Terrapin Resources

About Programming

What is programming? Remember that a computer is not an intelligent machine. It can only follow instructions. When you work with a computer in a language like Logo, you are giving instructions to the computer in a language it can understand. Using Kinderlogo, your children have already been programming. They have learned to give directions to the computer, as shown by the actions of the turtle. They can think ahead, plan a design, and command the turtle to draw it. The turtle responds immediately to each command as it is given.

There may be times when children find themselves giving the same set of instructions over and over again in order to create identical designs in different places on the screen. It would be much easier to get the turtle to remember how it drew a shape.

The Logo language is designed to allow you to “teach” the turtle more commands. You can give the turtle a set of instructions to follow and then tell it by what name to remember the instructions. In Logo, this process is known as defining a procedure. A procedure is a set of instructions to do a particular thing. Think of an everyday procedure you know well.

You may often call to your children, “Wash your hands!” When given a “Wash your hands” command, your children will know that they are to stop whatever they are doing and follow the instructions for washing their hands. The “Wash your hands” command implies a set of other instructions that must be followed.

HOW TO “Wash Your Hands”
   Go to a sink.
   Turn on the water.
   Wet your hands.
   Pick up the soap.
   Move the soap between your hands to make a lather.
   Put down the soap.
   Move the lather around some more on your hands.
   Put your hands under the water to rinse them.
   Turn off the water.
   Pick up a towel.
   Dry your hands.
   Hang the towel back up.
   Leave the sink.
END “Wash Your Hands”

Your child has memorized a set of instructions to follow whenever the “Wash your hands” command is given. The child doesn’t consciously think of these as individual instructions, although at one time they had to be carefully learned, step by step. We can assume when we give a “Wash your hands” command that the child knows where the sink is, what soap looks like, what a towel is, etc. Ideally, once your children have learned all that the “Wash your hands” command implies, they will remember all the instructions and never have to be told again. (I did say ideally!)

The Kinderlogo turtle, too, can remember sets of instructions without fail. The turtle is “born” knowing certain commands. It knows how to go forward, backward, turn, lift its pen up, etc. Assume that it knows all the commands you have used so far. You can now combine these to make new commands that you can call up with a single keystroke.

At Level 5, children will be able to name a set of commands and then have the turtle run those commands over and over.