Technique – Self Marking Parson’s Puzzles

Summary of Technique

Parson’s puzzles can be created in any authoring environment that provides a matching exercise format or using a specially developed Javascript library called JS Parsons and HTML. This allows the puzzle to be self-marking which means that it can be used as an individual or paired exercise without needing too much direct teacher input.

Practice Exercise(s) for Teachers

Complete web setup and Exercises

Ways of Using the Technique in the Classroom

Learners can work through the puzzles at their own pace either as preparation for writing similar programs from scratch or as a revision exercise. Placing them in an online shared drive would also allow pupils to access them at home on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer. They can then be opened in a modern browser for learners to complete and gain feedback.

Unnecessary lines of code can be included in the code fragments for more challenging puzzles. However overexposure can prove to be counter productive so few and infrequent may be the best approach. Ask the learners whether they like the exercises and if they find them worthwhile.

Due to the limitation of the format the computer compares the learners answer to a single completed puzzle solution. This means that a program can solve the problem but lines marked as incorrect. This is most common in sections where several variables are declared and initialised and when several values need to be provided by the user.

Benefits for Learners

  • Allows pupils to practice composing code fragments to solve problems without worrying about syntax errors.
  • Can be completed in half to a third of the time usually needed to write a program from scratch.
  • Gives them immediate feedback which provides some positive reinforcement.
  • Practice exercises can be selected and used by pupils for self-study and revision at home if they’re placed in a shared drive.

Tips for Creating New Exercises

  • Try to create exercises which cover a particular topic or construct. Start with simple examples which are similar to each other and gradually move on to more complex puzzles.
  • The puzzles can be created and then used in a browser using ‘hot-potatoes’ or any alternative online environment that supports matching exercises. When an error is made the last action will reset until the puzzle has been completed.
  • There is also a Javascript library called JS-Parsons that can be used but this requires teachers to create and edit HTML files with the exercise information embedded in them.

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