- Published January 29, 1990
Preparation is necessary before using equipment like Roamer and Turtle with young children. The following article has been adapted from “Have Big Track will GO” written by Margaret Harris and Margaret Williams both Advisory Teachers in Devon. Published in the early 1980s it relates their experience of using Big Trak with young children. Many of the principles are suitable for use with young children the Roamer and the Turtle.
Before introducing the Roamer or the Turtle in the classroom you will have to decide where and how to use it.
- Space: A large, clear area is essential. Children need enough room to move around and to move the robot different distances and in different directions. Suitable locations are the school hall, an empty classroom or even a corner of your own classroom.
- Children: It is important to organise the children so they obtain maximum benefit from their activities.
A class lesson to introduce the robot is often appropriate, but children are best motivated by hands on experience.
Children can work as a class, in groups or as individuals. Shy, unconfident children will benefit from activities on their own. Most children will benefit from working in small groups. This avoids queues of impatient children waiting for their “turn” and encourages discussion and co-operation. Many language skills will develop in this situation. The groups should be organised so that all children have a chance to participate.
- Recording Programs: Children should be encouraged to record their instructions and programs for the Roamer. The program sheets provided with the Roamer can be freely copied for this purpose. Recording helps children to think about what instructions they key in and provides a record for both teacher and pupil.
When younger children first encounter a Turtle or Roamer, they may not have the language or understanding necessary to instruct it. The following exercises will help them with Forward, Back and turn commands.
- Copy Cat: Give two children an identical set of coloured bricks and place a screen between them. The first child makes a pattern with the bricks and then gives instructions for the second child to make the same pattern. The children then change roles and repeat the game. This encourages children to use spatial language.
- Forward and Back: Children hop, jump or skip around the hall, possibly to music. At a signal from the teacher they stop. The teacher then gives an instruction like, “Move forward five steps”, or “Jump back eight steps”.
This game could be developed to include turning. For example, “Let me see your face”, “Face the wall with the door”, or “Let me see your back”, then “Move forward…”, etc.
- Left and Right: Younger children are often confused about left and right. There are several ways to help them remember.
The class could make bangles and wear them on their right wrists. Children can play “Simon says, ‘Touch your left leg’ etc”. Children can skip, hop or jump around the hall, then be asked to turn right or left and move forward or back a number of steps.
- Crossroads: Mark out some crossroads on the floor. At the end of each road place something to represent a forest, a castle, a lake and a village. Children can instruct each other to get from one place to another, for example, from the lake to the, village. This game could be played in pairs. One child wears a blindfold and the partner gives instructions.