CSP and CSA Concurrently?

Hello all! So, I know that the new CSA course is designed for students to take AFTER taking CSP or CSD. However, my admin in their infinite wisdom have decided that my students will be taking CSA and CSP concurrently on an A/B day schedule. Any thoughts on how well this will work on using both curricula here?

Thanks!

@james.sweet can you give a bit more details on this scenario? I am not sure if I understand the structure…

Here are some questions I have:

  • Are you saying that you have a set of students (let’s say 32 students) and all of those 32 students are taking CSP AND CSA this year (not just taking one of those classes)?
  • OR is your admin asking you to teach two different classes during the one block? Meaning you might have 20 students in CSP and 12 in CSA and you are supposed to teach all of them during the same time?
  • How many minutes do you have students each week?
  • How many weeks do you have these students? (is it a full year or half year class?
  • What previous experience will your students have in CS?

@kaitie As of right now (schedules are still being adjusted of course), I have 16 students in CSA, and 17 students in CSP. All are currently the same students, except the one additional student in CSP. These classes will be taught year long, in an 80 minute block, every other day. So Monday will be CSP, Tuesday will be CSA, then back to CSP on Wednesday, so on and so forth. Experience levels will vary as neither the district or College Board have any hard pre-requisites for either class. Some students will be brand new to programming and some students will know more than I probably do about programming.

Fascinating.

One clarifying question: Do you use Code.org for CSP?

It is too bad that you don’t have the exact same students in both sections, because then I’d just recommend running CSP first semester (5 days a week) and then switching to CSA second semester (5 days a week)…

Without that, I think you can still run CSP and CSA on alternating days. At the start of the year (if you are using Code.org for both of them), kids probably won’t have an issue with it. CSP starts with non-programming units at the start so the courses will feel “different” enough.

Once you get to programming in CSP, some students might be a bit confused as they would be learning two different languages at the same time. Also, in CSP they would be “learning” about variables after using variables for months in CSA… I would expect those lessons in CSP to run pretty fast (with the exception of your one kid who is not in CSA…). You could consider subbing out the Code.org programming units for something more self paced in CSP too (Check out the CMU Python Programming lessons for CSP, for example…)

This is tough! I am wondering what other thoughts people have on this scenario, too.

Yeah, doing CSP first semester and CSA second semester is what I was pushing my admin towards, but just another thing they decided to ignore me on.

I do use code.org for CSP, and I love using it! I’ve used other curricula and none of them really felt great to me. I actually had this same situation last year with the two classes. I used CSAwesome for CSA, and it was a nightmare for my students. Those that were in both were always confused, because of the language differences, but I didn’t wanna do Java for CSP too because I didn’t want the CSP kids to have too much of a headstart over the CSA only kids.

It’s just terrible and I’m annoyed that my admin can’t see what they’re doing.

That sounds very frustrating, and puts you in a tough spot to teach equitably. Are you doing AP for both courses?

Yes, both are AP. I’m hoping this year will also be better, after last year was the “return to normal” year, and the kids had all forgotten how to school.

Hi James,
Gosh, this is a lot to handle this year! I agree with Kaitie’s assessment above, that the units from CSP that are not programming related will feel different from CSA. When your group gets to unit 3, in which they make an app, it might feel like a welcome “lighter” programming experience for the students who have been in CSA. I have had a few students take the courses out of sequence- CSA first and then CSP- and they enjoyed app lab and making fun apps, and came up with some really cool projects.

I agree that some of the CSP programming will feel out of order- learning about variables and loops after they have already been working with them in CSA, for example. I think the hands on explore lessons in CSP could help your students to clear up any misconceptions they have from their work in CSA, and that you might want to draw on other curriculums to supplement the CSP programming units. You might consider giving the one student in CSP who is not in CSA slightly different assignments and extra one on one help, since they will not be coding as much as the CSA + CSP students.

If I were teaching in this situation I would try to be open and transparent with my students and their parents. I would let them know it is a non traditional situation, and that I am on their side, and will work with them to ensure that everyone has a good year.

-Lindsay

Greetings James!

It seems as though sometimes decisions such as this get made, not because they make sense pedagogically, but because they tie together the master schedule in nice neat bow. I can empathize with your situation, but know that you have an amazing community here to lean on and to learn from. Seeing as how you’re already being proactive about solutions, I have to believe that you and your students will find success this year – even if it is not in the ideal form that one would like.

Another suggestion to offer to the table: since the students will be further ahead with basic programming knowledge as a result of their experiences with CSA, you might choose to go more quickly through some of the introductory programming tasks in CSP and realign the pacing of the course to give students more time to create a deeper and more involved End-of-Unit projects. If that’s something that sounds interesting to you, please make a post about it and I’m sure that there are many of us that would be happy to brainstorm with you in order to make it work.

All the best for a great school year,
Erik

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