If you ever had a class right after lunch break, you know what this question is about. (Student's stomachs full, computers murmuring, room half-lit, teacher droning about something - I don't blame them for falling asleep.)

What short, fun exercises do you use to set student's arousal to the optimal level? It would be nice if it had something to do with CS.

Not sure this needs a context, but where I usually meet the problem: adult education, all-day-long courses, right after lunch break. The problem is universal though, I think.

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    $\begingroup$ csunplugged.org has some good active learning stuff, and all relating to computer science. $\endgroup$ – ctrl-alt-delor Sep 26 '17 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ctrl-alt-delor Really nice! Why not post it as an answer (add two more sentences and maybe highlight one idea from the site)? $\endgroup$ – vacip Sep 27 '17 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ For the drive-by downvoter: why not add a comment to let me know how I can improve the question? Same goes for the answer downvote... I'd love to improve it if you told me what was wrong. $\endgroup$ – vacip Sep 27 '17 at 7:47
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    $\begingroup$ I've not voted on either Q or A yet, but it only takes one bad experience with 'fun games' to turn people against them. Once one irresponsible trainer has pushed someone over the edge, just the suggestion of gamification is enough to trigger some people to walk out. $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane Sep 27 '17 at 8:36

Some conferences actually have "nap time" right after lunch. Let people nap if they like or catch up on outside tasks. Such conferences are usually residential, of course, so a nap is a real option.

A lecture immediately after lunch is going to lose a lot of people, as you say. Your teaching should account for human nature of course. But an active learning session - say role playing an algorithm - might work. If you have to hit them hard for the complete two days (no naps, no games), make sure that it isn't all just lecture and powerpoint. They will be too passive and will zone out too often. Break it up: lecture, discussion, exercises, role-play, feedback, pairing, group work.

Even a discussion session after lunch would be better than a lecture. You can pose a question to the class about some related topic, preferably one that might generate some differences of view. It could even be somewhat orthogonal to the topic of the course. If the course is about programming, make the question about software process. A simple strategy to start might be to elicit their experiences in development.

You don't win, nor do they, if you lecture beyond their point of caring.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the general advice. :) My classes are mostly hands-on classes with lot of practice, so not a lot of frontal lectures in it. Anyhow, I'm looking for actual wake-up exercise ideas. Nap time, role playing algorithm, related questions session - good ideas. I'll leave the question open though in hopes of more. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – vacip Sep 27 '17 at 7:44

CS Unplugged has some good active learning stuff, and all relating to computer science.

Computer science is as much about computers, as poetry is about pens. Therefore only use the computer where it adds benefit. CS unplugged, is an initiative to teach computer science, without the use of computers. It is mainly focused at primary schools, but I have used it in senior school. (If they are successful at teaching all pupils at primary school, then we will have to find other activities.)

I have use some of the activities on cs unplugged. Not after lunch, but just because they are good activities.

I have in my teacher pack some basic materials that allow me to teach a range of these activities.

Example 🂡🂢🂣…

An easy one that takes little preparation, except purchasing a pack of playing cards, is: sorting algorithms.

One pack of cards can be used for 4 groups of 2 to 4 students (so up to 16 students), but sometimes you want them to use more cards, see below.

Separate out one suit of cards for each group. If they don't know cards well, then remove J,Q,K. And shuffle cards (or get students to do it).

Now as a class get one pupil to sort cards. Watch what they do, and identify the algorithm that they used [usually insertion, or selection]. Tell them that they just did … sort.

Then break them into groups, and get them to experiment, what algorithms can they find. Tell them to sort a whole pack, this it to put enough pressure on them, to have to find a better way to do it.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that humans tend to use non-explicit algorithms to sort. Give someone ten cards, and they'll be able to look at the cards and do the majority of the processing in their heads. And if you give them ten cards, A to 10, they can just sort based on sorted[i][card_value] = i. $\endgroup$ – Acccumulation Oct 5 '17 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Acccumulation When I watched them they usually did insertion sort. The scanning/searching was hard to see, but the putting them in order is easy to see. $\endgroup$ – ctrl-alt-delor Oct 5 '17 at 18:11

One exercise I use sometimes (when I'm desperate):

Scope: Adult education, VBA intermediate course, 2 full days long.

Have students stand up, throw plush ball. Whoever gets the ball, has to name a programming keyword from the morning - anything from a variable type to an Excel object to a VBA keyword - and pass the ball on to someone. Must throw the ball, can't just give it to their neighbour.

In a minute or two this wakes them up enough for us to be able to go on, and this way we also refresh the morning part of the course a little.


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