Getting Them Ready

We’re already half-way through the fall Code Club session for 4th graders. Now is the time when they start working on the design of their own project.  Having the opportunity to create their own game is pretty much why they come. My job is to get them ready to be successful in this venture.  To this end, I try to present lessons that help them learn programming concepts that they will want to use in their game design.

After eight Showcases and 108 projects, I feel have an idea of the essential programming concepts students will be using in the games students like to make.  We move fast and don’t get the chance to do more than introduce these concepts – it’s more learning to code than learning computer science.  It’s a start.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.06.44 PM

Get the taco to the Scratch cat

Here’s what they will want –  A Sprite they can control with arrow keys to move around their game.  (The maze game).  A Sprite that can chase after them (Cat and Mouse).  Both of these projects introduce sensing as well  – in the maze game you are forever checking if you touch the sides and in both, you are forever checking if you won.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.08.34 PM

You’re the banana. Don’t let the monkey eat you.

They might want to keep track of a score or set a time limit.  (Ghostbusters)

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.01.13 PM

Click on the Sprites when they appear to get points.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 5.25.16 AM.png

From experience, some of them will want a game with gravity. It’s a concept that I don’t usually spend any time on but this year, from talking with the students, I could tell there will be some platform games in the works.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 7.56.40 PM

I used Code Club World’s Flappy Parrot project to introduce gravity.  It also reveals the animation trick of moving the background while the main character stays in the middle.

I wasn’t sure if they would be able to handle this project, but they worked through it well and I felt they were successful.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 7.57.42 PM

Flappy robot costumes – hand drawn wings

This last week we did the virtual pet project from the Scratch Tips.  I printed some of the Scratch cards of the project as well.  Virtual pet introduces broadcast & receive which is an important but difficult concept.  Broadcast & receive is powerful but requires planning and keeping track of your Sprites. This level of thinking is just developing for them.  They struggled with broadcast and receive, but mostly with the motion blocks because they were modifying the placement of Sprites to fit their creative take on a virtual pet but couldn’t translate that to adjust the go-to blocks properly so they got some strange movements they didn’t understand.

All in all, I like this progression of projects: 1) Maze game, 2) Felix & Herbert, 3) Ghostbusters, 4) Flappy Parrot, 5) Virtual Pet. It presents a variety of game types and hits some good basic concepts.  It leaves out a few of my favorites, though, like Chatbot. I also feel they need more basic coordinate knowledge (move, go to, glide).

(The problem with not blogging regularly is that when you do, you have too much to say and the blog gets really long, for which I apologize.)

Advertisements

Spring Code Club Session Begins

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.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-6-56-38-am

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.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-7-08-28-am

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 7.00.49 AM.png

  • Explore “more blocks”: someone is already exploring defining their own blocks.  I’d like to encourage more of this.  As well as random numbers.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 7.02.18 AM.png

  • Clearing up misconceptions: We will have to revisit some concepts like the forever block and support better debugging habits
screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-7-03-35-am

Find the glitch in this code.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-9-58-30-pm

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.

A New Start

My two Code Clubs have started up again. There are 20 students and 2 high school volunteers for each club.  The first meeting has happened. Students learned about Scratch, had fun and I’m excited for both clubs.

This is my 3rd year. It’s session #6 & #7 of Code Club for 4th graders in my city. I know all the students from my school but only 2 of the students from the other side of town.

One thing I worry about, now that I have been coaching Code Club and teaching Scratch to elementary students for three years, is forgetting what it is like not to know how to program in Scratch, not to know what a Sprite is or know that the Stage has no movement blocks, etc.  I don’t want to assume that they know what I know and I want to present concepts that will be relevant to what they do understand. (I realize this concern is not unique in the teaching profession).

I have on the calendar for the first session of Code Club: “First meeting – Rules & Goals, Intro to Scratch”.  So I decided to morph the Rules & Goals and include a bit of the first step in thinking like a programmer.  Defining rules & goals is a big part of what a programmer really does.  I tried framing the rules in pseudo-programming language with the students as well:  If the day is Wednesday and the second bell rings, then it is time for Code Club.  When you open up Scratch, forever have fun.  I’m not sure I got my point across.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-2-42-41-pm

I presented the Maze game to Wednesday’s club because I knew they had used Scratch before as 3rd graders. They struggled a bit.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-2-44-01-pm

Most of them were able to get their Sprites to move around using arrow keys and set up the maze background.  Some were able to get the conditional sensing color code working.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-2-47-12-pm

Puff magic, a working maze game

And this one below added a squirrel that spins around the screen changing colors of the hero. Cool.

On Thursday I introduced Scratch concepts to 3rd & 4th grade programming newbies and blew their minds with the possibilities Scratch offers through simple blocks of code. The energy was thrilling and left me pumped.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-5-22-51-pmAfter introducing the same concepts of defining rules in code, (and Code Club) the first thing we tried was Motion blocks (ie moving a Sprite with the spacebar). And then we added Looks (ie change color).

 

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-5-18-03-pm

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-5-26-41-pmAnd finally, the awesome: Sounds forever!

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-5-20-03-pm

In reviewing all of Thursday’s projects, I found those kids had some serious fun with Scratch last week!

