Managing Code Club

Overall, I’m loving the independent projects that my two Code Club groups have chosen to create for their showcases.  They are working hard, mostly, and progressing. As project manager, I’m not stressing about the coding that is happening.

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Pair programming at recess

So instead of writing about managing the coding, I’d like to talk about behavior management. Here’s some things I’ve noticed:

  • Code Club can be loud. Scratchers want to listen to their sound assets and want others to listen, too.
  • Scratchers want to sit by their friends and share what they are doing.
  • Scratchers want to have fun while they are learning and
  • Ten-year olds enjoy the silliest things.

I don’t find anything wrong with these things. This is an after school club, not a classroom. I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of a room full of Scratchers.  However I do need to have control of the energy level and keep the chaos in the “fun” realm.  I know what level of noise I can stand and manage.  There are also some behaviors that push my buttons and times when I miss catching behaviors before they create problems.

Here’s a couple of things I work towards:

  • Develop a routine.  This is important enough to spend valuable time on.  We gather at the beginning in a group, even if I’m not introducing anything.  We check in with each other and set a plan for the 75 minutes. It helps settle the students into the club.  I’d like to be better at setting up a routine at the end.  I’m usually working with students on last minute coding crises right up until the parents show up.
  • Get to know the students.  I know the HSS Code Club students and they know me – we see each other at school but the students from my other club I have to get to know quickly. They don’t know me either.
  • Set expectations. While we go over expectations during our first meeting, I rarely restate them unless something comes up. I do expect everyone to follow school rules, and respect others. “Friendly reminders” about those rules can serve as a warning.
  • Be yourself.  I’ve seen and tried a number of different classroom management styles. Some work for me and others don’t feel genuine when I use them.

For all that I’m a generally upbeat, cheery person, I do get grumpy and irritated. Too much noise makes it difficult to work on coding.  Spinning around in the chairs or messing with the things in the computer lab – not okay.  Playing with the whiteboard until it flakes out, argh (This issue became a discussion point at the beginning of the next meeting). Deleting someone’s code – hasn’t really happened on purpose but apologies must be made.  I had to remove a student from Code Club one day, but we worked it out and the student was able to return the next week. I have to thank the school staff and administrators for their support for this one.

To close, I’ll state that every issue is different and, while I don’t always handle them as best as I could, there are not enough switch statements to code responses to all possible behaviors. In fact, I don’t think Scratch has switch/case statements.

 

 

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Random Coordinates with Ghostbusters

I must say I appreciate the wide variety of Code Club World’s Scratch projects that are out there. Last week both of my 4th grader Code Club students worked on Ghostbusters (and just before Halloween, too). The Ghostbusters project allowed me to talk about the Stage’s coordinate grid and introduce the Pick random block.  Two important concepts in Scratch programming and making interesting games.grid

It is also a fun game to code.  This version is an improvement over last year’s Ghostbusters project that we did. I compared the two and they are different.  The algorithm for appearing in random spots on the grid was simple to understand and easy to code, so the students saw results sooner.  That left more time to customize. Customizing is what these coders do best.

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This ghoul is very hard to catch but does it actually go back in time?

The game also implements scoring and timers. Students were able to customize these as well, adding additional Sprites and varying the amount of time they show on the screen and the number of points you get when you click on them.

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Want big scores? Try this game.

One student wanted to increase the speed of the timer when certain sprites were clicked.  That required a different way implementing the timer.  I knew it could be done that way but I couldn’t think of how on the spot.  Now I easily come up with the algorithm- set up a speed variable, change the speed when Sprites were clicked, decrease the time by speed amount.Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 8.14.31 PM

Sometimes the choice of background can change the difficulty of the game.  The project gives other ideas to change the difficulty as well.

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The background makes the black bat very tricky to click on.

The speed at which these students pick up the ideas from these projects and incorporate their own ideas and creativity amazes me.  In going over their projects for this blog, I realize I didn’t see all the coding that was going on at the time.  I’m impressed.

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The only sour note was some behavior issues that came up.  That’s disappointing.  It’s okay to have fun but not at the expense of other people’s learning.  Those kind of disruptions are not okay.

There’s no Code Club this week or next due to school schedules and holidays. I heard a lot of “I wish we had Code Club today” and even a “I wish Code Club was everyday!”