Coding Concepts #2: Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Teach coding concepts and math concepts using familiar stories. This activity focuses on teaching grid skills, choosing the shortest route and numbering.

This is a second activity in the Coding Concepts using familiar stories series. See the first post, Coding Concepts: Going on a Bear Hunt which includes a fun activity and additional information about using books to teach coding concepts. 

Teacher Hint: The Going on a Bear Hunt route with only 7 objects along a simple route is easier than the Brown Bear activity. 

The Brown Bear, Brown Bear activity has been modified for students with visual impairments with permission from the original author, Deidre Smith (JDaniel4’s Mom).  See her original Brown Bear, Brown Bear Coding Algorithm Pinterest article here.

The well-loved story, Brown Bear, Brown Bear with it’s repetitive, rhyming structure is perfect for young students who delight in memorizing the story – making it a perfect story for a coding concept game! While this book is geared for young students, this activity is for students of all ages!


Create a tactile grid with symbols or brailled words to correspond with the story. See attached print version of the Brown Bear, Brown Bear grid. There are many ways to create a tactile version of the grid (5 columns by 7 rows) and to create tactile manipulatives for the arrows.

Image: Brown Bear, Brown Bear grid with 7 rows and 5 columns, numbering starts in the bottom left corner. Title: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear Algorithm Activity”. The layout of this grid is similar to the coding grids in the Swift Playgrounds app, with row 1, column 1 in the bottom left corner.

Items in the grid:

Image of Brown Bear, Brown Bear grid

Teacher Note: If using this grid with a young child, be sure to explain that some grids start in the top left corner (row 1, column 1) while other grids start in the bottom left corner. In the Going on a Bear Hunt activity, the grid is numbered starting in the top left corner – which is different than the Brown Bear activity. Beginning coding apps, such as Ballyland Code 1 app, start the grid numbering in the top left corner; however, coding languages, such as Swift Playgrounds starts the grid numbering in the bottom left corner. You can modify the numbering according to your student’s level and his ability to create a mental map. But keep in mind that students will need to use grids that starting numbering in the bottom left and that students with VIB adapt quickly when given opportunities at an early age!

Tactile Grid

Tactile Arrows

The “arrows” need to be manipulatives that students can move around on the board. The objects (animals) can be permanently placed or temporary. (If you want to play the game multiple times, do not permanently attach the objects; place the objects in new positions in the grid. For easier game play, try to keep the route from back tracking or crossing.) It is recommended to use up, down, left or right arrows, as it is easier for students to identify the direction when “writing” or verbalizing the code. However, more advanced students can use straight tactile line symbols (and mentally remember what each tactile line represents according to where it is located – an up, down, right or left turn).

Teacher Hint: A magnetic board with added raised lines and magnetic arrows works well as the arrows and objects do not slide as the student’s hands explore the grid! These magnetic arrows are sturdy, will last, and can be used for other activities. The magnetic board can be a dry erase board that is magnetic (commonly available at Wal-mart) or even a small cookie sheet. Use magnetic business cards (do not peal off the sticky back). Cut straight, right turn and left turn arrows out of foam sheets. (I chose to make all the arrows the same color; you could use different colors or textures to represent each type of arrow.) Be sure to glue the arrows onto the business cards; do not rely on the sticky backed foam sheets to stick long term! I also clipped the top right corner of the business card for quick identification. You can use foam animal cut outs (pre-cut), textures to represent the various animals, more life-like three dimensional animals, or simply braille the animal names. It is recommended to add a magnetic piece to the bottom of the animals as well.

Four magnetic business cards with clipped top right corners. Each card has one red foam arrow: up, down, right or left.


Encourage the students to say the story as you read it. Provide opportunities for the students to tell you what the next animal is – as students need to know the order of the animals in order to complete this activity. Ask the student to systematically explore the grid and identify each animal/object on the grid. (If numbering from the bottom left, be sure that the student starts exploring in the bottom left and systematically searches what is in the first column, before moving to the next column. The student should associate each object with it’s location.

Ask the student to identify what is in various squares, such as what is in row 2, column 3. Teach/encourage the student to first mentally think about the grid layout and if the object will be on the bottom, middle or top half of the grid (bottom would be rows 1 and 2; top would be rows 6 and 7) and if the object will be on the left or right (left would be columns 1 and 2; right would be columns 4 and 5). The student should then start searching for the object in the general area. Ask your student to find a specific item and say it’s location, such as purple cat (student says row 7 column 5).

Once the student understands the grid and has developed a general mental map of the grid, think about the first pages in the story, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a Red Bird looking at me.” Find the brown bear (row 1, column 1) and the red bird (Row 4, column 1). Have the student describe where the red bird is in relationship to the brown bear (up). How many moves (up) to reach the red bird? Remember to move to the actual square that the red bird is in! Place an up arrow in the blank square above the bear. What is the next move? Repeat until the route to the Red bird is complete. If necessary, place the final arrow in the square with the red bird; depending on how you created your tactile grid and objects, the arrow may be placed on top of or underneath the symbol for the red bird. (Total of three up arrows.)

Starting from the red bird, determine the route to the next animal (yellow duck). Is this the shortest route to the duck? Repeat the steps for each route.

Note: With this grid, there are numerous route choices. Find the shortest route to each animal/object.

When completed, ask the student to check his work, starting at the square with the brown bear and ending at the square with the children.

Orientation and Mobility

Grids, mental mapping and routes are foundation orientation and mobility (O&M) concepts and are critical skills for students with visual impairments. Whenever possible, tie in coding activities like this to math skills and O&M skills. Spatial concepts and spatial relationships between objects (or places) is a critical piece of O&M. Ask the student to determine the spatial relationship between two objects, such as the brown bear (start of the route) and the children (end of the route). The children are up and to the right of the brown bear (diagonal). What is the relationship between other objects on the grid? What objects are at the top of the grid? If traveling from the orange fish to the green frog, what objects will you pass? Is the teacher closer to the children or to the red bird? What are in the corners of the grid? These concets can be expanded to routes in the school or community. Example: Where is the cafeteria in relationship to the gym? What do rooms do you pass on the route from the classroom to the front door? How many blocks from school to the gas station? Create a tactile grid of your school or community.


Photo of attached file for the Brown Bear grid with tactile images and braille created with swell paper. photo of the Brown Bear tactile key for the images in the grid. This tactile key was created with swell paper.

Photo of Brown Bear grid with braille words representing each image. This tactile grid with braille was also made with swell paper.

The attached Brown Bear files are intended for printing on Swell Paper and run through a thermal image enhancer: one version has tactile black and white symbols and key and the second version is in braille only. These grids also include row and column numbers. (A big thank you to Betsey Sennott at Perkins School for the Blind for creating these files for Paths to Tecnology viewers!)

Coding Concepts: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt post

Coding Concepts #3: Snowy Day post

Teaching Positions in a Table post

Collage of coding concepts

Attached File(s)
By Diane Brauner

Two elementary students working with a robot and computer in the background

Coding posts summary

images of Sphero

Sequencing Coding Concept Activities


Coding Concepts: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt