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An Effective ELL Strategy for Computer Science Classes

I'm sitting in my office printing out cards to send to students to invite them to enroll in a computer course. I am using the AP Potential list from the College Board provides. It includes the students that the College Board believes should be successful in an AP Computer Science class. Fortunately, one of the school's secretaries was kind enough to look up some additional information about the students to help me deliver the cards.

While waiting for the printer to chug out the cards, I was thinking about a strategy that I recently used in my computer class. As a mentor for two beginning teachers (PT), I am invited to attend the workshops that my PTs are required to attend. The PTs are required to implement a strategy and then collect evidence to show its effectiveness. I decided that since they had to do it, I should at least implement something that was suggested during the "Teaching Academic Language to English Learners" workshop. I decided to implement the "same and different" strategy.

During the workshop, the speaker walked us through "same and different." She had us divide ourselves into pairs. In our pairs we selected who was A and who was B. The As received one picture and the Bs another. We were told to discuss the picture with our partner in terms of how the pictures were the same or different, but were could not show the picture to our partner. For instance, in my picture there was a couple, a man and a woman. In my partner's picture there was also a man and a woman. In my picture both were standing, but in my partner's picture the man was leaning and the woman was standing. We continued our comparison for 5 to 10 minutes.

I decided I could also use this strategy in my AP Computer Science class. I gave my As a method that returned a value without parameters and the Bs were given a similar method except that it did not return a value and had parameters. The students discussed the methods for 5 to 10 minutes then we had a whole class discussion about return types, parameters and method calls. The students felt that this help solidify return types and parameters. I am looking for an opportunity to use this again.

Give it a try with your students and let us know how it works.

Myra Deister
CSTA Board Member


What a fun activity! I'm trying to think of a place to put it in my curriculum. I will have to think it over.

What kind of evidence are the teachers expected to collect, to show the effectiveness of the strategy? Is anecdotal evidence enough, such as you provided here? Or are the teachers expected to do more?

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