Superhero Remix

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.

 

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Boring man has 2 costumes to look like he is walking

 

 

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Only Snakewoman’s rattle changes in the costume changes.

 

 

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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.

Another technique we added this year was some simple backdrop animations.

 

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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.

Poetry Generator

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.)

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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:

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Computer generating poetry with lists

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This coder really liked gluteus maximus, and unhelpful list naming conventions.

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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.

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Future animator

These two below took the morphing a bit to the extreme but the coding (and poetry) is well done:

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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 to Print

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.

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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.

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Snowman artifact

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.

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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.

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BeetleBlocks rings

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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.

 

Don’t Laugh

The projects for our showcases are finished and have been published on the Scratch site and I’m compiling them onto our school Code Club page in preparation for our final meetings this week when the parents come to see what we have been up to.

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Chatbot and Pong game in one project

There are some pretty impressive projects.  And the students’ hard work is evident.  Maze games, Chatbots, Races, Survivor games, Pong types:

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Space Pong – hit the portal that matches the ball color.

Then there’s The Epic Game where there are 4 games in one project.  The two girls working on this one came in at recess to work on it and were really motivated to meet their goal of finishing it.

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The Epic Game – it took epic effort.

They learned a lot about game flow, how to use broadcast effectively and how making one seemly insignificant change can break everything. And about testing, testing, testing. I thought I would need to show them Rik Cross’s Cheat Codes, but their chatbot like game flow let us quickly get to the game that was having issues.

I’m really proud of all of these projects and coders, even the two, possibly three, Try Not To Laugh projects.  Yes, it seems we have a dancing llama infection.  The first TNTL project was a dancing llama project from Showcase #2 called Super Awesome Llama Man. I wasn’t that impressed with the project makers plan or effort, but it fit his personality and every single 4th grader who sees it seems to think it is hilarious in it’s absurdity. This year the llama man Sprite is back in a couple of Try Not to Laugh projects.  Also is a walking taco and troll face.

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Llama is back – TNTL

I okayed one TNTL project but when two students project derailed because they couldn’t agree on how to proceed with their joint project, I okayed their change to a TNTL project.

 

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So many llamas

I tried to find funny gifs other than the llama, but they all love the llama.  Really, it’s not funny anymore.

 

Catch ’em

Week 2 for Code Club happened.

We did an old project game called Felix and Herbert which I’ve done before.  It’s not on the list of current Scratch project at Code Club World, but its simple concept with different movements- follow mouse movements- makes it a good second week project. It is a cat and mouse game and introduces some good game elements such as broadcasting and keeping score.

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I allowed the students to pick any two Sprites – one to chase and one to be chased.  This let to some creative pairings.

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It also became important in debugging to know which Sprite was which. When introducing the project I did point out where it says “Test your project.”  I let them know that this was a big part of programming.  I think I’ll need to emphasize that each time. I notice a lot of creative testing – playing with sounds, looks, speed, scoring, but not much debugging or referring to the project pages when things don’t work.

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At the beginning of Code Club, I decided, we would add a bit of reflection to our meeting. On Wednesday I asked how the first code club went?  What were the successes and failures.  Many noted that they ran out of time or weren’t able to get the sensing of the edge of the maze to work.  I told them that it was a difficult task and if they were able to set up the Sprite to use the arrow keys, that was a success.

With Thursday’s group, I asked them to share one thing they found that they liked about Scratch.  This time I asked for positive responses mostly because they’d only played with Scratch and hadn’t really tackled a whole project yet.

I enjoyed this reflection time.  These are big groups and I don’t always get to connect with each student during our hour of coding.  Afterward Code Club I do take the time to look at the projects they save, highlighting a few here and noting any trending issues. And, of course doing my own reflecting on this blog.

I must say that my volunteers are awesome!  They work very hard fielding questions, debugging code, working with students. Even so, I think the students are asking for help too quickly.  They need to look at the project more closely and begin to do a bit more problem solving themselves.

