No, I do not want to go back to the 4th grade

I have done three Mondays of my little coding club.  One more to go.  Next time I do this it will not be 4 – 8 grades.  It will be 6 – 8.  Teaching 4th graders is not in my skill set.  The diversity between them is too great for me to manage.  Some cannot add 90 + 90 and get 180.  Others do understand what 180 means in the sense of angles and turning a turtle.  Some cannot understand there is no “down” turtle movement to make the turtle go towards the bottom of the screen.  Others are showing the 7th and 8th graders how to do things.  Last post I mentioned teaching them the x,y coordinate system.  Nope, I will pass.  Some will have no problems, others need to be a bit older.  Their brain is not wired enough to do the task.  I have high school students this way but I know how to handle the issue at that age, not at the 10 year old age.

It is necessary to do something at this level to understand the issues that building and teaching a CS curriculum K-12 presents.  Anybody who says they have developed a good 4th grade curriculum has either written something to cover kids with abilities from 2nd – 8th grade, or they have no idea what they are talking about.  My wife was an elementary and middle school teacher.  I knew the range she dealt with in a single class.  Knowing and doing are two vastly different things.

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5 Responses to “No, I do not want to go back to the 4th grade”

  1. codeinfig Says:

    Down is a command in some versions of Logo. You do a great job of explaining the challenges and likely set of expected skills in teaching a group of 4th-graders.

  2. codeinfig Says:

    I should add that youre entirely wrong about whether their brain is “wired” for the task however. We had no problems with number-line coordinates in the 3rd grade when I was in school; i did have trouble remembering “270” was 3 times 90.

    What is wrong with 4th graders is they are taught different skills now– their brains are *unprepared* for coordinates, wiring has absolutely nothing to do with it. 8-year olds can do just fine with Logo depending on the dialect, but as much as I love Python, there are friendlier dialects for 4th-graders (I am also capable of adding a down command to existing ones.)

    • gflint Says:

      By “wired” I meant some had the mental maturity to learn and retain certain skills. Others were not there yet. I also agree with the *unprepared*. For the more mature being unprepared is less of an obstacle. Working with kids at this level takes such a shift from what I am used to. The ability is just so wide.

  3. Mike Zamansky Says:

    Absolutely right on this and it’s an issue at all levels. People who don’t practice are very free with advice (or dictates) as to what and how to teach when they have little to no experience with either the subject, age, or demographic group. To be honest, I’ve seen plenty of this come from academia to all types of teaching as well as from politicians, parents, “volunteers,” hobbyists and others.

    Even when they think they know, they usually don’t. I was talking to a friend a few years ago who ran a Girls Who Code club who thought the kids learned a ton.

    Some questioning revealed that the girls were already high performing, self teaching, CS inclined kids or at least enough of them were to carry the group.

    Upon further inspection it turned out that after a short time there was no retention.

    I try to be careful to explain to people who ask my advice on lower grads that it is NOT my wheelhouse and my experience is limited to my two kids and a few others.

  4. Mrs.Pollard Says:

    4-8 range does leave you open to a huge range of abilities. I have a big ability range within just my 4th grader group. Last year I let some 3rd graders join to fill up the club and I had to adjust my expectations down and scaffold more for them to be successful. My library code club students are 6-8 and it is a joy to present a project (same as with the 4th graders) and they just get it and take it on and add all their creativity to it.

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