Unit 3 and 4 Struggles

This is my third year teaching with Code.org’s CS Principles curriculum. Last year and the year before, I assigned my students to the coding lessons and told them to work through at their own pace. Most of my students, whether they had a strong coding background or no experience at all, were able to get through the lessons fairly quickly and feel successful. Occasionally, I would stop the class for a bit to go over some big new ideas or to discuss some of the more difficult coding problems. The coding units were my students’ favorite part of the class, and mine as well.

With the major revisions to the coding section, my students have struggled a lot more. Even my top students are having a lot of problems. These are students who have taken previous coding classes and who I have seen write amazing code, and now they are constantly asking questions because they don’t get it. Everyone is struggling to understand things like where parentheses and brackets go or that you have to put quotation marks around strings. I’m stopping far more often to discuss these issues as a class, and yet they still crop up all the time.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to help students be successful at this? We have spent way more time in these units than I had intended, and yet I feel like we need even more time if my students are to complete the projects, which is valuable practice for the AP tasks. Coding has gone from being my students’ favorite part of the course to being their least favorite. Any suggestions on how to turn this around would be very welcome.

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@mathteacherguy Thanks for posting your concerns. Units 3 and 4 are very different units from the previous curriculums and we have to use a different approach when we are presenting these lessons. Unit 3 focuses on the user interface of the app and introduces students to event-based programming. Lessons 5-7 (Intro to Programming and Debugging) can be seen as foundation lessons. I would suggest spending time in these lessons to make sure your students grasp the concepts of using events.
Unit 4, 5 and, 7 use the EIPM model to introduce foundation concepts students need to master to be successful at completing the Create Task. The EIP lessons are teacher lead lessons. I have had success with my students by going slow with the E and I lessons.
There are also teacher lead videos for all the Explore lessons. These can be found in Asynchronous section in the Lesson Modifications.
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These recordings can be used a reinforcement for students as well as guidance for teachers on how to present the lessons. Teaching virtually has lots of challenges, however, spending time on the foundation lessons early will help students be successful in the end. I hope this was helpful. Please let us know how we can assist further.

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@mathteacherguy You can also check out this page for lots of other information and resources to help you use the new version of the curriculum

Hello. I have a question more specifically about U3L2. I am having trouble understanding how to navigate App Lab and fear that my students will experience the same and become frustrated. To give myself a little more background on App Lab, I started the Intro to App Lab lessons. Despite this, I still don’t get the point of U3L2. Maybe an answer key for the teachers could help assist my learning. Is there such a thing for this lesson? Maybe something like the “Stuck? Click Here” that’s found in Intro to App Lab?

Hi @oartukmac,

The point of U3L2 seems to be to get students familiar with setting up a UI. Before we have students do the actual programming, we show them tools for setting up how their app will look - buttons, text boxes, images, etc - as well as get things hooked up so they can program things later (working with element IDs).

Are there specific parts we can help with? Unfortunately other help materials don’t currently exist for this lesson.

Thank you for replying.
Maybe it’s better if I have my students experience Intro to App Lab first? Maybe that would be best, before completing U3L2?
I just feel like U3L2 is too much for them to absorb in one introductory lesson.
Let me know your thoughts.
Thank you.

My students did fine with Unit 3 lesson 2. It is a familiar interface for their age group. The point of that lesson is to create HTML and CSS code. Most programmers these days use a WYSIWYG creation tool just like App Lab has.

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We are totally virtual so far this year and most of my students were able to complete this lesson on their own. The had fun playing with the options to try and get things right. Some were disappointed that App didn’t work and we were moving on. For those that got stuck I was able to offer one-on-one help and they also understood the interface by the end. I do recommend spending a bit a time explaining the different items in the toolbox. My students still like to use Text Input boxes when they really want a Text Area box.

Good callout by George on common pitfalls. For my students, the common mistake was using a text input box when what they wanted was a simple label. So a student might want simple text on the screen (label) but when they try that, there’d be a gray box around their text and while running the program, they’d realize they’re able to click the text and edit it. That’s because they used a text input box.

I don’t remember my students struggling with the designer mode and normally I’d suggest a “try and see” approach, but I know that’s a lot tougher in these times of remote instruction when you can’t simply let your kids loose on an activity and monitor them and stop and bring them in if things go awry. Based on my past experience, my gut “teacher instinct” (not claiming it will apply to your students in your situation) is that most students are willing to start experimenting with designer mode as long as they’ve tried running and playing around with a handful of App Lab programs to see what the possibilities are.

There is no virtual equivalent of walking through the classroom and looking at screens. At least that I know of.

Oh yeah, there’s software for that.

To name a couple…

However, I don’t know the technical requirements, such as if they can be used over internet/cloud vs just school local network. And definitely needs stuff installed on the client side, so likely for school-issued laptops.

That and/or I’m sure there’s types of actual spyware that does it lol.

This is my first year teaching coding after retiring from teaching for 2 years. I also spent my last 6 years with math rather than coding. So, I am in need of someone’s help. I would like to find someone who can talk me through the make section Unit 4 Lesson 4 for variables. I have completed most of it but when I get to the text input and comments, I am struggling. Would love to see what coding I am missing so I may help students who are struggling also.
Thanks so much.

If you go to Unit 4 Lesson 4 bubble 3 then you can pull out the teacher panel and click on the example solution. There are code and comments for that lesson.

After reviewing that ask your questions.

OMG! I didn’t know that existed!! Thanks so much!

I looked into GoGuardian Teacher. They don’t have explicit system requirements but I was able to determine this isn’t going to work well. I suspect that is going to be the same for anything like this.

It is essentially spyware. So it must be installed with admin privileges. On a classroom full of Chromebooks that is easy. Right now everyone is at home with Chromebooks, Windows, Mac OS, and even Linux running with no way to manage them or even know who has what. So that isn’t going to work. We are having issues just getting everyone equipped with the lockdown browser from the College Board.

Because it is basically spyware that also raises a concern for security. As we are still dealing with the hack of almost every government and many corporate computers in the United States, setting the entire school district up for a good old hacking seems like a bad idea.