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Programming Unit - Ideas

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by tjra, Jun 11, 2015.

  1. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    Bouncing slightly off another thread about calling a unit "Small Basic" when they aren't being taught Small Basic, I'm hoping to pick some brains and find out how others are approaching the text-based programming part of KS3 Computing.

    Ignore the godawful programming language discussion (that's been done to death) and looking at teaching the concepts, I was thinking of running the lessons in this sort of order

    1. syntax/sequencing (basically an introduction to the software, few basic tutorials)

    2. variables (constant and variable, what they are)

    3. selection

    4. iteration

    5. subprograms/functions

    6. debugging

    So the questions I'm asking (if you'd be kind enough to answer!) are:

    1. Is there anything glaring missing from the list (assume no prior knowledge from students)?

    2. Can you think of any good ideas/challenges (especially for those students who whizz ahead and want to be stretched) that are based around these? I have a batch of resources but always eager to find something new. Doesn't need to be long - in fact a simple sentence is better as it encourages them to think about how to solve it.

    3. How do/would you assess these? I don't want death-by-screenshot. I was thinking of having an accompanying workbook and students answer questions about the work they did in class, explaining what they did and why it worked etc.
  2. NeitherMouseNorSock

    NeitherMouseNorSock New commenter

    Why not introduce the idea of alpha and beta testing. They don't have to be extensive but that would do some of your assessment.

    1 assessment lesson - 25 minutes (ish) Alpha, 25 mins Beta (Peer)

    If time, I would also introduce the idea of commenting and then they can clearly label each of the above on a printout.
  3. DEmsley

    DEmsley New commenter

    1. syntax/sequencing (basically an introduction to the software, few basic tutorials)

    1b. debugging

    2. variables (constant and variable, what they are)

    2b. debugging

    3. selection

    3b. debugging

    4. iteration

    4b. debugging

    5. subprograms/functions

    5b. debugging

    6. debugging

    6b. advanced debugging


    Sorry. On a slightly less cynical note do you teach via the problem or the solution? What I mean is do you go in from the development of the algorithm in pseudocode/flowchart to then programming it or are you introducing this as a fairly esoteric concept?
  4. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    Yes - I don't include debugging as a separate lesson because that sets it apart and it's not a distinct thing. I just point out common mistakes as we go along, in the same way that I repeatedly ask students what they expect to see every time I update a program during a demo.

    My list is here: advanced-ict.info/.../tasks.html
  5. zwizih

    zwizih New commenter

    tjra if you are looking for short challenges . You might be interested in the coding catalysts part of this new site I'm developing


    There is also the beginnings of a slightly more detailed challenges section

    The site is in very early beta at the moment so there may still be "issues" .

    But is a not for profit enterprise so there is and will continue to be no charges , no sign in etc
  6. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    We don't do anything at the moment! This will be for Year 8 (current Year 7) who haven't done any text-based programming yet. Rough plan for a standard lesson will be:

    Concept ("what is iteration, why is it used in programming, what does it look like, what does it look like as flowchart/pseudocode")

    Example (code given to kids, they write it and run it, then in a separate workbook explain why it works how it works etc - haven't decided how this would look but would probably include flowcharts, labelling etc as well as 'proper' questions)

    Challenge (not all students expected to reach this point - given a scenario which requires the use of iteration to solve, they have to code a solution to it)

    This is for mixed ability groups in a standard secondary comprehensive with teachers who are not proficient with text based programming and who also only see the students once a fortnight (!). So while your idea of 1a/1b etc is good, I think it would be too ambitious for our first year.

    The reason I included 'debugging' as a separate topic was because Small Basic is actually very user friendly when it comes to debugging (unlike Python!) and I found a huge problem with my KS4 students was their inability to work out what had gone wrong when the code didn't work - they would need me to come and sort it out for them. A lesson on how to debug was really useful to them and me. It's all very well 'including' it in lessons but when you have a class of 28-30 mixed ability 13 year olds having problems with their syntax, it's easier said than done for non-specialists!
  7. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    Perfect, thank you. I thought you were a marketing person at first but this is exactly what I was looking for. Much appreciated :)
  8. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I dislike "projects" and think it's important that students do smaller tasks that they can get done in one lesson for that instant hit of job satisfaction. It also means that they solve a lot more "problems".

    If it's tasks you're looking for, there are also sites like:

    Project Euler (you need to choose carefully; a lot are a bit mathematical)

    Programming Challenges in Ubuntu forums

    When I'm doing programming with the students, I also sometimes give them logic puzzle starters, like these, to get them into a problem-solving frame of mind.
  9. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    Thanks :)

    The logic puzzle link didnt work for me - it downloaded a ppsx file but then that wouldn't open.
  10. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    It's a PowerPoint Show - i.e. it's just a PowerPoint presentation that opens automatically. For me it opens in both PowerPoint and LibreOffice Impress - has anyone else had problems?

    You're not missing much, but I'll see if I can find out the original version.
  11. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    Agree with JJL

    One of the good things about MS SB is that if they get the good wrong it tells them were the error is introduce debugging then. If they don't learn to debug then you end up doing it and lessons become a nightmare.

    gradually built skills and reinforce them as they develop. Many will start creating their own code. I found paired working works well.

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