Simply Seeking Syllabus for 5th-8th Grade Squeaking

John Steinmetz johns at
Fri Apr 20 16:17:41 PDT 2001

Hi, Mark,

I've been observing BJ Conn's class. She'll be able to give you specifics,
but I have a couple of general thoughts.

Think about what you want the kids to get. Squeak can be an introduction to
programming, or a way to explore another subject such as math, or a way to
have fun making cool things, or a way to explore and experiment. Some of
each of these things can happen, but you and the kids will probably be
happier, and your activities will be more effective, if you know what you
want to accomplish and what you want the kids to accomplish.

One way of teaching that has worked well: at the beginning of a session do
a short demonstration for all the kids, showing them the activity before
you turn them loose to do it. That way if there are any unfamiliar skills
or concepts needed for success, you can introduce them while giving
everybody a feel for the activity.

Don't be shy about having them try something off the computer in order to
understand a concept. For example, kids were trying to figure out how to
get an object to move so it would draw a square. They had a surprising
amount of trouble with this until BJ asked everybody to watch while one kid
stood and walked a square on the floor. Then everybody had to think about
what instructions to give that kid if he didn't know how to walk a square.
They wrote the instructions on slips of paper and handed them to the walker
one by one. It was easy to see right away when there was a bug (as long as
the walker only followed the instructions and didn't use intuition!)  This
activity seemed to help the kids immensely. Sometimes seemingly small leaps
of understanding--especially about abstractions like heading--are actually
quite large leaps for kids. Putting it into their bodies really helps.

Iit's good to have plenty of help available for the kids--especially at the
beginning. So that means you should have a small group or some assistants.
Any computer activity involves confusions and missteps, and Squeak is a
research system so there are even more possible confusions and blind alleys.

Working in pairs is very fruitful. Conversation and collaboration help to
make the learning more explicit, and of course the kids can help each other.

Good luck!


>I talked to the director of the public library in Glen Ellyn, IL about
>using their computer lab to host some Squeaking sessions. After I explained
>a bit about Squeak, the director suggested that I develop an outline for a
>Squeak course to be offered this summer at the library for 5th-8th graders.
>Can anyone suggest suitable lessons and activities in Squeak for such a
>It appears there are 6 PCs in the lab. Do others think I should I aim for 6
>or 12 students per session? I was wondering if anyone has experience with
>solo vs. pair programming at this level.
>I appreciate your insights!
>-Mark Schwenk
>  WellThot Inc.

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