Congratulations! Your lesson bombed.
Something happened today. It happens with some regularity, and today it made me feel a bit sad and disappointed. A new lesson I planned bombed. Kind of. It didn’t really bomb so much as I hadn’t prepared enough. Or maybe it was that I had the wrong expectations for my students. Probably both of those things. I find this happening towards the end of the year sometimes. I try to give my students a little more autonomy, to treat them more like high schoolers, and it fails miserably. I let them spend last week in Scratch, explaining that they should choose the tutorials that match the skill level they’re at, and then I expected they would all be at a basic level of proficiency one week later. Ha! I presented a loose concept today, expecting that they would just play around and have fun with it. I presented the lesson, said “Go!” and my first class of sixth graders just stared at me.
“um, okay…. maybe I’ll start the project along with you on the big TV.” We went along step by step, creating a button sprite and giving it multiple costumes. I was explaining every step, and quickly realized only one of nine students (my first period is really small) was cruising along on her own momentum. I quickly scrapped it and said “you know what, let’s just do this other game…” that I’d been perfecting for years. A maze game. A Mr.GD classic. Thankfully such things exist, it’s only taken about six years to get to that point.
There are a few different lesson-planning lessons I can take from this. The kids might need a bit more hand holding. We might require more direct instruction at the end of the year, when the wheels on the bus start to wobble, with the nuts loosening from the bolts at an alarming rate. I shouldn’t expect the kids to get themselves ready for a big project; that’s my job. Similar to one technique I like to use for making music, I should probably reverse engineer the unit around a shiny final project. In music, this means diving into a full chorus at the beginning of the writing process, composing everything in a dense 8-16 measure loop. Then I’ll isolate some of the percussive and auxiliary elements and tease those out into the intro, outro and other sections of the song. In the classroom, I should create a big project addressing the themes I’d like to explore (in this case, Media Literacy) and then reverse engineer intro-lessons out of that. The final project will be a witty satire of how hard it is to unsubscribe from an app or web-based service, flashing with buttons and confusion. The first lesson will be how to make one button, and then program it do something.
Okay, well, that idea is cued up on the pedagogical to-do list, with much of the thought work and foundation already laid out. In the meantime, HERE is the Scratch game I created yesterday. I anticipate several forthcoming Deluxe and Lite versions.