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Programming Poetry

2010 November 30
by Hélène Martin

My mind has gone blank
Now as void as a method
that does not return

I like to give my students a creative 1-point extra-credit question on bigger assessments.  It buys me a bit of goodwill while balancing out small mistakes students make when they are rushing, unclear questions and the like.  I also get a glimpse of students’ true feelings for programming as well as some information about how deeply they’ve internalized concepts.  For example, the author of the poem above clearly has a good understanding of returns and the meaning of void.

I just gave my AP CS students a quiz and encouraged haikus for the extra credit.  The results were stunning.

Will a char suffice?
no, you must use a string. Why?
for it has methods

Check them all out.

As most good ideas, this one comes from UW CSE.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. November 30, 2010

    Much better than my “Draw a picture of an aardvark.” I usually have a point filler question on my math tests like that. I will have to try the haiku, especially when a kid wrote they did not know what an aardvark was.

    • Hélène Martin permalink*
      November 30, 2010

      I also ask them to draw what programming means to them. That can be amazing!

  2. Justin permalink
    November 30, 2010

    It’s interesting that two of the poems mention that students prefer for loops to while loops. I wonder why. Is it because they (usually) have to think harder about the termination conditions of while loops?

    It would be interesting to see how students would do at writing problems as for loops, while loops, do/repeat until loops, and generalized loops with explicit break. Maybe have them do several small tasks (sum an array, read input until a terminator is read, etc.) in each style and have them comment on which seems more natural for each task.

    • Hélène Martin permalink*
      November 30, 2010

      Interesting trend you point to. I think it’s that we had just learned while loops more than anything else!

      If I think of a good time to put it in, I’ll give that experiment a shot!

  3. earthkwaque permalink
    November 30, 2010

    Your students are great:
    literate and numerate!
    You should be quite proud.

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