Here’s a key game coding strategy for beginner programmers: pair up to test often, not just at the end of your project. Whenever your students are designing a game with Scratch or other programming language, they should have a friend test their code at different stages throughout the design process.
Often when teaching coding, a peer review activity is assigned at the END of the unit. At that time, a friend plays the game and then offers feedback. This is an excellent strategy for improving student work. In fact, it is often the last thing done before the game is submitted for grading or shared with players.
However, there are many reasons to game test when the program is only partly complete.
Why Test Games at Different Stages?
Do not wait until a game is finished for a peer review activity. Instead, have your students pair and share often at the beginning and in the middle of a programming task. Here’s why…
1. Easier to Pinpoint Errors:
As game design progresses, the scripts increase in number and complexity. This can make it difficult to find and fix errors. If the game test is done in stages, then students are examining smaller chunks of the program. This makes it simpler to troubleshoot design and coding issues.
2. Reduce Frustration:
Waiting until the end of a program for a peer review activity can be detrimental to students who might be struggling. Programming can be frustrating, especially if the code does not work properly. If left unchecked, there is a risk of giving up. However, a game test early in a project provides the necessary support. Together, students can notice and fix errors. In this instance, two heads are better than one.
3. Time to Enhance Code:
Doing a game test in the middle of game development provides adequate time to improve the code and design. If left to the end of a coding unit, students might feel rushed to make changes. They might not want to revise the content because they don’t want to risk ruining their current creation. As well, they might be fatigued from the project, and not have the same level of enthusiasm or energy to put towards edits.
4. Source of Inspiration:
When students become game testers, they can examine the creative choices made by fellow classmates. Since their game is not yet complete, they can then add similar elements to their own work. Additionally, looking at someone else’s work might spark an idea that allows further enhancements to their own program. Scratch encourages this sharing of minds and its collaborative potential, and calls it ‘remixing.’
5. Sense of Accomplishment:
When a peer reviewer game tests in the middle of a project and then again at the end, the changes are more noticeable. They can see how the project has evolved. By noticing the work that has gone into the final game design, they can provide more detailed feedback. They are more likely to give a positive, specific comments to encourage the creator of the game.
6. Increased Engagement:
Routine collaboration and teamwork is motivating for students. When they can see the benefits of working together by giving each other support, help, and feedback, their incentive gets a big boost. Also, teamwork is an essential soft skill in the workplace. Read more about this valued career skill in Collaboration and Coding is Fun and Fosters Teamwork.
Testing Is an Essential Game Coding Strategy
TechnoKids has programming projects for elementary and middle school students. In all of these projects, students build the game coding strategy of testing their work during the development stage. They test their own work and they test the projects of their peers. Self and peer reflection questions help them to identify specific areas for improvement as well as applaud successeses.
TechnoWhiz – Primary Grades: Design silly scenes, feed a pet monster, explore a magical land, race to the finish, and more using Scratch JR!
TechnoTales – Elementary Grades: Make up a modern fairy tale that has a hero go on a quest with Scratch JR.
TechnoArcade *NEW* – Elementary Grades: Become a game developer and invite friends to an online arcade with Scratch.
TechnoTurtle – Elementary Grades: Create orginal mazes, artwork, and games using Python and the Turtle library.
TechnoCode – Middle School Grades: Build stories, games, puzzles, and animations with Scratch.
TechnoPython – Middle School Grades: Complete a series of programming missions using Python programming language.
TechnoHTML5 – Middle School Grades: Code a web page with HTML and CSS lessons for beginners by styling text, graphics, and hyperlinks.