Unplugged Activity to review coding

review

#1

During this lesson I learned that a lot of students really were struggling with using variables. Many wanted to “store” information in labels, rather than use the variables.

We also took a break at this point in the curriculum to do the Explore. SO, kids had a few weeks off from programming and I wanted to ease them back into things. Sometimes I get concerned that when they are at their computers, it can be difficult for me to assess who is really struggling or not, unless students advocate for themselves which isn’t always the case. It is not until they get behind that I can really target them as much as I like.

SO, I made this “Around the World” activity for students - there are 22 code snippits with an answer written at the top. The answer is NOT the answer to the problem on the page. The idea is that once they get an answer (in this case, what the console.log prints out), they have to go to the sheet of paper with the answer for the previous problem written at the top. The idea is that if students do it right, they make it to all of the different problems.

This went over fairly well for the following reasons:

  1. Getting students up and moving is always better than sitting (especially for a Monday after lunch!)

  2. I could hear students’ thought processes as they talked through them with their partner. Some of the answers were similar (aka, GoMustangs, GoGo, Mustangs) so they had to KNOW that their answer was correct - it was also a way for self-checking their work. If they got “12” as an answer and there was no page with “12” at the top, they went back and re-thought about it.

  3. It forced students to think about the outcome. Sometimes I felt like there was a good amount of guessing and checking going on in the code. It was fine, but I also want to push some students to think a bit more. This forced the thinking.

  4. This is perhaps a hopeful “win” but I also wanted students to remember that a console.log statement is a helpful de-bugging strategy. Since they saw so many of them on this activity, I am hoping that caries over to what we do next!

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this! Do you have students read code? Are your students also using labels as variables?


#2

@kaitie_o_bryan Thanks for sharing your activity!

I completely agree - “it can be difficult for me to assess who is really struggling or not, unless students advocate for themselves which isn’t always the case”

I’m in my second year of teaching this curriculum. And I am trying to incorporate more unplugged activities and checks for understanding (using plickers) so I can better catch and address coding misconceptions.


#3

@jhall9 I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in that! This is my third year with the curriculum and am noticing the same thing. It might be because my class size is dramatically larger this year which means I have less time to spend with individual students. I feel like I am spending too much time policing student behavior and not enough time monitoring their learning.

I think adding warm-ups and exit tickets each day would be a good start to A) disrupt some of the student mis-behavior I am seeing and B) help me track students’ learning each day.

I think specifically, when we get to arrays, I can move away from the levels in code.org and make it more of a project-based-learning unit with the levels being there for students who need the extra support. I see the directions in levels being essential to students who struggle, but I have some students who need a bit more of a challenge. One of the limits of having the levels in code.org is once students are “done” with a lesson, they move on to the next - I’d like to challenge them by going deeper rather than having them go faster. In my third year of doing this I am feeling more comfortable with the content to do that.