Basic Unix Lesson Plan
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Introduction to Unix Command Line



Lesson Abstract

This lesson introduces students to the idea of operating a computer via the Unix command line, as well as some of the basic concepts required to understand the Unix way of doing things.

Standards Addressed



  • Explain and define concepts such as Unix and CLI (command line interface)
  • Explore the command-line environment provided by Unix
  • Learn basic useful commands
  • Learn how to learn more and get help

Key Terms


Prerequisite Knowledge

- Familiarity with computers and computer concepts, such as basic filesystem structure. Typing skills are very important.

Teacher Preparation

Teacher should know the basic Unix commands cold, as well as the core concepts such as filesystem structure.


Required MaterialsMediaEquipment


  • Terminal emulator on Unix-based computer or connection to Unix-based computer (to access basic command-line shell)

  • Modern computer


Be careful with the ‘rm’ command.

Presentation Outline


5 minutes

  • What is Unix
    • Brief history (70’s, Ritchie, etc.)
    • Basic OS that’s been built upon over the years
  • Why is it useful to know
    • Makes you think like a computer
    • Lots of scientific work still done on Unix-based workstations and supercomputers
    • Many modern computer concepts that we take for granted were first standardized by Unix


10 minutes

  • Google scavenger hunt (
    No content (no such resource '//succeed/curriculum/SystemAdministration/Scavenger')
    ) for info about Unix concepts
  • Go over results from scavenger hunt


30 minutes

  • Explain commands
    • Moving around, bearings
      • Change and view directories
        • cd (change directory
        • pwd (show current directory name)
        • ls (list current directory contents)
        • w (display who is logged in and what they are doing)
      • Filesystem hierarchy and paths explanation
    • File management
      • Copying and moving files
        • cp (copy files)
        • mv (move files)
      • Creating directories
        • mkdir (make directories)
      • Deleting files
        • rm (remove directory entries)
      • (Optional) Links
    • Remote access (ssh, sftp, scp)
      • Only if time
  • Give students tasks to do using newfound commands (
    No content (no such resource '//succeed/curriculum/SystemAdministration/Assignment')


5 minutes

  • Quick review of commands
  • Quick review of concepts from exploration, or from commands

Follow Up

5 minutes

  • Future directions (make aware of – “excitement”):
    • Additional commands
    • Pipelines; fancy scripts
    • Programming under Unix