Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Robot Teacher

Programming and Algorithms

Teresa Lansford, Patricia Turner, Lindsey Link | Published: February 17th, 2022 by Oklahoma Young Scholars/Javits

  • Grade Level Grade Level 1st, 2nd, Kindergarten
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100
  • Duration More 3 periods


Computer programming helps young learners to understand how to think things through step-by-step, solve problems, and make adjustments based on feedback. There are many great resources now for both online and offline coding and using algorithms to solve problems for learners of all ages. These lessons give some of our youngest learners the chance to see themselves as computer programmers, understand how computers “think,” and analyze a problem to seek solutions while they learn about the term "algorithm."

Essential Question(s)

How do computers think and work? How can we make computers do things we want them to do?



Students control a "robot teacher" to learn how robots can only act on what they are told to do, are literal, and need detailed guidance.


Using BeeBots, or by watching videos of robots doing work, learners think about how something is programmed to do work.


Students learn the term "algorithm" and create their own algorithms to control their classmates in a follow-the-leader-style game.


The class works as a team to solve coding problems using


Students work in pairs or individually to create their own algorithms to solve coding problems on


  • Picture book (any)

  • BeeBots or other programmable robots (optional)

  • Internet access

  • Computer or tablet for video display

  • Arrow cards (attached; 1 set per pair of students)

  • Student devices for exploring (optional)

  • Robot Teacher Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Chart paper

  • Markers


20 Minute(s)

Use slides 1-4 to introduce the lesson.

Display slide 5.

Introduce Robot Teacher by telling students that today they have a robot teacher. Robot teachers cannot think for themselves and, just like a robot, can only do what they are told to do. Their robot teacher wants to read a book but has never been programmed how to do it. It is the student's job to tell the robot teacher step-by-step what it needs to do to read the book. Have the students tell the "robot teacher" step-by-step what to do. Be very literal in following directions. If a student says to "open the book," open it in the middle or upside down. This is a great way to also integrate book handling and concepts into this lesson and can serve as a formative assessment as to learner knowledge and ability in regard to book skills. Have fun with this and emphasize that robots/computers are only able to do what we tell them to do.

Students will learn that robots do not think for themselves, and we must be detailed in our directions for success as computer programmers.

Move to slide 6. Using a Think-Pair-Share, ask the students: What was fun about commanding the robot teacher? What was hard? Have them think, share with a partner, and then share out with a large group.


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 7. BeeBots are a great concrete way for students to see that their commands matter in programming. If you have access to BeeBots, or other coding robots, let students have time to play, wonder, and ask questions commanding these robots. Record what students notice and still have questions about after practice programming robots in an I Notice I Wonder chart.

For classes without access to robots, use all or some of the videos on slides 8-12 to explore how robots do work. After each video, ask students: What work is the robot doing? How do you think computer programmers were able to teach these robots to do this work?

Robot Construction Worker

Robot Painter

Robots Balancing and Moving

Robot Dog

Wal-Mart Robot


20 Minute(s)

Move to slide 13. Share with students that computer programmers have a big word they use for the steps to get a computer or robot to do the work they want it to do. That word is algorithm. An algorithm is the list of steps that get a robot or computer program to its goal. Today, the class is going to create an algorithm to get their friends to move around.

Place students in pairs. Give each pair of students a set of arrow cards. Tell them these are going to be the commands they give to their friends. Let them know that the person who decides on the commands is called a programmer. The order of the arrow cards will be their algorithm for getting their friends in the class to move around. Give students time to decide on their algorithm and have them stack their cards in the order they want their classmates to move. Call up one group of "programmers" at a time. Be very deliberate in using the vocabulary and having students use it as well. Call up groups of "programmers" and ask them the share their "algorithm." Ask "What are the steps in your algorithm?" and have them respond "Our algorithm is . . ." Have them hold up their first card. The class follows the leader by doing what the card shows. Have the pairs show their cards until they have completed their program. Then call the next group.

Some students may notice that when facing the class, they may plan for everyone to move right but to them it looks like everyone is moving left. This is a great programming skill to notice. When programming, you have to think of the robot's perspective. Sometimes we have to turn around ourselves and stand like the robot in order to understand the directions we are giving.

At the end, ask pairs to share with one another what an algorithm is. Look for responses that include the commands you give to a computer or robot to get work done.


20 Minute(s)

Move to slide 14. Share with students that the class will use this site to learn to use block coding. Exit the slide presentation and visit the introduction to coding at (

As a class, work together to complete coding puzzles. This coding experience from lets you see how changes to your code affect your character's movement. It has tutorial videos to guide your class through each step of the coding process. Students can take turns coming up to the board or computer to drag blocks into place or you can move the blocks of code.

Do as many levels as are developmentally appropriate for your class.

When you have finished coding, return to slide 15 in the presentation. Work as a class to make an Anchor Chart for tips when coding. Use block coding based on what you learned from the game. Make sure to include the definition of algorithm in your Anchor Chart.


20 Minute(s)

To evaluate students, there are several choices depending upon the developmental level of the students and access to devices.

  1. Students can return to and try the tasks again, this time independently or with a partner.

  2. Students explore to program a dancer on their own devices independently or with a partner.

  3. If you are comfortable giving students access to games you are not yet familiar with, you can direct students to this link,, to view all coding options and sort by grade level.

Note that not all games will work on all devices. Prepare students by letting them know that if a game does not work or does not seem a good fit for them, then they should try something else.

As students are coding, take note of their ability to problem solve, troubleshoot, and think through step-by-step instructions. Those that struggle could join you at a teacher table to work through the steps. Refer them to your class Anchor Charts for ideas as well.