Unplugged Coding: Snowflakes

Since this week is Computer Science Education Week, I wanted to share an unplugged coding activity I designed and facilitated with 3rd grade classes today.

Before I describe the unplugged portion, please know I initially designed this activity to be done digitally using Freeform. Freeform is available now in beta as part of iPadOS 16 and I am excited about the collaboration potential. The image below is what I envision as a starting point for collaborative work to code a snowflake with commands that resemble those utilized in Swift Playgrounds.

Screenshot of snowflake coding activity
On the left is the set of commands that the students would use to code the process to use paper and scissors to create a snowflake. Collaboratively, through discussion and agreement, the students would drag the commands to the Our Snowflake Code rectangle space. Then, they would follow those commands independently to fold and cut circular paper to create their own snowflakes. Finally, they would add photos of their own snowflakes to the board. Reflection conversations about debugging the code to change the outcome of the design are limitless.

Now, back to the unplugged experience. I asked the students to use their academic vocabulary to describe each step I took as I modeled for the class how to create a paper snowflake. I introduced code-specific vocabulary during this process, such as for loop.

In preparation, I printed and cut apart the commands on the attached Keynote file. Each group of students received a set of the commands to connect to the steps I modeled. The students were able to complete this task and they even utilized the for loop command appropriately.


At this point I introduced debugging and instructed the groups to edit their code as they wished so it would produce a different snowflake. Finally, they followed their code to create paper snowflakes.

I hope this activity inspires you!



Tagged in: Coding

All Comments

Posted on December 07, 2022

What a fun activity to introduce coding vocabulary, Mary! I also hadn't read much about Freeform, and your post got me excited about all the collaborative, creative possibilities there!

Posted on July 21, 2023

This is a great activity Mary! I’ll be using this in my class this year to get the kids excited for coding! Thank you for sharing

Posted on July 25, 2023

I love this Parson's Problem. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

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