Next Jump’s Tech Track A’s Second Visit to PS 119

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Last week, December 17, the Next Jump Tech Track A went to PS 119 for the second time, to continue on the foundation we’ve built on our first strip.

My goal this time was to find teachers within the track to lead the classes, this way they would be more engaged and feel more connected to the program. The teachers were going to be Vikram/Gowri (4th grade), Stefan/Johnnie (5th grade), and Rajbir/Eddie (3rd grade cup stacking). During the week, more and more people let me know they weren’t going (due to the busy season) and I realized too late that we were shorthanded. If I’d caught this quicker, I may have been able to recruit some hands from other tracks. We decided when we were at the school to not run the 3rd grade lesson as we would be stretched too thin.

We spent some time setting up for our lesson, then got about a half hour to help the kids with their homework. I think that this time is valuable because it helps me understand what the kids know, don’t know, and what they are learning so that I can plan the curriculum accordingly.

IMG_5258I was in the 4th grade room with Gowri teaching, and we had Vikram and Rajbir helping out. Gowri was definitely nervous during his introduction, but he gave it a lot of effort and improved throughout the lesson at explaining what was going on in terms the kids could understand. Still, given his quiet nature I felt that I was needed in that room at least to be a loud voice and command the kids’ attention. By the end, Gowri did seem very proud of himself for working through it and he overall did a very good job.

One of the struggles of having all engineers in a track is finding people who will be comfortable commanding a room of kids. I checked on the other room once, but Johnnie, Donna, and Stefan had it very much under control. In the future I’ll spread their abilities across the rooms. Overall, I think finding teachers within the track so that I’m free to move between rooms and help out where needed was a good approach.

Another struggle was the fact that the 4th graders were not good at working with the small laptop trackpads, which we didn’t foresee. They covered significantly less material than the 5th graders on desktops, so we’ll have to go into next lesson with a plan for how to catch them up. Also, the scratch environment is very open and it was hard to keep the kids focused. Some of them stopped listening and coding altogether, opting instead to draw shapes on the screen and add cool characters to the game.

I’m so happy to see them excited about the environment, but I want to ensure that they learn something while they play. Maybe the key for next time is to build in more controlled creativity, allowing them to explore a bit while still coming out with the lessons we intend on teaching.

Luke

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