Using our A level resources

Teaching outstanding lessons

In the past teachers of A level Computer Science would stand at the front of the class and go through endless PowerPoint slides of theory content.  Students take notes and sometimes do an activity or questions from a text book.  Teachers convinced themselves that this was OK because the fun came in programming lessons.  Students get bored with this way of teaching.  They want to be more active beyond simple Q&A.  To deliver outstanding lessons you need students to be able to learn independently of their teacher with self-starting activities that allow you to spend more time with individual students and small groups.  You need lessons to work towards answering a key question with students able to provide differentiated evidence of their learning in ways that make sense to them.  You need students to be able to access the lesson if they are not present and easily catch up.  Welcome to the contemporary way of teaching with CraignDave where theory content PowerPoints are consigned to history and you are liberated to teach outstanding lessons all of the time!

Before the lesson for homework

Students need to watch one or more of our videos BEFORE the lesson for homework.  We have a video for EVERY bullet point of the specification, exactly matched to a specific course.  Unlike our GCSE videos, there is no “take notes” icon.  This scaffolding has been removed to prepare students for University.

Students should make their own notes in an exercise book, ideally using the Cornell method of note taking.

Pedagogy: read more from us about homework.

Videos are provided on our student website and hosted on YouTube for FREE.  Your students don’t need access to YouTube in school because they watch the videos for homework.  However, if you want to host them locally, they can be purchased on a memory stick from our shop.  Our videos are also available on the ClickView platform.

The lesson plan

Part 1. Key question

Students have an almost blank workbook which we call a student learning record (SLR) for each theory topic.  Each page of an SLR is already titled with a key question that students work towards answering in one or more lessons.  Each key question is exactly matched to the theory content of the specification, but helps to see the bigger picture too.  The first part of the lesson should introduce the key question for the lesson.

Part 2. Theory activities

Each topic has a set of bite-sized theory activities for students to engage with.  Students don’t need to complete all the activities, and teachers should be selective about which ones they would like to use with their class.  Once answered, these activities provide students with what we call “assets”.  There are hundreds of activities included in a premium subscription.

Part 3. Working on the SLR

Once students have watched a video and the activities are complete, they should have sufficient understanding to enable them to answer the key question in their SLR.  They do this by adding the “assets” they created from the activities and supplementing these with notes, descriptions, explanations, annotations and illustrations.  Students should be encouraged to complete this independently so the work is differentiated by the students themselves.  Students can add additional pages to their SLR to include as many assets as they need to answer the key question.

For example, a key question in SLR 9 is, “how does encryption work?”  There are activities for symmetric and asymmetric encryption.  Students complete these tasks and then use them as examples in this section of their SLR.

We suggest students complete their SLR at their own pace during a lesson, and during private study periods.  However, they should not spend a whole lesson working on this, but instead be selective about which assets help them answer the key question and provide evidence of learning.  When they are finished with a key question, the remainder of the lesson can be spent on programming.

Whilst students are working, you spend time with individuals checking their understanding and asking them questions to support and stretch.  From time-to-time you will want to stop all the students and go through the answers to some of the activities on the board.

Part 4. Programming/project time

Most lessons should include some time for programming.  We provide lots of tasks and challenges for students to self-select and attempt.  At A’level we encourage students to have another go at the same programming tasks and problems they tackled at GCSE in a different programming language.  We use Visual Basic, not because it is a good or industry-standard language, but because it most closely resembles the pseudocode students will see in exams and provides a nice transition to Monkey-x that we use for games development too.  Due to the way the programming problems were differentiated at GCSE there will be plenty of new problems for students to tackle too.

Assessment

Student learning records are assessed for breadth, depth, presentation and understanding.  Each key question can also be assessed using Solo taxonomy.  Symbols are provided on each slide.

Pedagogy: read more about solo taxonomy

Each topic has sample exam questions inside the SLR.

Assessment grids, revision checklists, sample exam questions and answers are provided with a premium subscription.

Project support

We teach our students Monkey-x, which they can use as a base engine for 2D computer games.  It’s a free and simple to learn framework as well as being suitably frustrating!  However, students can undertake almost any type of project providing it has sufficient algorithms and complexity.  Students are supported with a comprehensive 46 page guide book telling them how to approach each section of the project write-up and development.

Full walk-through tutorials and mini-projects for Monkey-x, support guide, templates, project trackers and suggested timelines are provided with a premium subscription.