Sphero and the chocolate factory
About this lesson
This activity uses Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as an example. This lesson idea was created by Steven Payne.
Year band: 3-4Curriculum Links Assessment
Links with Digital Technologies Curriculum Area
Define simple problems, and describe and follow a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve them (ACTDIP010)
Implement simple digital solutions as visual programs with algorithms involving branching (decisions) and user input (ACTDIP011)
Links with English Curriculum Area
Innovate on familiar texts through play (ACELT1831)
- Teachers observe students using the Spheros, creating their algorithms and debugging.
- Use questioning to elicit student understanding of the functions of Sphero and the programming blocks in Lightning Lab and their algorithmic thinking.
- You might take photos/videos of the students’ work to document their progress – or in the final presentations.
|Quantity of knowledge||Quality of understanding|
|No programming shown.||Program only contacts a limited number of blocks which are not linked.||Program has enough instructions to complete the task but not linked or not linked in the correct sequence – or there are parts that do not work.||Algorithm has instructions linked in the correct sequence to achieve the task – Sphero can follow a path programmed in Lightning Lab.||Algorithm brings in prior learning and/or independent learning beyond the task and possibly includes advanced blocks such as loops.|
|English linked to Design||No links to the story.||Limited behaviour of Sphero linked to the story, e.g. change of colour or speed.||Correctly programmed behaviours, e.g. change of speed, direction, colour but not for each room/scene or some not relevant.||Sphero programmed correctly using blocks to relate to specific points in the story in the correct order.||Program brings in prior learning and/or independent learning beyond the task and possibly includes additional blocks such as spinning, fading and decisions.|
|Vocabulary||When describing the program, no specific vocabulary is used.||The terms instruction or program may be used as a general description.||The terms algorithm and program used as a general description.||The terms algorithm and program are used confidently with specific reference to learner’s work.||Specific vocabulary like decisions, repetition and variable is used, going beyond the set language.|
- iPads with the SPRK Lightning Lab app.
- Paper and pens
- Cardboard boxes and glue / sticky tape
Prior Student Learning
- Students have done some work on algorithms and used some basic visual programming (possibly with Sphero).
- Students have done some work on angles.
- Cardboard boxes and glue / sticky tape.
Show images of the four main rooms in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Chocolate Room, The Inventing Room, The Nut Room and The Television Room (or choose places or scenes from the book that your class has read.)
Ask students to discuss in pairs something important or memorable that happened in each of the rooms.
Introduce Sphero (maybe dressed up as a character from the book). Explain that we are going to program Sphero to navigate a path to various rooms (or scenes) in the book and respond appropriately with colour and movement.
Learning map and outcomes
- Students describe the sequence of events in the story.
- Students work in teams to design their algorithm using SPRK Lightning Lab.
- Students work in teams to implement their program for Sphero to interact with the various rooms or scenes
- Students can debug their algorithms
Show how to pair Sphero with an iPad and run a block-based program in Lightning Lab.
Show a few of the basic control blocks and how to change their behaviour (e.g. angle, colour, speed). Do not show too much as students should be playing, discovering and problem-solving with Lightning Lab in their groups.
Explain that students are going to construct their own paths around the Chocolate Factory for Sphero to follow.
Sphero can play the part of Willy Wonka, or another character, or a visitor from your class. Students will need to program Sphero to move around the Factory and interact with the various rooms.
Students work in small groups or pairs to construct a path on the floor using cardboard boxes (or similar) as the different rooms.
This is an opportunity for students to play and find out how to control the Sphero.
Encourage students to be imaginative and consider direction, speed, colour, and sound and how these might be relevant to points in the path or the story.
E.g. Sphero could turn blue (like a giant blueberry) in The Inventing Room. Sphero could slow down and turn pink to represent the Pink Sweet Boat ride in The Chocolate Room.
As students draw lines, teacher asks questions as appropriate:
- Why have you used this block?
- How does Sphero know where to go next?
- How could you program Sphero to avoid crashing into the box?
- What have you changed?
Reinforce the fact that failure is a good thing! As students work, they should make notes on what works and doesn’t work. They can also compare notes and help other groups out.
Once students have programmed Sphero, choose a couple of groups to present what they have created with the class:
- What did you discover about the different blocks?
- How did you show what the character was thinking or doing?
- What worked well?
- What did not work well?
- What would you change if you were to repeat the task?
Take photos / video of the presentations and discussions about the learning process.
Bring together the observations from the learning demo and, if possible, show some photos / videos.
- Download entire lesson plan: PDF version.
- Download entire lesson plan: Microsoft Word version.
- Computer Science Education Research Group (CSER)
- This lesson plan corresponds to professional learning in the following CSER Digital Technologies MOOCs: