Learn, Practice, ImproveWe have learned the basics of Python in Exploring Computer Science -- input(), print(), int(), float(), explored the math module and I was very pleased with the speed that we were moving through the material and hopeful that this year we would be able to get further in the language than last year. My typical approach to learning is to code together with the students and talk about the concepts and the code as we write a program that has lots of starter comments and we fill in the code as our notes.
The practice part of each unit is to complete a set of step by step instructions included with snakify.org and then either complete projects in Snakify or complete projects that I have come up with for the students. These projects are all the same and students can and are encouraged to work together. After listening to @teachingpython podcast by Sean Tibor (@smtibor) and Kelly Paredes (@kellypared), I have started to do 5-minute challenges to start each day with a 3-5 line program that the students need to write and then we review together.
Finally, each student completes some type of independent project that lets them be a bit creative but also shows that they can complete an assignment using these basic concepts.
How much practice is enoughI was ready to quiz over the basic material and move on. Then on Friday, I had the students complete a 5-minute challenge of a four line program which included importing the math module, ask the user to enter a radius, calculate the circumference of a circle and display a message with the result. With one of the two sections of ECS, I spent over 15 minutes on the 5-minute challenge. Thank you @teachingpython! These 5-minute challenges are a valuable formative assessment, and very quickly told me that I need to have some more review before we move on.
I am creating some additional review programs for the students to complete. But it does go to show me the importance of these formative assessments and that from year to year and even from one section to another additional practice may be required. And just like the Little Shop of Horrors, once the students have learned, and practiced they can improve their skills and perhaps learn something new that may become a new interest just like theater!
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