Preliminaries before using the lesson plans
Each lesson plan has the same basic structure: an introduction period lasting 10 to 20 minutes, followed by hands-on time in front of a computer. During the introduction, old material is reviewed and new material is introduced. You may hold the introduction portion of the lesson in the same room as the computers; in this case we recommend that you don't let the students turn on, or log on to, the computers until the first part of the lesson is completed.
Sometimes the computers aren't available when you expected them to be. The network switch may be down, or another class is using the computers on urgent business. You should always have a back-up plan for such a contingency. Our favorite is to take any simple game (say, tic-tac-toe) and play it with the class, while writing on the board the corresponding steps that a computer program would have to play the game. See XXX for an example of this in a lesson plan.
What the lesson plans suggest can be covered in a 40 to 60 minute lesson may take your students more or less time. That's perfectly OK. Feel free to adapt the lesson plans to meet your students' needs and interests.
Common problems encountered
- Definitely the #1 problem: The kids don't read each step of the lab assignment before diving into it. This doesn't usually hurt on the simple ones, but can be a big problem for the more complex steps. An important skill to learn is "technical reading:" fully understanding the task before starting to program.
- 30 or so students sitting down to computers on the same network simultaneously results in slow logon, browser start up, or downloading of the web page.
- Students open more than one copy of the browser, usually because they double-click on the icon many times.
- Students "lose" windows, either because they are behind other windows, or are closed by clicking on the X. (If the programming and/or output windows get closed, reload the web page.)