Catch with Creative Coders

Last week I presented the Catch Game project to my group of coders that meets at the library once a month.  This group has a different vibe than my weekly Code Club.  Some of these coders are a bit older, some were in my Code Club when they were in 4th grade and we have new members each month.

We are also using online Scratch accounts on the library Chromebooks instead of Scratch 2.0 offline editor.  I’ve set up a teacher account and a class. Members can use one of the pre-set 15 student accounts or their own Scratch account if they have one.

Each month I set up a studio for them to add their projects. Then we can all try out and play their projects at the end of the session.   I’ve had a bit of trouble with adding studios.  Sometimes they have not been available to the students to see or to add their projects, but I think I’ve figured out why.  There are two ways I can set up a studio in my Scratch Teacher Account – under My Classes and under My Stuff.  If I can set up a studio inside My Classes, that will automatically allow my students to be curators of that studio.  If I set up the studio under My Stuff then only I am set up as a curator of the studio.  Interestingly, I can see all of the studios from My Studios. The difference appears when I look in the Curators tab.

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We emphasize creativity in their project design and encourage sharing and playing each other’s projects at the end of each session. I like to display each one on the big screen as well, as we want to celebrate each coder’s hard work. So I was a bit frustrated when no one could see the studio I set up.  One student helped me out on Monday by setting up a studio from his student account and adding to it all the shared projects.

 

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Catch the snowflakes

 

 

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1000 bonus points for catching the soccer ball!

 

They are a pretty creative bunch and didn’t have much problem with the project.  One student seemed to strive to annoy everyone with “creative” sound effects.  Others were making the screens fill with falling pugs or watermelons.

One student asked about keeping a high score list.  I think I’ll need to look into that request.  I know I’ve seen instructions about that somewhere.

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Checking Up on Individual Projects

We have two weeks until our Showcase of Projects and I’ve been checking in with all of the Code Club members to see how they are doing.  There are no team or pair projects this round which I find surprising but this year’s 4th-graders are very much unique individuals.  I tried putting two students together on one project, but they just couldn’t work together.  So they each have a similar project.  This does mean that there will be a lot of projects to present at the Showcase.

 

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Keep away from Bendy

 

The character Bendy from Bendy and the Ink Machine game is featured in a couple of chase games.  How these nine-year-olds know about this horror game, beats me.  I hadn’t heard of it, but then again, I don’t like scary things.

 

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Virtual Pet Dragon

 

Most of the students are in good shape.  The two virtual pet projects just need a few tweaks. The trivia and math quiz projects seem fine.

 

 

 

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Answer the riddles 

The Riddler is well coded, but I think I need to show this coder how to make his own blocks for the “you answered it wrong”.  He has duplicated his code in each “else” loop. Perfect opportunity to teach code reuse or refactoring. Now I finally have a reason to show them how those dark purple blocks work.

 

 

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This code shows up in each of his “else” statements.  

 

 

The flying cat and maze games could use some more work, but now that I’ve seen the state of everyone’s code, I think we might spend some time this week talking about game testing, how important it is, how to do it well and how to fix the glitches.

Equally important as testing for bugs, is to test for fun-ness.  We want our games to be fun.  Yes, we do.

Poetry Generation in Scratch

Fourth graders in Ms. Bradley’s class finished up their Hour of Code projects yesterday and we published their poetry generators in this Poetry Studio.

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These students have been doing quite a bit of poetry work this fall so when I approached their teacher about a Scratch project for Computer Science Ed Week, I had Code Club World’s Ada’s Poetry Generator project in mind.

The students worked in pairs and generated a list of verbs, nouns, adverbs, and adjectives in the classroom before heading to the computer lab.  The next step was to makea stage backdrop in Scratch.  I didn’t want them to use one from the library of backdrops but to create their own.  I showed them how to quickly color fill with a gradient but they all sort of went with lines of color, which looks pretty cool.