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3rd Grade Scratch Game Makers

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The 3rd graders that have been learning Scratch really came through during Computer Science Education Week and produced 11 goofy and wonderful little math games.  Last week we took the time to reflect and give feedback.  I am really impressed with their coding and want to jot down the lessons that occurred so I can repeat this again if I get the chance.

Here’s the list of lessons:

1. Intro to Scratch (Sprite, Stage, events, move, looks) -the basics introduced, time given to explore.

2. Etch-a-sketch (more events, pen)

3. Trick or Treat (if-then-else, ask-answer)

4. Draw Your Initial (coordinate system, glide, pen)   -for this lesson I had in mind to teach the Scratch coordinate system where (0,0) is the center of the screen.  I had them pick a Sprite of their choice and code it to glide around in the shape of their first (or last) initial.  I modeled gliding in a square while they followed first.Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 9.04.32 PM

I handed out half sheets with the scratch grid on it so they could draw out their initial, figure out the coordinates then add the glide blocks.  Pen down and repeats were added at the end for extra flair.

5. Math game design outline (design sheet)

6. Math game coding (Pair programming)

7. Sharing and giving feedback

My expectation was that they’d code one math questions with two different outcomes like the Trick of Treat lesson.Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 9.32.12 PM

Only this time they were working in pairs and had to come up with their own theme and math question.  They worked on it for almost two math sessions and then I put them up on the Scratch website.

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Last week they got to play all the games and give each other feedback. One student thought they were going to get to rate the games and he declared he always gives bad ratings to online games.  Instead I handed out sheets for them to give each game “2 stars and a wish” (This is something I came across in a FutureLearn MOOC on Teaching Computing)

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Giving good feedback is actually a lot of work.  I asked them to play each game twice, one time get the math question correct and then play it again and give the wrong answer.  Then they had to find two things they liked about the game and one thing they wished it would do differently.  I enjoy this feedback part of the game making.

Oh yeah, 4th graders made math games, too. What a difference a year and a bit of Code Club does to the complexity of the games made.  They also worked on giving 2 stars and a wish feedback this week.

Chatbot Decisions

This week both code clubs did the same project – Code Club World’s Chatbot. I like this one because it is not a game and students can be very creative at asking questions for the user to answer.  My goal was for them to learn about 1) user input, 2) if-then-else and 3) operators. That’s a lot. At a minimum, I think most everyone was able to use the “ask and answer” blocks, the “join” block and try one “if-then-else” block.

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Some were able to add animations at the end which I thought was pretty cool.  Some went back to their previous maze game and added some talking.  Also cool.

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The Wednesday club wore out my high school student with their needs, despite my call for them to ask a neighbor for help first before you ask an adult.Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.50.35 AM

Thursday’s club figured out that if the answer is not typed exactly, then the “else” clause runs.  So if the user types “sure” instead of “yes” the program will think it is wrong.  One student had an extra space in the operator clause, as in answer = “yes “.  That bug took a bit to fix.  Another student was looking for a really big number:

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One of the tricky parts to this lesson is a defining variable and setting the answer to it. The students can follow the directions, but I don’t know that they understand why they are doing that or what it going on.  I have to remember these are pre-pre-algebra students.  Still, they will most likely want to keep track of a score or timer, so for now, they will try it and later we will come back to this concept when they need it in their projects.Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.49.59 AM

While I love the creativity and extensions this project allows for, you do have to set expectations for appropriateness.  I had to ask a few students to change their responses to the questions.  I like to go around and test out their programs, putting my name in as the answer to “What’s your name?”.  When the response is “That’s a dumb name” or something equally as inappropriate, I get a bit disappointed and tell them to change it to something appropriate.  One student responded, “I didn’t think you’d play the game.” He obviously knew he was being inappropriate but was, at least, embarrassed by it.

Here’s one more creative take on Chatbot:Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.15.26 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.15.16 AM