Thursday 15th October 2015 – #EducationDay – A Day In The Life Of My Classroom

IB3 Classroom

This post is intended to show a day in the life of my classroom and share my lesson resources as part of Twitter’s international #educationday.  All of my resources are shared here using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license – you are free to us and adapt but do not sell them on.  If you want to ask me any questions before, during or after the day then please comment here or tweet me (I’ll be able to respond at break and lunch).  Thanks, and here we go……

Period 1 – 8:50 – 9:50 – Year 9 (age 13/14) Computing

Year 9 are taking their first steps into text based programming by learning Java.  In this unit of work we take a programming skill (such as selection) and split it into three exercises – a worked example in Scratch, recreate the same program in Java then try an independent challenge based on what they have learned.

Today the class are completing the Java worked example and starting the challenge for selection (activities 5 and 6 on the ‘contents’ page).

You can see my tutorial website for the students here

Download all the resources for the scheme of work here.

Matthew talks about his Java program:

Period 2 – 10:50 – 11:50 and Period 3 – 11:05 – 12:05 – Year 10 (age 14/15) GCSE Computer Science

I have two GCSE groups in Y10 this year, so this is two separate one hour lessons, not a double with the same class.  This week we are learning about data representation.  Tuesday’s lesson was about ASCII and Unicode text representation and (if it’s all gone to plan – I’m writing this bit in advance) today’s lesson is about representation of images. UPDATE – Y10 P3 have had one lesson on this topic. They will be creating pages on the class Wikispaces wiki to summarise their learning.  P4 have completed this work as they have had 2 lessons this week.  We will be starting representation of images with a very early Christmas themed lesson!

I’ve planned these lessons in collaboration with my ace colleague @Miss_Noonan88 and based them on the equally fab resources available on @clcSimon‘s great website.

Representation of text lesson resources are here.

Representation of images lesson resources are here.

Hamza and Steve talk about representation of images:

Heather talks about ASCII and her revision Wiki

Period 4 – 12:05 – 13:05 – Year 8 (age 13/14) Computing

Y8 are refining their Scratch programming skills by creating a ‘Virtual Pet’.  Here’s my example of the finished product.

This project consolidates their knowledge of input, output and variables.  We then use selection, loops, lists and procedures (blocks) to add extra features to their pet.  Learners will be adding extra characteristics (thirst/happiness etc) to their pet or using random selection from lists to make it speak.

The project tutorial website is here.

Download all resources for the scheme of work here.

Awesome female coders Katie and Maddy tell us about their Scratch virtual pet.

Lunchtime – phew!

Spent fixing case sensitive <img> links on my project websites that didn’t show up until I uploaded to the web server!

Period 5 – 13:50 – 14:50 – Year 11 (age 15/16) GCSE Computer Science

Y11 are currently doing their Controlled Assessment, so unfortunately I can’t share examples of work in progress.  They are using Java to code a memory game which generates a grid of nine or sixteen words read in from an external file.  After 30 seconds, the words are randomised, with one word replaced with a different one.  The user has to guess the words that have been removed and added – they have three tries.  Here is the AQA exam board specification for the project.

We have finished coding on the project, the class are either completing test plans, testing or annotating their code listings to explain the programming techniques used.

The end?

So that’s the teaching part of the day done.  Next it’s a departmental meeting for about an hour and then home to see the family.  Once the kids are in bed then there are about 50 pieces of Y9 work to be marked.  Hope you’ve enjoyed a day in my classroom, it has served to remind me what awesome students I’m lucky to work with.  Until next time…


Spicing Up Text Based Programming

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve had my head down working away at the demands of teaching KS3 computing and GCSE computer science for the first time.

Without a doubt the toughest learning curve has been teaching Java to my Y9s, where class sizes are that bit bigger and they have had no experience of text based programming.  When they get stuck, they get stuck.

We started off the year with the grand idea that we would convert my old spreadsheet quiz unit into a Java based quiz, so we produced a whizzy tutorial website.  However, in practice, it was a bit too high level, and my classes, whilst being keen to do well needed more careful scaffolding to enable them to take their first steps in text based coding.  I was spending lessons running from one problem to the next as I hadn’t helped students develop the resilience to solve issues on their own before calling for me.  Combine this with a new piece of software (Eclipse) with it’s own set of folder management issues with multiple students using the same machines lesson after lesson and I wasn’t able to step back and see the big picture in class.  I needed to tweak the lesson structure to provide more built in support and free me up a bit more to challenge and support where it was actually needed.  The way I did this was though a three step process.

Here’s an example of how I taught loops:

Step 1 – The Human Computer

Five *ahem* “volunteers” were chosen to be the human computer.  Then I brought out the chocolate digestives (lots more volunteers next lesson!).  I set the variable ‘biscuits’ to five and we munched our way through the code below.  Whilst doing so, we discussed how we could code without the loop to achieve the same result.


Step 2 – The Worked Example  

Students were given the code for a program using loops (loosely based on my adventures on the M6 with two small children in the car during the summer hols).


Step 3 – The take away menu.

This, I think, is the best thing we’ve done with this unit.  Nicking an idea from Ross Morrison-McGill (@teachertoolkit), I created a differentiated take away menu of independent tasks for students to apply the skills.  They are graded against the Nando’s spice rating menu, with the spiciest involving skills not taught in class.  Here’s the loops example:


This approach has worked much better, breaking down programming into discrete skills and  giving learners chances to apply and embed as well as a sense of ownership over their independent tasks.

To look at the whole unit, along with fully resourced tutorial website, please visit my Dropbox folder.  All work is licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial, share alike. And enjoy!