One of our favorite games to play with children to help them think about computational thinking is “what’s the rule?”
How to Play
Collect and observe objects and discuss patterns, trends, and regularities in what you see.
You can collect a group of objects to use for the game. This can include shells, toys, Legos, or balls. Include objects that do not look too similar. These objects should include three or four similar characteristics (size, color, shape, texture) to group them.
Create a circle on the group to create a distinction between spaces in and out of the circle. This can be with chalk, string, a hula-hoop, etc.
Think of a rule to group some of the objects. It could be something like “all of the animals” or “all of the objects with four sides.”
Slowly add and/or remove objects from the circle to conform to the rules you set. Ask the children to talk and indicate “what’s the rule” that is dictating what you add and remove from the group.
For some children, you may choose to allow the children to answer, but don’t indicate if they are correct or incorrect in their responses. Just listen, and then continue to move on and think of a new “rule” and move the objects to make them fit your “rule.” Have children continue to guess “what’s the rule.”
Once the youth get the handle of the game, tell the children what is the rule you’re trying to create, and have them move items in and out of the circle that fit the rule. Give each child an opportunity to move items in and out of the circle that fit your rule.
Once your group is comfortable playing the game, switch it up. Have a child create a rule. They can develop their own “rule” and move items in and out of the circle. They can ask you, or other children in the group to indicate “what’s the rule.”
As you continue to play, the games can become more spontaneous and pop up whenever youth are playing and interacting.
This game can be played using the rules I have identified up above, or modified. The key is for youth to classify and sort objects while using the appropriate terms to interact with the items and environment.
Once again, this is building up the thinking skills necessary in computational thinking, and helps prepare learners to think abstractly.
If you really want to step up your game, you can play “what’s the rule” by looking at clothes as you leave the house, cars as you drive somewhere, or elements of a television show.
Have a discussion with youth about the elements, classifications, and groupings that you all see.
You can also start to use terms like the following to talk about the objects, elements, and themes.
- Pattern Recognition – What patterns do you see if this group?
- Abstraction – What happens if we abstract, or hide the toys from the group? What is left?
- Decomposition – Let’s decompose, or separate out all of the objects. Put the buttons over here. The cars over there. The Legos over here. How does this help us play the game?
- Algorithm – Let’s create an algorithm, or set of rules for playing this game. How would you explain to your friends if we would play it with them?