Technique – Using Reference Language as a Paper-Based Method to Introduce Programming

Summary of Technique

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This is an ultimately understanding-first method of teaching programming – which involves introducing the reference language constructs alongside (even ahead of) the corresponding specific programming language constructs.  Students both work to understand explain code as well as writing code – but crucially, in the early stages of this technique, they do not go near computers!


Exercise(s) for Teachers

Links to exercises will go here

Ways of Using the Technique in the Classroom

Tips and advice on how to use the technique in the classroom.

Benefits for Learners

“I have introduced the reference language to my pupils very early on in the course.  I did this trial to see that if I felt there was a particular benefit, as the year previously I had introduced it late on.

“When using this approach, I had created a table of all the Haggis command words and placed this up on the wall for the pupils’ reference.  I felt the pupils had more time to digest how to use this language for exam purposes as at certain times when they asked questions such as “What command word should I use?” then I referred them up to the wall.

“One thing I would always emphasise to my pupils is, “Do not get hung up on Haggis.  Pseudocode should be half code, half English”.  The reference language will come.  Although they may not necessarily have been required to write their designs in Haggis, a lot of my pupils found it easier to use this method than using the more traditional stepwise refinement.

“The benefits that I feel came from doing it this way were that they had more time to fully understand which command words to use in the exam and they were clear on how to correctly layout coding style exam questions through the use of practice questions.  The pupils were confident because I was able to give them regular feedback on their answers.”

Mr C Henderson, Arbroath Academy, Angus Council

Tips for Creating New Exercises

Tips on how to construct additional exercises of this type will go here.

Pupil Materials

Links to posts with specific teacher materials will go here.

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