Real-life Algorithms


  • Students will decompose large activities into a series of smaller events.
  • They will arrange events sequentially into the correct order.

Rationale (Why we are doing this?)

  • Students will relate the concept of algorithms to everyday activities.
  • They will begin making connections between real life situations and online situations.


  • Water rocket launcher (available through a number of sources – see pictures)
  • Pop bottle ( 1 or 2 litre)
  • Water source (hose or bucket of water)
  • Masking tape (electrician’s tape is helpful)
  • Recycled cardboard, Bristol board

Context and Background Knowledge

Students will understand that an algorithm is a list of steps that you can follow to finish a task.

Curricular Connections (Competencies and Content)

Developing readiness and beginning to explore computational thinking.

Explore + Understand + Create (Key elements/Lesson Design/Format)

  1. I do- Teacher will model how to outline step by step instructions for a given task. Choose something simple like how to draw a house or how to brush your teeth. Have you instructions already written on a piece of chart paper. Explain that you need to be very explicit and detailed in your instructions.
  2. We do- As a class, create a list of instructions for a task the students are somewhat familiar with such as planting a seed. Write the instructions as given on the board and then follow them exactly to plant a seed. Did we miss a step? Go back and fix as needed.
  3. You do- Arrange (see image 1), draw pictures, or write instructions in a sequential order. Choose a task such as planting a seed that you reviewed as a class. Then switch with a partner and try to complete the task using their instructions.
  4. Come back together as a class and discuss the lesson: were you able to follow your partner’s instructions, what if the algorithm was missing a step, what if there were even more steps?


  • Students will choose a simple task they know how to do and create step by step instructions to share with the class. They will then teach their classmates this new skill.


  • Do students understand what an algorithm is?
  • Are they able to break down or chunk an activity into smaller components?

Image 1:

Images and ideas sourced from: