Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Unplugged Coding: Teaching Directional Vocabulary

Subject Area

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
Social Studies




The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the concept of coding through unplugged activities that require students to (1) give directions, (2) listen and follow directions, and (3) understand and apply knowledge of directional vocabulary such as right, left, up, down, in, out, above, and below. Through the unplugged coding activity, students will create an algorithm, or sequence steps, to complete a maze to gain the skills of completing a task by breaking down a task into smaller steps.The connection with computer coding with the activity is to introduce students to the concept that computers follow directions just as we do. We can use code to communicate with a computer in order to give it directions to complete a task. Through a discussion on how a computer understands the code, students can relate the way a computer understands code to how they understood the directions given to them during the activity to complete the maze.

This activity was created as a result of the DLCS Resource Development Summit.

    Digital Literacy and Computer Science (2018) Grade(s): KG


    List the sequence of events required to solve problems.

    Unpacked Content



    • sequence


    Students know:
    • certain tasks require a specific sequence.


    Students are able to:
    • tell the order of events for specific task.
    • identify what comes next for specific tasks.
    • identify a step that is not in the correct order.


    Students understand that:
    • the order of events is important.
    • events are made up of several different steps.
    Social Studies (2010) Grade(s): KG


    Apply vocabulary related to giving and following directions.

    Unpacked Content



    • directions
    • following directions
    • giving directions


    Students know:
    • How to locate objects or tell someone else how/where to locate an object by using certain words.
    • Vocabulary: right, left, up, down, in, out, above, below


    Students are able to:
    • Complete a task by following directions given verbally by the teacher.
    • Complete a task by giving directions verbally.


    Students understand that:
    • Different words indicate a directions in which one might move or locate an object.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    1. Apply vocabulary related to giving and following directions.

    2. Develop a sequence of steps related to a task and verbally communicating the steps so that others can follow.

    Activity Details

    1. Have students demonstrate the vocabulary related to giving directional commands (e.g., up, down, left, right, in, out, above) through activities such as getting them out of their desks to physically turn right, left, etc.

    2. Once directional vocabulary has been demonstrated by the students, the teacher will ask: “Why is it important to understand directions?” (You can follow steps to complete a task. You want to get to a certain location. You want to make cookies using the right ingredients.)

    3. Have students discuss other reasons why following directions is important and frame the discussion around encouraging the students to think of the smaller steps involved in completing daily activities (e.g., tying shoes, getting ready in the morning, etc.).

    4. Give students time to share a few of the directions needed to complete the tasks they discussed.

    5. Individual Activity: Provide each student with a copy of a simple grid maze.

      1. Each student will also need a game piece or other item to be used to physically move around the maze.

      2. Have students use a pencil to write the directions on the maze to illustrate the steps to get from the start of the maze to the finish.

    6. Small Group Activity: Divide students into smaller groups (four students per group) for the next activities.

      1. Once students have finished writing the directions to complete the maze, have students explain and discuss their process of steps to get from the start to the finish of the maze.

      2. Within the group, have students discuss and explain if this were a real maze, how could you guide someone through the maze using these step?

      3. Give each group of students a task card.

      4. The students in the group will work collaboratively to break down the smaller steps involved in completing the task by verbally discussing the smaller steps, or process, to complete the assigned task. (They will be creating an algorithm to complete the task.)

      5. Once each group has finished creating the sequence of smaller steps to complete their task, allow each group of students to share aloud the algorithm the group created to complete the assigned task.

      6. The teacher will ask: “How can breaking up a task into smaller steps help someone else follow the directions to complete the same task?” (Answers may include: to get the same results, complete the same task, teach someone how to do a task)

    7. Whole Group Activity: Introduction to Coding

      1. The teacher will have students discuss: “How do you think computers understand directions?” (A human has to give it directions it understands.)

      2. “Computers use code just like we use directions like up, down, left, right, etc.” (Students will need to understand computers don’t understand the language we speak, but instead, have their own languages called “code.”)

      3. “The activity we completed with the maze is similar to how a computer understands code. We give it directions in its language to tell it how to complete a task.”

      4. “I’m going to give you a more difficult maze, your group will work together to write a code, or directions, for a computer to complete the maze. Be careful not to run into any obstacles!”

    8. Small Group Activity: Divide students back into groups of four.

      1. Give each group a copy of the advanced maze.

      2. The group’s task is to write the code (every group may have a different code to complete the task) for a computer to complete the maze without running into any obstacles.

      3. Once groups have finished writing their code (ten minutes), give each group time to share their code and the process used by the group.

      4. This activity will introduce them into coding concepts and can be used as an introduction to using smaller codable bots in future lessons.

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    1. Assess each student’s ability to use directional vocabulary to complete the maze.
    2. Assess group work and discussion using the collaborative group work rubric.

    Variation Tips

    This activity can be extended with the use of codeable bots once students have mastered the understanding that coding languages can give computers (or bots) directions. The same format for the activity can be completed with students learning the coding language to code the bot to move through the maze.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    1. The teacher will need a copy of the simple maze for each student.
    2. The teacher will need a copy of the advanced maze for each group.
    3. The teacher will need to make a copy of the task cards.