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.
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.
Catch the snowflakes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I allowed the students to pick any two Sprites – one to chase and one to be chased. This let to some creative pairings.
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.
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.
More green cheesypuffs
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.