Programming Languages Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

How would you like to be able to talk to a computer? To do that, you need to learn a programming language. In this lesson, you'll learn about programming languages and how they work.

Talking to Computers

How do computers know what we want them to do? Sometimes, like when you use an online website, you can just type in words and the computer knows what you want. That's happens because of a computer program, which tells the computer what to do.

Computer programs are written in programming languages. Just like English and Spanish are languages that you might learn to communicate with other people, if you want to communicate with a computer, you need to learn a programming language.

Lots of 0s and 1s

Computers only understand binary code, which is written only in 0s and 1s. A short sample of binary code might look like this:


These 0s and 1s are called machine language. All computer programs have to be changed into machine language so the computer can understand the commands. To make the computer do something useful, you'd have to write billions of lines of 0s and 1s!

Binary Code

When you write a computer program, you write a list of directions that is called code. A program that is written in binary code is very easy for the computer to read quickly because they don't have to translate the program into 0s and 1s before they can understand it. These types of programs are called low-level programs.

Programming Languages

Can you imagine how difficult and time consuming it is to write a computer program using nothing but 0s and 1s? To make it easier for people to talk to computers, different programming languages have been developed. These 'high-level programs' let you use English words to tell the computer what you want it to do.

High-level programs take a little longer for the computer to run because the computer first has to translate the words into binary code before it can act on the directions. So, writing these programs is easier and faster for the computer programmer, but they do take a bit longer for the computer to complete.

Mobile BASIC Program

If you look at the image of the Mobile BASIC Program above, it's an example of a short high-level program. This program is called Mobile BASIC because it's used on cellphones. You can tell it's a high-level program because it uses real words and numbers other than 0s and 1s. The computer (or in this case, a cellphone) would 'read' the program, change it into 0s and 1s, and then follow the directions given in the program.

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