I can tell I haven’t blogged in a while and I struggled to write this coherently and in a timely fashion.

Friends, Fun & Scratch

Yesterday was the first meeting of my 5th after school Code Club session.  My 5th in 2 years and I was in a really great mood afterward, so I must still really like doing this.

I think the students had a good time and enjoyed themselves.  A number of them were happy just to be sitting next to a friend and doing Scratch.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.14.20 PM

We have a mixture of 4th graders from two schools so we started out by stating our names and sharing our favorite computer or video game.  I expected to hear more Minecraft than anything else, but there were a wide variety of games shared, some that I hadn’t heard before.  I may have to check them out.

The maze project turned out to be pretty challenging to the new-to-Scratch students.  In the end, if they were able to add the arrow key controls to their Sprite, I considered that a success.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.12.56 PM

Maze game by a first time Scratcher.

 

The students who had previous experience with this project were game to try it again, which makes me enthusiastic about this bunch of coders.

The Maze of Death!!!!! project is really impressive.  The lightning is animated.  The student added a score variable.  He’s even set up his initial conditions. All in one hour.  I’m so proud.

I’m looking for a new high school volunteer.  I miss having that extra person to field code issues and check in on students.

I think we’ll try the Pong game next week.

 

Defining Initial Conditions and Sprite Senses

The second week of my two Code Clubs went better than the first week and some fun, creative Scratch projects were made.  I am pleased.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.36.00 PM

Wednesdays’ club made maze games using Scratch 2 Offline editor.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.37.50 PM

I talked about defining initial conditions.  If you are going to move the Sprite through the maze you’ll need to set up where you want the Sprite to start.  I was able to reinforce this notion with those who set up other items for the maze runners to touch and then have those item “hide”.  If you change the way the Sprite looks (hide), you’ll need to set up the way the Sprite starts off looking (show).

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.36.19 PM

I also talked about conditionals and ways Sprite can “sense” things.  They’ll get more practice with this concept again with next week’s project.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.37.08 PM

Most students were successful and their maze games were very creative.  I think a number of students were surprised by their success. Unfortunately a number of the games weren’t saved or saved “temporarily” on their desktop which isn’t permanent in student profiles. We will go over this again.  One student noticed this on Friday but was able to re-create her game during her free time that day.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.38.29 PM

One thing I noticed that would make our time together even better is if the students relied more on each other’s help.  I mentioned to the student that this is a club and we are going to work together to learn, but I’m going to re-iterate that next week  and specifically have them ask an elbow partner first, then ask for help from me or Josh, my high school volunteer.  This will help later when they will be doing their individual or pair projects and will need to be more independent.

Thursday’s club went better, too. They tried Felix and Herbert from Code Club World’s archived Scratch projects.  Of course they all put their own spin on things, being a creative bunch.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.43.46 PMI also talked about conditionals and ways Sprite can “sense” things. They were also more successful although it took them a bit longer to buy into to the project even though I showed them the example working project.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.24.45 PM

They were really interested in getting the costumes to change to simulate walking or flying.  They also wanted to learn to add a score.  They weren’t phased at all by switching to Scratch 2 Offline editor.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.44.17 PM

One student said he had been playing with Scratch all week whenever he had a chance.  Two others said their parents had downloaded Scratch at home.  This group showed a more collaborative spirit.  I helped one student get a “soundtrack” to play in the background and he helped others add the code to their projects.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.28.38 PM

Another student announced he knew how to add a timer and was willing to show others.Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.41.04 PM

They are a bit exuberant bunch for a group of twelve, and I still don’t know all of their names or have complete control at all times, but I asked them if they had a good time when they were lined up for release and they all very enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.55.41 PM

I do enjoy this, you know. Just saying.

New Club’s 1st Session

Last Thursday was the first meeting of my new Code Club at MLS. I had 12 fourth graders joining me (8 boys and 4 girls). They were really curious about me, Scratch, Code Club, making their own game, making a web site, rules, everything.  Their lab wasn’t set up with Scratch 2 so I introduced Scratch 1.4 and let them explore the program a bit. Then I had them try out the maze project. Success was mixed. A couple of students diligently followed the packet and ended up with working games.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.46.02 PM

Example of a maze game.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.46.10 PM

A couple of others got stuck and got off task. Did you know if you click the “add random Sprite” button a whole bunch of times you fill up the Stage pretty quickly? I’ve had a handful of students try this out this year at both schools.  I can’t remember anyone doing that last year. Interesting.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 5.02.31 PM

Testing the “Add random Sprite” button

And a couple of others got partway through.  They just needed more time but I let them free explore again at the end of the session and they were glad to get the chance.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 4.47.53 PM

There is a different routine at this school and I’ll need to learn it just as much as the students will need to get to know me.

Scratch 2 is now installed so next we’ll try “Felix and Herbert”.  It’s both an introductory lesson and a game.  I used it last year but it is currently an archived project at Code Club World. Then both clubs will be back in sync and working on the same projects.

Scratch Work in Progress

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:

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 10.02.21 PM

Beat this, if you dare

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 10.00.01 PM

Maze game

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

Princess Project adventure game