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.
Watching 4th graders make their own Scratch games is a blast. My two high school volunteers and I have a lot of fun troubleshooting coding quandaries and generally watching students’ “ah-ha” moments when discovering ways to code their ideas. They love to show you what they’ve built so far and tell you what’s coming up next.
Last week I used quietAnnie1’s idea to start an Expert list on the board. Students who wanted to volunteer their Scratch expertise to help other students could put their name on the list. If other students needed help, they could first ask an expert before putting their name under the Please Help list. This did keep the Please Help list short.
I brought out the microphone for a student and later saw another student had started a Microphone list. I love that kind of initiative. (A note about microphones and students: If you think 20 kids programming together in an after school setting is noisy, just throw a microphone in the mix. It will not help. Generally Code Club has a productive noisy buzz, but I did have to ask for quieter voices a time or two last week.)
Some interesting games are under development and some good progress has been made. I’m optimistic that our 2nd showcase will not be as stressful or chaotic as the first. Time will tell.
Here are a couple of progressing games by new Scratchers:
Beat this, if you dare
I also had time this week to complete my final project for the “Programming in Scratch” MOOC on EdX by HarveyMuddX. It is a simple adventure game. It needs some final kid testing, but I’m satisfied with it: Princess Project
Princess Project adventure game