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I decided to jump into the middle of the Code Club World project and have them start with creating their lists and coding the poem generator.  I was concerned the papers with the lists of words would disappear before we had a chance to finish up the project.  I was right. We had a snow day on the day they were scheduled to complete the project.  Yesterday, last day before the break, we squeezed in the time to complete the poetry generators.

With the lists already made and the poems coded during the first session, the second work session was aimed at checking their code to make sure everything worked and adding a beginning and an end.  Could you add a second Sprite to introduce the poem generator and give instructions?  Could you some action or music at the end?

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basic poem generation code.

 

 

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A beginning, middle, and end.

 

Then we uploaded the projects to share with the Scratch community.

Some notes on facilitating pair work: I did talk about pair programming before we sat at the computers.  During each session, I would announce “time to switch driver and navigator” at regular intervals, as many weren’t willing to give up control on their own.

Also, don’t give them too much time to work on this or the special effects will outshine the poetry.

Don’t forget to save some time to add instructions, notes, and credits on the project page.  I need to be better at this.

It would have been great to have time to enjoy other classmates’ projects and give feedback, but at least they are posted and shared.

I would do this project again.

 

Computer Science Education Week

Hour of Code 2017 is here.  I’ve got a lot lined up this week for my school and clubs. There will be Hour of Code activities from Code.org available for all classes K-4 during the week in the computer lab.  In addition, I’ve got plans for some 3rd graders to draw a letter (like the first letter of their name) and learn about coordinates using Scratch.  Some 1st graders will begin using Scratch Jr. to make a winter project on iPads.

Each of the 4th-grade classes is starting a different Scratch project – Math game, Labyrinth and Ada’s poetry Generator, or Beetle Blocks project – print your name.

The library club with be trying out the Virtual Pet project from Scratch tomorrow and my school club will be starting their individual projects.

maze game

Labyrinth – reach the dragon. Don’t touch the sides.

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My Penguin Pet

 

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Name in Beetle Blocks

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Ada’s Poetry Generator Project

 

I’ve done some of these projects before but I’m hoping to blog about some of the new ones in more detail. This is just a preview of the week to come.

 

Getting Them Ready

We’re already half-way through the fall Code Club session for 4th graders. Now is the time when they start working on the design of their own project.  Having the opportunity to create their own game is pretty much why they come. My job is to get them ready to be successful in this venture.  To this end, I try to present lessons that help them learn programming concepts that they will want to use in their game design.

After eight Showcases and 108 projects, I feel have an idea of the essential programming concepts students will be using in the games students like to make.  We move fast and don’t get the chance to do more than introduce these concepts – it’s more learning to code than learning computer science.  It’s a start.

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Get the taco to the Scratch cat

Here’s what they will want –  A Sprite they can control with arrow keys to move around their game.  (The maze game).  A Sprite that can chase after them (Cat and Mouse).  Both of these projects introduce sensing as well  – in the maze game you are forever checking if you touch the sides and in both, you are forever checking if you won.

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You’re the banana. Don’t let the monkey eat you.

They might want to keep track of a score or set a time limit.  (Ghostbusters)

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Click on the Sprites when they appear to get points.

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From experience, some of them will want a game with gravity. It’s a concept that I don’t usually spend any time on but this year, from talking with the students, I could tell there will be some platform games in the works.

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I used Code Club World’s Flappy Parrot project to introduce gravity.  It also reveals the animation trick of moving the background while the main character stays in the middle.

I wasn’t sure if they would be able to handle this project, but they worked through it well and I felt they were successful.

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Flappy robot costumes – hand drawn wings

This last week we did the virtual pet project from the Scratch Tips.  I printed some of the Scratch cards of the project as well.  Virtual pet introduces broadcast & receive which is an important but difficult concept.  Broadcast & receive is powerful but requires planning and keeping track of your Sprites. This level of thinking is just developing for them.  They struggled with broadcast and receive, but mostly with the motion blocks because they were modifying the placement of Sprites to fit their creative take on a virtual pet but couldn’t translate that to adjust the go-to blocks properly so they got some strange movements they didn’t understand.

