroom. The students love it, but also my co-teacher and I love it. I've talked before about how I plan for Coding on the Carpet - activities that teach coding skills and computational thinking but don't require any technology. Dance can definitely be part of Coding on the Carpet. In fact, this is my favorite way to start introducing young students to coding because they can jump right in without having to learn any tablet handling skills.

I did a post and tutorial video on teaching students about code triggers through an interactive coding lesson, but I also wanted to explain how I would teach the same objective through a shared coding and tech-free lesson. For these two activities the student-friendly objective is, "I can use a triggering block to begin my code." However, in the interactive coding lesson the teacher is using technology to model this objective in ScratchJr. In the shared coding lesson the students are writing the code and then "reading" their code through dance.

Interactive Coding
Shared Coding

In my Show Stopper games, students try to solve code-to-dance puzzles that center on an understanding of triggering blocks. Some students have "Start on Tap" symbols that allow them to dance whenever the coder taps them, but some students have "Start on Nudge" symbols and can only do their dance move when the student next to them nudges them (which won't happen without a little debugging). When the code/dance chain stops and can't be restarted with a tap from the coder, everyone yells, "Show Stopper!" You can make a similar game by drawing your own pictures or symbols, or you can get my Show Stopper product from TpT to save time and have complete directions for three different games.

Another great option for melding coding and dance for a great STEAM activity is to use one tablet in a whole group setting and a high-quality creation app such as Loopimal. Loopimal is an engaging and easy-to-use app, especially for the beginning of the year when you only want your students to work with a small number of symbols. Unfortunately it is no longer the Apple free app of the week, so it is now $3.99 to purchase, but you will get a lot of use out of this app if you are teaching coding to young children.

Loopimal is great for shared coding - you could project you tablet screen, have your students take turns placing the coding blocks, and the whole class can try to follow along with the animal as it does the motions that correspond to the coding blocks. If you're using it this way, I would recommend the Yeti character since he has the easiest dance moves. Alternatively or as an extension, you could draw the shape symbols on cardstock and have your students make up their own dance move for each shape. Tape real photographs of your students to the cardstock shapes to help students' symbolic understanding. They can then dance along to the music as student take turns reordering the code sequence.

Coding should be fun and creative, so give your students the freedom to pick dance moves and make their own sequences. If you have other ideas for tying together coding and dance, please leave a comment below!

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