Trick or Treat

Today was the second Scratch session with a 3rd grade math class and it was a blast.  Last week I introduced Scratch to them and they also tried out the Etch-a-sketch project from Simon Haughton’s Scratch Progamming lessons.   Some of them spent some time during the week playing with Scratch during free time in math class.

This week I wanted to introduce the “ask and answer” blocks and “if-then-else” so I came up with this Trick or Treat lesson, just in time for Halloween.

First I verbally asked them “Trick or Treat?” Most of them said, “treat” of course.  Then we brainstormed what a “treat” would look like in Scratch – do something (animation), change the costume, say something, play a sound.  They of course had big ideas like candy falling from the sky or the Sprite eating a pile of candy.  I tried to translate that into more programable language.  Then we brainstormed what a “trick” would look like.

I showed them my sample project where a ghost asks “Trick or Treat” and if you say “treat” he turns into a bowl of cheesepuffs otherwise he turns into a scary ghost.  I also had different sounds and a bit of animation (the Sprite turns and grows).

Next it was their turn. I directed them to picked a background for the stage and a Sprite.  Their choice.  We had a lot of ghost and ghouls, but quite a variety of backgrounds.

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Then they asked the question “Trick or Treat?” and set up the answer to equal trick or treat.  Also their choice.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.28.58 PM

We tested it and they noted it didn’t do anything. Well, not yet.  So we added a “say” block for each condition depending on if what they were looking for, trick or treat, and the opposite in the else clause.

Then I had them add two sounds, one for each condition.  In hindsight, I should have saved the sounds for last as noise level went up both from excitement and the random sounds playing in the room.

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Finally we added some costumes to the Sprite, one for each condition.  (There was a bit of confusion here because we weren’t adding more Sprites but costumes to our Sprite.)

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That was it, with just enough time to share their work. Their math teacher suggested this and it turned out to be a great idea. The projects were saved in a shared directory and all the laptops were closed and I displayed each project up on the screen for all to enjoy.  When it was their turn, I asked the project creator if they wanted me to answer “trick” or “treat” first, then played both cases for all their classmates to see. Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.21.32 PM

I’m very pleased with how this project went with this group of 3rd graders.  I would definitely do it again- just have them add sound last.

Chatbot Decisions

This week both code clubs did the same project – Code Club World’s Chatbot. I like this one because it is not a game and students can be very creative at asking questions for the user to answer.  My goal was for them to learn about 1) user input, 2) if-then-else and 3) operators. That’s a lot. At a minimum, I think most everyone was able to use the “ask and answer” blocks, the “join” block and try one “if-then-else” block.

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Some were able to add animations at the end which I thought was pretty cool.  Some went back to their previous maze game and added some talking.  Also cool.

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The Wednesday club wore out my high school student with their needs, despite my call for them to ask a neighbor for help first before you ask an adult.Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.50.35 AM

Thursday’s club figured out that if the answer is not typed exactly, then the “else” clause runs.  So if the user types “sure” instead of “yes” the program will think it is wrong.  One student had an extra space in the operator clause, as in answer = “yes “.  That bug took a bit to fix.  Another student was looking for a really big number:

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One of the tricky parts to this lesson is a defining variable and setting the answer to it. The students can follow the directions, but I don’t know that they understand why they are doing that or what it going on.  I have to remember these are pre-pre-algebra students.  Still, they will most likely want to keep track of a score or timer, so for now, they will try it and later we will come back to this concept when they need it in their projects.Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.49.59 AM

While I love the creativity and extensions this project allows for, you do have to set expectations for appropriateness.  I had to ask a few students to change their responses to the questions.  I like to go around and test out their programs, putting my name in as the answer to “What’s your name?”.  When the response is “That’s a dumb name” or something equally as inappropriate, I get a bit disappointed and tell them to change it to something appropriate.  One student responded, “I didn’t think you’d play the game.” He obviously knew he was being inappropriate but was, at least, embarrassed by it.

Here’s one more creative take on Chatbot:Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.15.26 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.15.16 AM