Riddle Me Ree! What a Difference a Name Makes.

Floor Turtles and Procedures..  Or Riddle me Rees?

I 've been working on an iterative unit of learning with some of our Lower Phase 2 students this term, that seeks to build on their previous work using Beebots.   The unit has focussed on
  • routes
  • giving and following instructions
  • developing procedures
  • and prediction and reasoning about shape, space and measure
while drawing on creative and imaginative work evolving through ongoing activities in class.

There is enormous potential for cross curricular activity using control based activity within the primary curriculum to engage with the concept of routes and navigation.  Younger students have enjoyed creating games based on programming the Beebot to navigate mazes, collect and sequence objects, moving the floor turtle from point a to point b with as few breaks in the programming structure as possible.  Moving to the Probot should not be that different it seems to me.  The process of inputting procedures may be new with the addition of a numerical keypad, but the type of game or activity can remain quite similar.

The students are currently engaged with a theme about Pirates... They are excited and stimulated by treasure maps (several making, designing and then aging these at home with their parents), huge wooden sailing ships, and the writing and using of riddles and clues, but one key tool was missing two weeks ago that would truly aid a successful pirate in navigating his/her ship, and unravelling and following the clues left for them.

In my first session with the students I decided to create floor compasses with them. What self respecting pirate would head out on treacherous seas and high adventure without one. This was an entirely give and go session
  • modelling how to use the Probot
  • inputting instructions with the keypad
  • how to clear memory when we had finished
  • use of the pen holder as a means to record outputs from the probot
  • observing input and output in action.  
This took a little longer than expected, creating the skeleton for the compass rose with the probot and pen was fairly straightforward, but the additional measuring and drawing tasks needed to create the rose from the skeleton were quite a challenge for the group.  Persevering and extending the session to allow for additional support, taking students out in small groups to complete the task however really paid off in terms of the student satisfaction and pleasure at their completed outcomes, and the discussion that evolved.  The students were asked to choose  3 colours with which to decorate their compass, and as they worked to identify the shapes and patterns they were creating within the rose.
  • What shapes could they see?
  • How many of each shape (triangles and quadrilaterals) could they find?
  • What was special about the shapes that touched?
  • Could they see any lines of symmetry within the shape?
  • Could they label the cardinal points of the compass?
  • What might be the names of the points in between? 
The completed compass roses have been trimmed, mounted and displayed as part of ongoing classroom work.  

During Literacy sessions the students have been working on writing riddles and solving clues.  To consolidate and link to this I decided to create some riddles that the Probot could be used to solve.  This would allow the students
  • to practice input independently, 
  • and to observe output.   
Each group was given a support sheet containing a series of "riddles," procedures, that when the Probot was programmed would result in the pen tracing particular shapes on large sheets of paper.  I hoped that the students would enjoy the task, but was not expecting the excitement that followed.  Changing the name of the task to "Riddle Me Ree, What can I be?" and adding the idea that this was "Pirate Challenge" that we needed to work on as a "Crew" really motivated the group. They wanted to be first to finish, but when pointed to the idea that finishing first was less important than accuracy in following clues they worked hard to organise themselves
  • Taking Turns to enter inputs
  • Checking that inputs were accurate, 
  • Correct where mistakes had been made, sometimes this involved deleting the whole procedure and beginning again, and for some groups who had spotted you could navigate the menu, only removing parts that were incorrect and correcting them.
The students were initially surprised by the idea that these instructions could produce recognisable shapes, but this further motivated them to see what the next procedure would produce.  Working with each group I encouraged them to look at what they were entering into the key pad, and the outcomes they had developed.  Could they predict what shape their next riddles might produce.

eg You had four sets of  fd 10 rt 90 this had produced a square.
     You had three sets of fd 10 rt 120 this produced a ?
     What might 6 sets of fd 10 rt 60 make?

The final riddles included repeat procedures, and the students had not had these explained to them, either what they were, or how to input these to the keypad.  This challenge was theirs, could they figure this out for themselves.  Several of the groups had few problems, but I have to admit to not actually explaining the how to any of the groups I worked with, yet they all managed to find out how for themselves, seeking help from others when they got stuck, another winner in this session.

To complete the challenge the students had to label the shapes with their names and add the riddle that had lead to the creation of the shape.  These too are ready for display, perhaps in the ICT space.  I realy like this activity and intend to adapt it when I begin using LOGO next term with Years 4 and 5.

This week the students began creating treasure island maps on large sheets of paper.  On these the students have again been encouraged to draw on their classroom work, to add mysterious and hazardous places with strange and spooky names.  I really want the students to add 10cm x 10 cm grids to these maps, though they may need some help with this reflecting on experiences with the floor compass, before using their floor compasses, their developing knowledge of input and output with the probot, their experiences of writing riddles and using my clues to create written directions to the mystery location of the treasure.  These will then be tested and evaluated by other students who will be challenged to use these clues to find where an imaginary X marks the spot.  Hopefully the students will be as excited and motivated by this challenge as they have been by the others.

No comments: