In one fourth-grade class students had a US state presentation project as one of the last assignments for school this year. I received the okay from the teacher to allow a student to make his presentation using Scratch. He was a Code Club member and I knew he had the programming skill and drive to complete all the requirements for the project using Scratch.
While the rest of the class used Google Slides, he made this great Scratch interactive project to share. He worked hard and I was impressed with the results.
He set the project up like a Chatbot project and used broadcast to change the backdrops. He also asked questions to keep the audience engaged.
I was available to help with the coding, but he worked pretty independently.
I would have liked to see more picture Sprites. We also discussed recording some audio for a portion of the presentation but ran out of time. He made a bibliography backdrop but it didn’t get included in the version we uploaded. Before he presented this to his class, he made some last minute changes that are saved in his account offline and not published.
He has his own Scratch account now and I know he will continue to code and create in middle school. That makes me really proud.
He had a rough end of the year within his classroom and with the dynamics of some of the other students so I was glad to be able to give him some flexibility with this assignment and let him do something he enjoys and show his coding skills.
I would like to think that Scratch would be an acceptable presentation format for other school projects like this. I have been thinking along these lines for a while and now have proof that it can be done and can show teachers what the results look like.
The art teacher and I collaborated again this year with our superhero animation project. 3rd-grade students sketched their ideas for a superhero in art class then we used computer lab time to draw their superhero and background in MS Paint. The next step was importing the files into Scratch and adding the code to animate them.
The students were engaged and worked hard. They could see where the project was going because they had seen last year’s example videos. Some of them were familiar enough with Scratch to add a bit of flair (or music) to their animations. I saw more color effect changes and even helped implement other effects like this use of the whirl effect to animate Red Jelly Man:
One improvement that I tried to implement this year was the use of additional costumes to create the illusion of animation along with the moving of the Sprite across the screen. This was most easily accomplished by duplicating and then modifying. Modifications generally included a slight rotation of the whole Sprite or to just an arm or other body parts. Little changes really enhance the overall effect of the animation.
Boring man has 2 costumes to look like he is walking
Only Snakewoman’s rattle changes in the costume changes.
Mr. Moo deploys his mini-moo with costumes varying the distance between hero and sidekick.
Another student’s Animal Man had 8 different animal costumes, all drawn by the student for his shape-shifting superhero.
Some of Animal Man’s costumes
Code for shape-shifting
Another technique we added this year was some simple backdrop animations.
Thundergirl moves in front of lightning that comes and goes via code on the Stage
I’m very pleased with the second round of the Superhero project. You can find all the movies here on my YouTube playlist.
Note: The students were able to add the project video of the animation to their digital portfolio without having to convert from the .flv format. The actual Scratch projects are not shared online but completed using Scratch 2.0 offline editor.
While planning Wednesday’s Code Club during a snow day on Tuesday I came across the Code Club World project Ada’s Poetry Generator. This is a new project for me and I liked the way it introduced and used lists. Arrays and lists are extremely important data structures in programming – right up there with loops and variables. I’ve never introduced lists in Scratch before. I also liked how this project wasn’t a game but had the potential for a lot of creativity and fun.
I mocked up a project with Scratch Cat instead of Ada Lovelace. (I did talk briefly about Ada when introducing the project.)
I added some “talking” animation to Scratch Cat by duplicating costumes and morphing the mouth into different shapes. Then coding the costumes to change when the poem is “spoken”
Some students whined a bit about poetry and not a game but I ignored that because I knew they’d like it once they figured it out. I’m hoping someone chooses to make a MadLib or something similar for the final project. If not, I may see if we can use this in some language arts project.
Here are some nice examples:
Computer generating poetry with lists
This coder really liked gluteus maximus, and unhelpful list naming conventions.
Awesome animated mouth
This coder is my animator to be. He drew and animated the PacMan and Ghost being eaten costumes… then he coded the poem in the last few minutes.
These two below took the morphing a bit to the extreme but the coding (and poetry) is well done:
I enjoyed reading all the funny randomly generated poems that the students created. I was glad I choose this project for my Code Club.
Code Club session #8 met for the first time on Wednesday. There are eighteen 4th graders and two high school volunteers. This is the second time I’ve had a mixture of students from both elementary schools in my city in one club. Another thing that is cool about the Spring session is that I have returning Code Club members, or, as we call them, “experts”. Only 5 students are new to Code Club and there was only one student I didn’t know.
A New Scratcher’s take on Maze game
After introductions, I asked the “experts” what favorite project they had from the last session of Code Club. They remembered and liked the Maze game, Space Junk and Chatbot from CodeClubWorld. They also enjoyed the projects they had created themselves, not surprisingly. I like starting with the Maze game and had already chosen that project for our first meeting. It’s a simple game with many ways to make it more exciting and complex.
We started out by reviewing the maze design and refreshing our programming vocabulary. What was the object of the game? How does the Sprite move (arrow keys or follow the mouse were options)? What happens when you touch the edge of the maze? How do you win? Then we talked briefly about ways to make it more exciting – more levels, obstacles, villains, etc.
Then they got to it. They were fairly independent coders, for the most part, and they helped each other a bit, too. My high school volunteers and I think we will be able to try some more complex coding projects this round. It was a really fun 75 minutes.
First time Code Club member
Thinking ahead, here are some goals for this session of Code Club:
- Encourage more animation: We have some artists, so I’d like to share with them and encourage more creative uses of costumes for animation effects.
- Explore “more blocks”: someone is already exploring defining their own blocks. I’d like to encourage more of this. As well as random numbers.
- Clearing up misconceptions: We will have to revisit some concepts like the forever block and support better debugging habits
Find the glitch in this code.
It seems this “expert” puts everything in forever blocks.
- And finally – I want to use MakeyMakey‘s this time. I told them I want to use them with our projects – especially our final projects. Those couple of students who have played a bit with MakeyMakey’s were quite excited. I’m really excited (and a bit nervous). I don’t have much experience using MakeyMakey devices, with or without students. Luckily that won’t stop me.
On Wednesday I decided to introduce Scratch to a class of second graders. Wednesday’s schedule in the lab is such that there is an overlap of about 10 minutes with 4th grade alternative recess. With the growing interest in coding among 4th graders, sometimes there are 4th graders waiting around for a free computer at the start of their recess. I decided to put this fact to use rather than let it aggravate me. (They can be noisy while waiting). I figured they could help me introduce Scratch to these 2nd graders.
My goal was for the 2nd graders to add a background and a Sprite and make the Sprite do something when clicked. I sort of sprung the project on both groups but it worked out well. The 4th graders, as a whole, were very helpful and the 2nd graders were pretty excited with all the choices. It amazed them that a couple blocks of code could make their Sprites interactive. I was proud of my 4th graders for their enthusiasm and their ability to share their expertise in Scratch with the younger students. More 2nd graders were able to get support while trying something new. I’m pleased.
On other fronts, there are eighteen 4th graders signed up for Code Club. Sadly, I’m competing with another after school program – Drama Club – so I have only 2 girls on my roster.
Code Club is on a break until the end of February. Meanwhile 4th grade students have been coding during alternative recess opportunities when the lab is available.
I have seen a growing interest in coding in BeetleBlocks now that we have a 3d printer available to print artifacts and I am quite thrilled. Most 4th graders have had an introduction BeetleBlocks when we used it to print their names (I have one more 4th grade class to schedule), but printing names of their friends or teachers still interests them.
Some 3d printed names
Some are just curious to print a single shape – cube, cuboid or sphere. Spheres are the hardest to print – even with a small cuboid base, they don’t print very well. Students seem to love the prints that “blow up” as well as the successes.
I asked the snowman creator to add a cuboid below so the print would be successful, and it was.
Recently I printed a cannon that a student had made in BeetleBlocks for a social studies report on the Middle Ages. I asked him to break the code into 2 parts – the barrel and the base thinking that would help the print be successful. It printed out well enough. We glued it together with a 3d pen.
Cannon printed in 2 parts, glued together with a 3D pen
What surprises the students the most is the size of the print compared to what they see on the screen. Even though we went over the the numbers translate into millimeters. I try not to scale anything but instead make them go back to the code and change it there.
Recently I printed a pair of rings. There have been some other rings coded but this was the first project that reached the export to print stage. The 4th grader had started on Monday and measured her finger (with the mm calipers) to code a tube of that diameter. Then we added a sphere on the top. That was all we had time for on Monday. On Wednesday she came in with a list of code she had written down. She had worked on the project at home and didn’t know how to save it so she wrote down the code and brought it to school. She also measured her friend’s finger to print one customized for her.
A pair of printed rings
It only took a few minutes to print. The size will need some tweaking, but I suspect I will be printing more rings in the future. We’ve shared the project for others to see or use.
In September I wasn’t sure what 4th graders could do with BeetleBlocks and every week they surprise me with their creativity. I hope to report more on their explorations in the coming months.