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In the last issue of "GO" Margaret Harris and Margaret Williams, advisory teachers in Devon, described activities to increase young children's understanding of the language needed to program the Roamer, (Forward, Turn, etc). Their second article, adapted from their booklet on Big Trak, 'Making Tracks', looks at early activities with the Roamer which develop this understanding with hands-on experience.

For most of these activities it is necessary to clear memory at the end of each 'turn'.

Clearing the Roamer's GO memory
To clear the Roamer's memory press CM CM. The first time CM is pressed a warning is sounded. If it has been pressed by mistake, press another key or wait 10 seconds and the first press will be ignored. The Roamer will then carry on with its memory intact.
Crocodile Island: Mark out the banks of a river on the floor and place an island in the middle. Make the Roamer into a crocodile and place it by the river bank facing the island. Mark its starting position. Ask the children if they can work out which keys to press to get the crocodile onto the island.
Once a child has discovered how to get the crocodile to the island, ask pupil if they can make it return to the river bank. The first solution may be to turn the Crocodile around and use the same instructions. Encourage the children to find a key that will bring the crocodile back without turning it around, "Do you think the crocodile can swim backwards?"

Number Track: This activity is useful for children who do not understand the relationships between numbers on a number line.
Make a number track with steps of 30cm, one Roamer length. Tell the children to place the Roamer on 0 and move it to a number. Ask them what they discovered. Then ask them to move it back to 0.
When the children have mastered starting on 0, the Roamer may be started from another number. For example, "The Roamer is on 3. How many steps will you program for the Roamer to move to 7?"
The track may be used later for counting back activities.

Number Track Game: The number track activities may be developed into a game.
Make a set of cards numbered 1 to 5, with a forward or back symbol. There should be more cards with the forward symbol than with the back symbol. Shuffle the cards and place them face down on the floor.
The first player places the Roamer on 0, draws a card and keys in the instruction. If you have only one Roamer, the first player places a marker where the Roamer stops, and returns it to the starting line, where the second player takes a turn. If you have two Roamers the second player plays with the second Roamer, so it is not necessary to use markers.
The first player to reach square 11 is the winner. The teacher can ask questions like, "You are on 3 and your card says go forward 2. What number will the Roamer stop on?"

Measuring Distances: A Roamer length is a useful arbitrary unit for measuring distances in the classroom.
Ask the children to guess how many Roamer lengths are between two pieces of furniture, then check their estimate with the Roamer. Sometimes the Roamer will not measure the distance exactly. Phrases such as "and a little bit," or "not quite" are perfectly acceptable.

Crossroads: Mark out crossroads on the floor with a destination (shop, garage, house, etc.) at the end of each road. Ask the children to move the Roamer from one point on the crossroads to another.
There is also a range of introductory moving and turning activities in the Valiant booklet, Geometry Microworld Part I. The first issue of "GO" contains an article on the Roamer's unit setting feature which tells you how to change the units of turn to make them more suitable for younger children.

  © 2004. Amethyst Consultancy Ltd.