Teaching Computing Unplugged in Primary Schools

    teaching-computing-unplugged-cover-smallThe book Teaching Computing Unplugged in Primary Schools, co-authored by Helen Caldwell and me, is published by Sage. The book is aimed at in-service primary school teachers, looking to develop or extend computational thinking in their students by using "unplugged" activities. Unplugged activities are those that develop computational thinking without the use of a computer.

    The book is intended both to support teachers who are unfamiliar with all the concepts in the computing curriculum by giving them some concrete guidance on how to convert the sometimes-abstract statement in the national curriculum. For those teachers who are more confident with teaching computing, there are plenty of suggestions of alternative activities and cross-curricular links.

    Each chapter in the book takes a theme and gives three classroom-ready unplugged activities for that theme. Each activity includes the computational learning outcomes for students. Each chapter starts with an introduction that relates the activities to the wider computing curriculum and links them to the teaching standards. There are also suggestions of cross-curricular links, as many of the activities can fit into other themes to develop some computational thinking in different contexts. After the activies, there are some reflective questions for teachers and a discussion.


    • Introduction (free to read online)
    • Robots by Helen Caldwell and Neil Smith
    • Musicians by Sway Grantham
    • Artists by Scott Turner and Katharine Childs
    • Explorers by Sway Grantham and Kim Calvert
    • Code breakers: Dpef Csfblfst by Mark Dorling
    • Magicians by Paul Curzon and Peter McOwan
    • Gamers by Yasemin Allsop
    • Cooks by Jane Waite
    • Scientists by Jon Chippindall

    See also

    The original CS Unplugged has a range of activities, but mostly aimed at secondary and sixth form children, and above.

    CS4Fun is a UK-based initiative with lots of unplugged activities, many revolving around magic tricks. They publish a physical magazine about twice a year. The activities are aimed at KS2 and KS3, but can easily be adapted to KS4 and beyond.

    And no mention of computing unplugged activities wouldbe complete without Phil Bagge's wonderful rendition of making a jam sandwich.

    Neil Smith

    Read more posts by this author.