Catch with Creative Coders

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.

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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.

 

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Catch the snowflakes

 

 

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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.

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Poetry Generation in Scratch

Fourth graders in Ms. Bradley’s class finished up their Hour of Code projects yesterday and we published their poetry generators in this Poetry Studio.

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These students have been doing quite a bit of poetry work this fall so when I approached their teacher about a Scratch project for Computer Science Ed Week, I had Code Club World’s Ada’s Poetry Generator project in mind.

The students worked in pairs and generated a list of verbs, nouns, adverbs, and adjectives in the classroom before heading to the computer lab.  The next step was to makea stage backdrop in Scratch.  I didn’t want them to use one from the library of backdrops but to create their own.  I showed them how to quickly color fill with a gradient but they all sort of went with lines of color, which looks pretty cool.

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I decided to jump into the middle of the Code Club World project and have them start with creating their lists and coding the poem generator.  I was concerned the papers with the lists of words would disappear before we had a chance to finish up the project.  I was right. We had a snow day on the day they were scheduled to complete the project.  Yesterday, last day before the break, we squeezed in the time to complete the poetry generators.

With the lists already made and the poems coded during the first session, the second work session was aimed at checking their code to make sure everything worked and adding a beginning and an end.  Could you add a second Sprite to introduce the poem generator and give instructions?  Could you some action or music at the end?

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basic poem generation code.

 

 

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A beginning, middle, and end.

 

Then we uploaded the projects to share with the Scratch community.

Some notes on facilitating pair work: I did talk about pair programming before we sat at the computers.  During each session, I would announce “time to switch driver and navigator” at regular intervals, as many weren’t willing to give up control on their own.

Also, don’t give them too much time to work on this or the special effects will outshine the poetry.

Don’t forget to save some time to add instructions, notes, and credits on the project page.  I need to be better at this.

It would have been great to have time to enjoy other classmates’ projects and give feedback, but at least they are posted and shared.

I would do this project again.

 

New Code Club Starts

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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Inspired By

Next week is the showcase for both Code Clubs.  That means this week all the individual Scratch projects the students have been working on since November have to be finished. Going into today’s Code Club session I was concerned.  I knew of a few projects that were in need of major help.

I started out letting them know that their projects would need to be uploaded to the Scratch website by the end of the Code Club.   We talked about how the showcase would go next week – how they would be presenting their projects and the parents would get a chance to try them out. I put two sign-up lists on the board – one for help, one for finished. Then we had at it.

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Fruit Collector

I am really lucky to have a great high school volunteer and he has been bringing his girlfriend to help as well.  While Josh handled the help list, I helped with the upload and sent the students to Raven who helped them fill out the project and credits page.

By the end of Code Club we had eleven projects uploaded, although not shared yet.  Two more need a little more tweaking.  Three students were absent.  Luckily, I can give them some recess time in the lab tomorrow or Friday.

Tomorrow’s Code Club projects will all have to be done.  No exceptions because I don’t see those students during the week. My daughter is coming with me tomorrow to help with the project instructions and credit page.

That’s the nuts and bolts of Code Club for today and tomorrow.  What has me sitting here writing up this blog right now is my excitement for these projects. The creativity and hard work displayed in these projects is quite impressive.

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Save Wizard Boy

Save Wizard Boy is a favorite Code Club maze game with green dots for points and a continual hip-hop beat as background music.  The creators had the most difficulty working as a team and agreeing on what they wanted in the game. This is written in their notes: “Making this game was fun. I made it in Code Club with my friend. Making games on computers is fun and if you like to play games on computers you can go to Scratch.”

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Mipio1

Mipio1 is another favorite platform 2-d world with gravity.  Quite challenging for most of the students who attempted this type of game.  I love the creativity and hand drawn city-scape. The 4th grader writes in her notes “What inspired me to introduce Mipio1 is the game called Mario and I love the game Mario. The game is sort of similar to that game.”

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Patriots

There were a number of sport type games – one called Wizard Soccer and two about football. In the Patriots each standard Scratch football player Sprite was customized.

Each project seems to be the best that student or team could produce.  I truly didn’t think they’d be this impressive.

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!”