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!”

Something Strange in the Neighborhood

Who ya gonna call? This week we tackled the Ghostbusters game from Code Club level 1 projects.  I slated it for this week since we met just before Halloween.  I gave them a bit of leeway on following the project to the letter and let them pick any ghost sprite, and use any sound. Most of the issues we encountered this time were same as the ones we encountered last week – generally there were issues locating specific code blocks and difficulties following directions specifically enough for the game to work.

Ghostbusters Scratch

But they pick this stuff up so fast and make sense of it, too.  It is amazing.  Some of them are starting to know where they can make their own changes without affecting the game play or where their changes actually can make the game better.

My plan for Code Club this week was to start off reflecting on last week’s learning project and see how everyone felt Code Club was going. As much as I understand the importance of reflection, I don’t always take the time to let the students reflect. This week, though, I wanted to hear their thoughts on how the first learning project went. Unfortunately, reflection time at the beginning, during snack, was derailed a bit by the general, insuppressible excitement level of the students, something that I had been noticing all day – probably due to a trifecta of events this week: Open House last night, indoor recess due to rain that day, and the anticipation of Halloween on Friday.  There was nothing to do but move on to the main event: Coding!

I felt a bit more prepared this time as I had just walked through the Ghostbuster project with a couple of students earlier during indoor recess.  It really helps to actually work your way through a project, or help someone work their way through one. It is a different level of understanding than just reading through it. (Shocker)

When we came to the part to add a sound to the game when you score a point, I did fuel the fire of their enthusiasm by bringing out two microphones and letting the students record their own sounds. Recording from microphones worked surprisingly well despite the noise level of 22 students working in Scratch in an after-school setting.

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For their final independent project, I will want them to create all of their own sounds, sprites and backgrounds.  I may have to scrounge up another microphone or create a schedule for their use.

Boy was it hard to stop at 4:15