Struggling first-year teacher needs advice on classes with 30+ students


#1

Greetings Forum,
I am teaching Into to CS using the Code.org Discoveries curriculum.
I teach two sections, each with close to 30 students (grades 9-11). I am assigned many students who have IEPs and 504s with disabilities which make focusing difficult.

We are currently working on Unit 3- making animations and games.
All students were completing the early lessons (3&4) based on basic shapes and positions easily.
Now that we are moving into the more challenging concepts of Conditionals (lesson 11), many of my students are turning off.

I am writing the forum to seek advice on how to manage such large numbers as some move ahead and others fall behind. Maybe I just need some input on what the norm should look like. Should I just resign myself to the fact that some will make games at the end and others will play catch up?

Thanks for your input.
Andrew Lantos
Pikesville High School, Maryland


#2

For students that are struggling after repeated attempts at intervention, they may be successful if you pull them from the current curriculum and switch them to CS Fundamentals. You could switch a small group of students that you identify as “turning off” and inform them they will be working independently for a 3-5 weeks on CS Fundmamentals. Let them know that it will really help them with the basic concepts of computational thinking (for instance, conditionals are taught in a much more scaffolded way). I would assign them CS Express course and ask them to skip the unplugged activities. You should quickly be able to identify 1 or 2 of those students that are moving quickly through CS Express. I ask those fast students to become “super teachers” and that they should help their peers (with their mouth, not their hands, don’t touch anyone elses computer!). Then I only need to pop over to the independent group if he super teachers are stuck. The super teachers realize really quick that this system works well for them too, because they get all the help they need and they are reinforcing the concepts that they are successful with. They really feel a sense of pride.


#3

I have my students work in pairs at a table of 4. If one set of 2 are stuck, they ask the other 2 for help. If the whole table is stuck and possibly most of the class, I will project the problem (bubble) on the board and we work through this part together as a class. This has worked well with my students and has resulted in less stragglers. I also like Rick’s idea of using CS Fundamentals to help the students who are finding the CSD curriculum to be too challenging.


#4

Thank you to the two responders. Your advice is very helpful.


#5

I run my class through Google Classroom. Each time we meet students are expected to complete a new level in CSD Level 3. For those who struggle, I attached a Google Slideshow with screen shots and further explanation of steps. Feedback from students has been extremely positive and students who miss class also appreciate the slides. The next thing I use are reflection guides that I adapted from the code studio lessons. I post a google doc with each lesson, students are required to include the various properties for each free play in order to earn credit. The also must paste the “share” link from the free play into the doc. Once the link is pasted, I have questions that students must answer before submitting.
This helps me control those who are speeding ahead and assist those who are struggling.

Hope this helps