'15-'16 General Discussion for Lesson 3.5

Use this thread to discuss your questions and comments about how to run the lesson.

On bubble 6 many students thought they were supposed to do the whole step-pattern in that bubble. They then got frustrated because they couldn’t do it, but when I told them this was the first step to being able to do the step pattern and by the END of the stage they would be able to do it, they were fine. I would emphasize that they do not need to make the whole pattern in bubble 6 ahead of time.

Also, several of my students were complaining of losing the code that they had made (it had not saved like it should have). I am not sure if they were on this stage or stage 4, but I asked them to “report a bug” to you guys. We noticed this on 11/20 between 1:00-2:00 central time. Do you have a suggestion to how we can/should back-up our code if this continues to happen? Do you foresee it happening frequently?

I am trying to encourage students to report any bugs to you that they see since we were encouraged to do that at CSTA. Are there any specific bugs that we should or should not report?

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Hi Kaitie,

I’m sorry that some of your students were experiencing issues with App Lab. Their code should save automatically every 30 seconds, but should also save on Run, and on Finish. I will follow up with the engineering team to see if there was a known outage on 11/20 between 1-2 central time. In general, we do not forsee this happening frequently, but definitely want to look into it if there’s a problem. Please continue to report issues like this to us (either here via the forums or via zendesk).

For those students who lost code, do they or did they see anything available via the Version History button next to the Show Text/Show Blocks button?

And yes, please do encourage your students to report issues via the Report Bug link. Anything that does not seem right, be it instructions, starter code, or issues saving like you’ve seen are all ideal things to report.


I am on day 3 for just Lesson 3.3! The students are having a hard time wrapping their heads around functions. We are going VERY slow and working together as a class right now through the lesson because so many are struggling with the concept. Does anyone have any ideas to help me get them to an “AHHA” moment?


Hey Tammie,

I’m hoping some other teachers pitch in with ideas from their own experiences with this curriculum. I wanted to jump in with a few ideas that might help.

  • Remind students of the Text Compression Widget all the way back in Unit 1. In that widget a single symbol like a sun could be used to represent many symbols (letters). With functions the same is true but we are creating a single command that represents multiple commands. It might even help to go back to that tool for a minute since you will even use some of the nesting behavior seen in this lesson. Just like students write functions that call other functions, in the compression widget optimal solutions usually require the creation of symbols that make use of other symbols.

  • Sometimes the vocabulary “function” itself can be distracting. It doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as it would in a math class, and it doesn’t give insight into what the students are actually doing. Perhaps talking about it as simply “naming” a group of commands for now could help.

  • Have a class discussion that clarifies what it means to create and call a function. More importantly, try to motivate WHY this is useful behavior. Functions do not actually reduce the amount of work that the computer must do, but they can make it shorter and less redundant to write the code.

These are just a few ideas. Let us know how things are going and what eventually gets you that AHA moment you’re looking for. Finally I’d say don’t worry if it doesn’t come as early as you’d like. Functions are the focus of the first set of lessons and they will have many opportunities to keep practicing with the concept.


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The wording for Activity 2 is a bit unclear and possibly contradictory - the part about whether the “moveForward” should be included in the “turnAround()” function or outside of it. The full instruction implies “moveForward” should be after/outside the function, but the brief directions in the corner say the turnAround function should make the turtle move “as depicted”… and the depiction includes the moveForward. In the scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter which one the student does, but I thought I’d mention it anyway…

Hi Frank! Thanks for pointing out this inconsistency. Ultimately, you’re right that it doesn’t really matter which way the student does it. I have, though, updated the example solution and short instructions to capture that ideally the turnAround function JUST does the turn around, and then after that you should call moveForward.

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My students and I are curious to better understand why some languages require functions to be defined before they are called and why is that not needed in App Lab?

Hi Caroline,

Most languages don’t require you to define functions before using them, actually. The mainstream language I know of that forces you to define before calling are python and C. JavaScript isn’t a compiled language but the first step of running it, is that an interpreter goes through and makes a list of all the definitions, what variables are there, any functions, etc. Then it goes and searches for the first line to execute, does it, then the second and so on. We talked about this a little in this video.

Hope that helps!


I am trying to highlight the code to drag and insert into my function but i can’t see what happens when my cursor goes off the screen. It ultimately chooses everything including the function call which shouldn’t be included. Is there an easier way to highlight a section of code to drag and drop into another section of your code if the section you want to copy is longer than the workspace window

Hey Bryan,

If you put your cursor on the line below the one you want to highlight and use the left arrow you can move to the end of the line you intend to select. Then scroll to where you want your selection to start and hold “Shift” while you click. This will allow you to better control what you are selecting.

Hope that helps.

i got it to work when it’s showing text but can’t seems to make it work when i’m using blocks

by the way, the quickness with which we get responses is awesome!!!

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Hey Bryan,

Yeah for blocks I think right now your options aren’t as good. My recommendation for students would be to get comfortable temporarily switching over to text if you want to do more complex selections like this. Hope that woks out o.k. but do let us know if it continues to pose a problem.


My extension for chunk was a sheet of “Math Shapes”. 3 of my 13 students did at least one shape. One of them did 3 shapes…

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