Little Pig Algorithm
- Students will be able to create a verbal and or written set of instructions, or algorithm, for building a house out of plastic bricks.
- Review the story of The Three Little Pigs with students and ask students to recall the house the third little pig built. Ask students, “How did the third little pig build such a strong house?” Students may mention the materials, the bricks, that were used to make it strong.
- Ask students questions that focus on the building process. “How did the little pig build that house out of bricks? What did he have to do first? What did he do next?” Students may be able to explain that he probably built the walls first and then the roof. They may also mention details such as adding doors and windows.
- Then ask, “How do you think the little pig learned to build the house? Do you think he already knew how to build a house?” Ask questions that help students make connections to their own experiences making things. Guide students to recognize that knowing how to build something sometimes requires instructions.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(5 minutes)
- Teach children the word algorithm. Explain that this word means a set of step-by-step instructions.
- Explain to the children that they are going to work in pairs to create an algorithm, or instructions, for building a house out of bricks.
Guided Practice(10 minutes)
- Demonstrate for the children how one person can build a house out of plastic bricks using a set of instructions, or algorithm.
- In the front of the class, show the students the bricks and say, “I’m going to build a house out of bricks and you are going to tell me the instructions, step-by-step. What should I do first?” Students may suggest, “Start building a wall,” or “Start making a flat part.” Demonstrate that you are following their instructions using the plastic bricks.
- When the house is finished, show the completed structure and explain, “We created an algorithm for building a house. You gave me step-by-step instructions and I followed them to build this house.”
Independent working time(30 minutes)
- Divide students into pairs. Give each pair a supply of plastic bricks.
- Explain to students, “Now it’s your turn. Each of you will get a turn to tell your partner how to build a brick house. Each house may look different and that’s ok. You can create the algorithm any way you please.”
- Once each pair has built a house, have the students switch roles.
- If there are enough bricks, save the first set of houses to review and compare later. If not, have each pair take apart the first house and use the same bricks to make the second house.
Enrichment: For students who need an additional challenge, invite them to write down their instructions using words and/or images.
Support: For struggling students, help them break the task down into just a few steps, such as build the walls, then build the roof.
- Circulate the room and observe each pair of students working together.
- Measure student success by whether or not each student is able to express instructions in a way that the other student in the pair can understand and respond appropriately.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Ask students to look at the brick houses they built.
- Discuss: What was fun about this activity? What was challenging?
- Invite peer-to-peer feedback by asking, “What did your partner do or say that helped you understand the instructions?”
Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.