Challenge Menus

Assessing code whilst also providing differentiated stretch

I got the idea for a Challenge Menu when I worked with Georgina Humble and her team of Robotists from Yeovil College.  Her team held Lego robotics days for Key Stage 3 students – often these students had no idea about coding and sometimes, little patience for it.  However all had lots of fun.

The team ensured that all students had something meaningful to do during the day by offering challenges of varying degrees of difficulty in a sort of menu so that the students could choose the challenges they thought they could do.  Each challenge had an associated “score” that indicated the degree of challenge – it also enabled her team to reward each student appropriately.  At the end, assessment was a simple matter of adding up the score of the challenges the students had completed.

I have taken this idea and tried to apply scores that could be used as the new National Curriculum assessment levels (1 to 9).  I got much of my inspiration for these from Dr. John Wollard’s work on levels.

Ofsted Happy!

By providing challenges in this way you are enabling students to stretch themselves to their limits.  This builds independence as well as offering differentiated challenges.  It is straight forward to specify what challenges you want a student to tackle next so this is target setting.

Recording the date when a task has been completed on the challenge sheet over several lessons shows the progress of the student over time.

Another way to develop student independence is to promote the use of peer help.  I use a made up currency called ‘Hokens‘ (Help Tokens) and these are used to buy my help or traded amongst students in return for help.  The recording of Hokens on the challenge sheet enables me to see how much help the student required and this will affect their final level.

Student becomes teacher.  Teacher becomes observer.

With the Skills Sheets offering basic starter help, the Challenge Sheets giving appropriately levelled tasks and Hokens as motivation for peer help, I become merely an observer in a room that is a hive of activity.  I move around the room, going from student to student looking at what they are working on and giving targets for what I think they should do next.

The Challenge Sheet is a very efficient way of teaching coding.  Here is a sheet that has been completed during a lesson by me.  I had time to visit every one of the 30 students in 30 minutes and assess their progress and offer advice.  Whilst this was happening, all the other students were either coding or helping each other with their coding.

For example, after a couple of lessons, I had evidence that this student had modified existing code and applied all of the x4 Principles of Coding and had adopted x2 of the “Sexy Code” rules and all without much help, she was, in new money, a level 3a (CLICK HERE for assessment)

used challenge sheet thumbnail


2014 Bournemouth University ScratchJam Challenge Sheet


BBoard PhysCom Challenge Sheet

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Python Challenge Sheet (slightly different style)

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Introduction to Scratch Challenge Sheet (Space Invaders game)

scratch pong.fw  pong skills sheet thumb.fw

This last example is typical in year 7/8 lessons.  It is an engaging topic, visual so great for creative students, has clear tasks for everyone to follow (especially as it has the associated skills sheet – which is from a similar game), extension tasks for those that want to stretch themselves and infinite scope for those who want to take it further.

Next: Assessing code