[Edu-sig] Age groups

Dustin James Mitchell djmitche@cs.uchicago.edu
Thu, 10 Feb 2000 20:50:57 -0600 (CST)

On Fri, 4 Feb 2000, Hank Fay wrote:

> When I think of "classes" and 5 year olds, I think of a visual scene
> (e.g., a trail in an outdoors setting) that has various challenges
> (e.g., a ledge that needs to be jumped to).  To get through the trail,
> the youngster has to "drop" one object on another, in order to extend
> the properties of the object to be able to surmount the challenges.  
> A dice roll would determine whether you got to "buy" Michael Jordan's
> legs for your object, e.g.  In other words, take the concepts of
> subclassing, and put them in the world of the 5-year old.

The visual approach is absolutely necessary.  However, I think one of the
more confusing aspects of the first step into programming (and, at 5, into
life in general) is the notion of sequence.  Look at any K - 1st grader's
homework (I assistant teach Kindergarten).  You'll see a lot of sequencing
and cause-and-effect worksheets.  These concepts are difficult for a
child, and the worksheets are usually non-interactive (most are a series
of pictures, and the student must draw lines from each picture to the next
in the sequence).

Now imagine that we allow a student to drag-and-drop 'steps' into a
'program', then click 'go' to see the program do its thing.  Suddenly they
can see the effects of their sequencing, and experiment until they get it

Students at this age also get most of their encouragement from having
'done something themselves' -- the biggest bribe I have for mine is
letting them take a message down the hall to the office -- and building a
'program' to do something will give them a big, motivating thrill.


|                         Dustin Mitchell                )O(        |