Encoding Literacy in Computer Science

Peg Grafwallner:

The Power of Directions

First, the teacher distributed the programming directions and read them aloud. Next, we asked students to highlight direction words (review, write, create) on the handout so that they would see the number of direction words necessary to complete the programming sequence.

Then students were asked to discuss the function of the directions with their peers by thinking about their thinking—they discussed the thinking strategies that would help support their application of the directions. In other words, we asked them to approach the directions metacognitively. For some students, using mental images to re-create the directions, such as noticing the fonts or the different colors on the handout, might help them remember the words and perhaps the sequence of the words. In addition, highlighting the key verbs might aid students in synthesizing what was important within the directions and help de-emphasize words that were less important.

In addition, I asked students to note words they could not decipher from context and to create a list on a Challenging Vocabulary handout.

We encouraged collaboration as students highlighted verbs and wrote their vocabulary lists. As the teacher and I walked around the room, we noticed conversation focused entirely on the directions; in addition, as students began writing the program, we asked them to keep highlighting the directions they were using. In that way, they could see the importance of the verbs they were utilizing and think about whether they needed to find verbs that were more apparent and understandable versus if theirs were ambiguous.