Lessons in Teaching Computing

A Message from the Authors


We wrote this book in response to the new computing programmes of study for KS1 and 2, which are a substantial revision of the previous ICT curriculum.


The book supports primary school teachers who are new to teaching computing by giving them lesson ideas and signposts to good online resources. The book also helps teachers use computing as a creative tool for teaching and learning in their classrooms.

We begin with a simple idea: that by understanding how computers work and using that knowledge to ‘make’ and ‘do’, computing becomes an exciting and inventive environment.

Children, of course, are used to interacting with games and animations on computers and other digital devices. Many are also used to making digital artefacts such as slideshows and eBooks. But children are much less familiar with ways to bring the things they make to life. And computer programming helps them do this. It enables them, for example, to make interactive posters, to make branching stories with choices, to make games with scores, animations that can be controlled, and stories with characters who ask questions and talk back to you.  

To help teachers and their pupils get the most from their digital world, we have approached computing as an expressive medium rather than just a place to learn to write code for code’s sake. So, we focus on using simple, visual tools that add a new dimension to computing by turning ‘learning by doing’ into ‘learning by making’.   

Through the book, we also promote computing as a way of thinking. Just as the act of writing with pen and paper helps us think, the process of using programming tools can lead children to refine and reflect on their ideas. So what will your pupils learn if you use this book? We think they will learn skills that are useful for everyone, everywhere.

  •        The process of finding mistakes and ‘debugging’ as a normal part of solving problems.
  •        The importance of perseverance when looking for solutions.
  •        The value of learning from others, to remix and reuse ideas.

Our book links directly to the Teachers’ Standards and to the revisions of the National Curriculum. Each chapter looks at a particular aspect of the programmes of study for computing. We try to demystify computing terms and concepts in a ‘non-geeky’ way and provide practical lessons you can begin to use straight away.

Each chapter starts with an idea for a lesson or set of lessons you can use and adapt. These lessons are followed by a discussion of the subject knowledge and pedagogical knowledge that you’ll need, the ‘whys and hows’ for classroom teaching and learning. And we link to resources and ideas that we think will engage and enthuse your pupils.

You'll find that the book is packed with ideas, and to make life easier we have made the chapter themes relate closely to the programme of study strands.

For example, we start by looking at algorithms in Key Stage 1 and we give a lesson example of how young children might apply computational thinking to solve problems through play and experimentation, through ‘unplugged learning’ without a computer.

Then, in the next chapter for KS1, we help young children make the transition from unplugged activities to writing sequences of instructions to control physical robots and then to carry out directional programming on a screen.

Overall, our book suggests an approach to teaching computing that is about creativity and fun, and about encouraging learners to respond to challenges and problems using technology as a tool.

In particular, we want you to share our excitement in using computing in creative, thought-provoking and purposeful ways. We’re sure you’ll agree that technology has transformed the way in which we all learn, whether as adults, children or teachers, and we’d like to encourage you to let your own enthusiasm be the catalyst, driving the learning of computing in your classrooms and helping your children pursue and share their own big ideas.


About the Book


Teaching the new computing curriculum? Lesson plans and subject knowledge - all in one book!

If you are a primary trainee you will be learning to teach the new computing curriculum.  As well as subject knowledge, you need to know what effective teaching of computing in primary schools actually looks like. As few primary school teachers currently have the skills and training to teach computing, where can you find quality exemplars to learn from? This book provides them.  Written by ITT tutors, it offers exemplar lessons alongside detailed exploration of what makes them good, and the theory behind them. The text encourages you to consider the teaching of computing critically and to envisage how you can shape lessons for your own teaching. 

About the Authors


James Bird - Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

James Bird picture

Helen Caldwell - University of Northampton, UK

Helen Caldwell image

Peter Mayne - University of Worcester, UK

Peter Mayne photo