All in all, I like this progression of projects: 1) Maze game, 2) Felix & Herbert, 3) Ghostbusters, 4) Flappy Parrot, 5) Virtual Pet. It presents a variety of game types and hits some good basic concepts.  It leaves out a few of my favorites, though, like Chatbot. I also feel they need more basic coordinate knowledge (move, go to, glide).

(The problem with not blogging regularly is that when you do, you have too much to say and the blog gets really long, for which I apologize.)

Your Name Animated

To start off the school year, I thought it would be great to have 3rd graders work on a Scratch project and I’ve been wanting to try the animated name project from Made with Code for a while now.  You can find the resource cards here. (I printed a couple of sets) Animating your name seems like a good beginner project but not one that I do in Code Club.  And who wouldn’t want to play with their name in code?

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We started off by creating a backdrop for the Stage with the drawing tools in Scratch. I didn’t want them using one from the library, but to make their own.  Then we brainstormed ways to animate the letter Sprites – bouncing, turning upside down, changing color, spinning, growing, making a sound, etc.  This got them thinking about the possibilities. Next, we started adding letter Sprites.  Each Sprite was coded to be interactive by using the “when this Sprite is clicked” event block and adding an action to it.

 

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Example of 2 different letters interactivity

 

I used the resource cards to support students who preferred directions to be written out or visual or struggled to keep up with the general pace of the class.

Each third-grade class added their own flair to the project. One teacher decided to take photos of the students with a green screen background.  The students added themselves as a Sprite to their name project and animated themselves.

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I can’t share any of the actual student works as they include both the name and photo of the students.  We are going to record a video of the project like we do with our cloud project and include it in the students’ digital portfolio.

Another third-grade was finishing up the name project so close to Halloween that we incorporated the Trick or Treat project in with the animated names.  I didn’t present this part very well.  I needed to explain the difference between adding a costume to a Sprite and adding a separate Sprite. A lot of students made this mistake and there was general confusion.

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My next task is to finish the rubric for this project (which I should be doing right now).  The students enjoyed this project but we need to wrap these up.

New Code Club Starts

I am collaborating with the children’s librarian in my city to run a monthly code club for kids 8-12.  Our first meeting was last Monday.  We had six kids show up.  I knew three of them from two years ago when they were in my after-school 4th grade Code Club.  It was great to see them again.  The other three were mostly new to Scratch.  One of the coder’s grandmother stayed for the session and we set her up to play and learn Scratch, too, and she jumped right in a made a Chatbot project.

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I knew we were going to be using the library’s Chromebooks, so I set up a teacher account and a class along with some student accounts.  I figured a few of the coders might have a Scratch account already.  One said he did but didn’t remember it.  They all ended up using one of the class accounts.   That made it easy for sharing their projects at the end of the session.

Chatbot is one of my favorite projects from Code Club World.  It requires only one Sprite and Stage, is interactive, and the projects can become very creative very quickly.   It introduces the conditional block “if then, else”, a powerful, useful coding block for decision making.  It also introduces the ask-answer block pair as a quick way to introduce interactivity. The expert coders sort of remembered Chatbot but were very happy to revisit it.

By the end of the session, everyone was successful in setting up a Chatbot and coding an “if then, else” block at the least.  Some added more complexity with movements and costume changes. It was fun to see the different, creative takes on Chatbot.  The coders shared their projects, even though some were not complete and we played them all through.  I put them in our October project studio and liked them all.

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I thought the English/Spanish Chatbot project was a great idea – it could be a cool way to show what you’ve learned from Spanish class.

We asked the club members what types of projects they wanted to work on in future meetings.  I heard ideas ranging from Ghost Busters, Pong, anything with horses, to a platform game. Good ideas!  We are hoping more kids sign up and we can grow the club a bit.

It was great to be back working with Scratchers.  My after-school Code Club starts up next week. More new Scratchers.