Lost in Space and Finding a Hook

First week of Code Club, year 2, is in the books.

On Wednesday, eighteen 4th grade students joined me in the computer lab to learn some Scratch. I also had some support from my colleague and 4th grader teacher, who came to support one of his students, and my high school volunteer.

Code Club lasts 75 minutes.  I like to take the first 15 for snack, a learning concept, and Q&A. I don’t remember too many questions from Wednesday.  I went over expectations, a lot, it seemed, the nuts and bolts, an overview. They seemed to be most excited with the fact that they could work with partners to make their own game at the end the 10 weeks. I was really calm – or at least I kept an outward appearance of composure.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.44.44 AM

Then we started in with Scratch.  Scratch 2 Offline editor was installed so we used that to try out Code Club World‘s Lost in Space project.  As a beginning project, it was hard.  I just handed it out and said try it.  If they wanted to try something on their own, I was okay with that.  “As long as you are doing Scratch.” Meanwhile I sat between a couple of students and helped them plow through the project step by step.  One of them was sitting at the computer with the projector. When she finished a cool step and her rocket ship zoomed toward Earth changing color as it went, everyone got to see it.  More students seemed eager to get their rocket ship working then. And that’s how I hooked them.Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.57.11 PM

There is a lot to learn right at the beginning when you sit down to start something new – like a new program, a new technique, a new procedure. You need time to explore. You need to be able to struggle a bit.  You need a bit of support and a bit of freedom. I hope that is what I gave them.

Towards the end of our time together I started to doubt myself.  I could sense frustration. They were looking for more help. Things weren’t working as they expected. They weren’t getting results. Maybe I made a mistake.  Maybe I should have led them through their first project, step by step, making sure everyone was following along.  Maybe it was too soon to let them work through a project by themselves.  Were they going to like coding?  Were they hooked?

And all too soon, our time was up.

Shortly afterwards someone asked me how it went and I had mixed feelings. I was still thinking I should have taken a different approach. After some reflection, I feel letting them work through the project on their own and struggle is what I wanted for them. Next week when I talk about the Stage, Sprites and coding in steps, they will be a bit familiar with the layout of Scratch and it may make more sense. That’s my hope.

I solicited some feedback, which seemed generally positive. I also received some random, unprompted “I love Code Club” responses from coders on Thursday. Today, during indoor recess/free time, Scratch was the thing to do or be seen doing.

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