Swap Units 3+4, Complete Explore PT by December?

I’m looking for some advice. The idea of finishing the Explore PT immediately before vacation in December is appealing. To do so, I would swap Unit 3 (Programming Languages and Algorithms) and Unit 4 (Big Data & Privacy). They both are estimated to have a duration of 4 weeks. January, February, and March would be dedicated to the programming aspects of this course with Units 3 and 5, and the beginning of April would be for the Create PT.

What do you think? I haven’t seen Unit 4 yet, so I don’t know if any programming is required. I look forward to hearing your opinions! Not just code.org employees, but you piloters too, please!

  • Will

Hi Will,

Here are my thoughts…

In general the curriculum is well designed to be adapted to your environment. You can probably make it work.

That said I’m not sure here are a few caveats.

  1. The final PTs are meant to be summative, you should give students a final chance to revise it before its turned into the college board.
  2. You can’t give any feedback or grade before its turn into the College Board
  3. Your first time through doing it the recommended way will probably be easiest.

Personally I’m planning on mixing it up a bit but doing so a bit differently then your plan. I found that while we were doing the internet units we missed programming, then while we were doing programming we got tired of heads down programming day after day. I think they have added more unplugged to the programming so that maybe better. I also found that I needed calendar time to help kids catch up after school during the programming sections.

My personal plan is to do Unit 3 and the end of Unit 1 and Unit 2 in parellel, One lesson of programming and 2 or so of Internet per week. I’m thinking of also splitting up my Explore PT time with programming days (probably Unit 5 by that time).

Overall, my advice is the first time through follow the pla. But if you need change things to fit your context you can and it generally works.


Thanks for this detailed reply. Sounds like you have experience. I appreciate reading your perspective as I was considering this plan as well. I think I’ll stick to the curriculum as written.

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I was planning on doing the same thing and using the Explore Task as my final for first semester. Hopefully, I remember to post back here on how it worked out


If you use the Explore Rask as your final and evaluate it, students will not be able to submit it to the College Board. I am not sure that the Digital Portfolio has a ‘lock’ so that they cannot unsubmit and then resubmit – as this would be the only way to make it work. I would be very cautious with PTs until after April 30.


I am fairly certain that Fran Trees told us we could do it this way as we (my other district teachers and myself) came up with the idea during the AP institute. One of the other teachers in my district already did it. I think there is a final submit button. I will ask tomorrow at 6pm during the webinar.

the course and exam description provides a good bit of guidance on what you are and aren’t allowed to do as a teacher while administering the performance tasks. the explore guidelines are on page 72-73, here.

the list of things you absolutely can’t do as a teacher is pretty short, but one item is: suggest answers or provide feedback on answers to prompts (bottom of page 72).

providing students with a grade on their task submission would definitely be considered ‘feedback’, so this leaves you with limited options if you plan to use the actual explore task as a graded project in the first semester of the course. if the college board’s submission portal is available before your first semester ends, then you could have students submit their copy to be scored at the same time that they submit to you for end-of-term grading. but, as @cmeeks mentioned above, it can be tricky to give a summative assessment half way through the year. your students will continue to develop skills and knowledge that will be useful on the explore task between january and april, which means a task submission that’s locked down at the end of first semester might not be the best expression of what they know and what they can do. while it’s obviously your choice, and you know your students best, this is a tradeoff worth weighing carefully.

hope this helps clarify the feedback guidelines as defined by the college board in the course and exam description!


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I don’t think they need to program for the Explore Task. I just got off the webinar at CS For All website and many people agree that it could be better to break this up 1st semester and 2nd semester. I will have them submit the final project and grade it at the same time they submit to College Board.

They suggested these two tools https://piktochart.com/ and https://www.powtoon.com/ instead of programming…

Thanks for sharing this.

I’m on a block and completed the explore task before Unit 4, Thus my students did unit 3 , the explore task then unit 4. I think it worked out fine. So switching 3 & 4 would work. The only draw back is that the students will be working with APPLAB only the 2nd semester which can get tedious at times. The Unit 4 is a nice break. .

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Mr. Lewin,
Thanks for the real-life experience feedback! Were you able to get the Explore PT done by the December holiday? That would be one of my main goals. Clearly there can’t be feedback to the students until the final submission to the College Board. I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Will

I realize this is late on the subject, but I decided to complete Unit 4, do the Explore PT, then do Unit 5 followed by the Create PT. I just felt this would break up the two performance tasks, and basically code.org’s curriculum is to do the Create PT directly following Unit 5, then another PT. I just have been thinking it might break up the PTs. We are actually starting the Explore PT next week.

I did the same thing. I’ll have my students come back to it and have one more go at it before the final submission.

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Hello, just as an update from my original statement back in August. I did exactly what I was thinking about… Units 1, 2, then 4. We finished the mandated 8 hours of Explore PT before the Christmas / Holiday / Winter break (take your pick of descriptors!). Students made their final submissions to the College Board and we moved on to programming. Unit 3 went smoothly, a bit slow for students that have already done some coding, but the teamwork aspect was good for them. Great final projects for U3 L10! Tomorrow we begin Unit 5, then we’ll work on the Create PT and study for the AP test. I think that this plan worked really well. It was a bit tight to finish in time to allow for the 8 hours in December, especially since we meet 85 minutes every other day. There were many days that we completed 1.5 or 2 of the code.org lessons / stages (again, pick your descriptor!). I’m giving this update for anyone that reads this and is curious about how it went. The year’s not over, but right now I’m feeling good about this approach.