CONCEPT: Introduce coding concepts to pre-readers with this vibrant game.
DELIVERY:So there I was, in full swing for The Hour of Code delivering parent, staff and student sessions before and after lessons (as well as continuing programming lessons that were already running in year groups) when I realised that I had a couple of Foundation Stage 2 lessons to fill. I was going to drop in a Christmas themed Puppet Pals lesson then I started thinking - what if there was a way these 4 year olds could get involved in The Hour of Code too? Then I found The Foos...
As you may have read in my recent feature, I've been using Scratch Jr to great success with Year 2 students. A lot of this is thanks to the language-neutral interface and the way the app uses colours and icons to allow younger students to interact with the coding concepts on offer. The Foos takes things one step further and genuinely offers something that even pre-school kids could get to grips with. Having tried it with those FS2 kids, I can tell you that engagement levels were through the roof and every single student was able to make considerable progress.
The app is structured as a series of coding challenges set in a vibrant cartoon world. The goal each time is simple, generally to reach the star - and the interface is clean and intuitive with an icon-based code block palette at the bottom of the screen and. A strip to drag the blocks onto when you want to use them. As a visual prompt, a hand icon guides students towards the elements they need to interact with. This is especially useful when new blocks are introduced.
The levels are grouped into themed sets of eight with the concepts progressing to include repeat loops (with the numerical values cleverly represented by fingers rather than digits!) Each level can be solved in a few different ways, with the best outcome earning you three stars. The learning curve is generally fair and the coding concepts build steadily. Reaching key totals of stars also allows you to unlock a couple of free play levels where the coins that you've picked up along the way can be traded in for characters to code with.
LIMITATIONS:The jump to the second stage, where repeat loops are introduced, is quite steep for some and perhaps a short animation modelling the concept would have been beneficial.
CONCLUSION: Really impressive and genuinely effective for allowing students as young as 4 to begin to understand coding.
Introducing coding to pre-readers As a tool for modelling the concept of algorithms As a prompt for instructional writing