Make It Your Own

My 10th after school Code Club started at the end of February.  This is a small group of 10 4th grade students, which is nice for a change. It is great to have three girls in the club, too. A couple of the students were in Code Club in 3rd grade and a couple students also come to the monthly Library Code Club.

For our first project, I presented an old Code Club project “Felix and Hebert” which I did not find on the Code Club World site when I went to link to it. It is a simple chase game where one Sprite is controlled by the mouse, the other chases after it. The project gets you a simple game with very little coding. It is a nice way to introduce Sprites and Events and I saw some creative projects.

For our second meeting, we started with an Etch-a-sketch project with the option to add a maze game to it.  Some students stayed with the Etch-a-sketch project, just having fun messing around with drawing on the screen. It was a nice twist to start with the Pen blocks and directional controls, then add the wall color sensing code for a maze game. I feel these two projects transition nicely into each other instead of doing one project or the other.

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This student just enjoyed making a drawing program.

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Etch-a-Sketch code

Another student changed the arrow keys commands to generate interesting curve drawings. The up arrow moves the Sprite forward as normal but the left and right keys turn the Sprite.  Hold two keys at once for drawing curves.

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Up arrow for moving forward, Left and right for changing direction. Plus the trail of the chaser bot.


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It was very cool to see curves drawn instead of the usual straight lines and square corners of the Etch-a-Sketch. Some of the other students wanted to copy this movement style.  I was proud to see the students share their code ideas.  Later I saw one student sharing a way to make your own code blocks. He thought this code was how he made the Sprite stop moving.

When I looked closer, I noticed he didn’t have any blocks under the define hat.  He was sharing his code but it wasn’t code that was affecting anything.  I am impressed that he choose to design his own code block when he couldn’t find the block he wanted, even if he doesn’t yet understand how to do that.

Next week we are going to try the Chatbot project and I’ll have to explain how the “Make your own blocks” work.  I have been wanting to show students how those work, now I have a good excuse.

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In this project, you can teleport to the rainbow.


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Touch yellow to be teleported to the rainbow. Touch black to return.

This is a creative and adventurous group.  Should be a fun 10 weeks.


We Love Winter

It was another snow day today which reminds me of a recent project made by a 2nd-grade class. They missed Hour of Code Week activities so their teacher asked me to do a coding project with them.

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Over the course of three 25 minute computer lab times, the 2nd graders created these winter themed projects.  They include 3-4 clickable sprites and one sprite that introduces the project and gives directions.

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This was a true first project for these students.  I introduced all the different aspects of Scratch: Stage, Sprites, Code blocks, events, etc.  We started with making the Sprites ‘clickable’ – meaning they would do something when we clicked on them.  We did a few different Sprites do different things.  There was some confusion around having the Sprite “say” hello.  The students expected to hear “hello” spoken, not written on the screen. I guess I need to be more precise when describing that action.

We did add a Sprite that plays a Sound when clicked, and one that turns, one that changes color.  And one that glides.  I decided that the glide block would work better in our interactive project than a move block that might eventually move off the stage.

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The last Sprite we added was one that would introduce the project and “say” the directions.

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I thought they did a great job on their first project.

CS Concepts in Elementary Grades

2018 January Tech Expo LOGOThis last week I led a professional development session titled “CS Concepts in Elementary Grades” for my district’s Tech Expo.  It was one of several dozen sessions available for teachers during the day. I had just a handful of teachers at my session.


I started with this video from It introduces “why CS?” better than I can.

Next, we took a quick look at the CS Standards at, just to see that there are standards and where to find them.

Then it was on to try out Scratch.  (One teacher had mentioned this is why she signed up for my session.  She wanted to learn Scratch.)  I introduced Scratch by going over these concepts:

    1. Stage
    2. Sprites
    3. Script, Costume, Sound tabs
    4. Block menu

Then I let them try out the Virtual Pet project using the Scratch cards from  I picked the Virtual Pet project as it hits all the concepts I wanted to introduce.


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Code from a student-made Virtual Baby project


These are the concepts I think are important for elementary students to be introduced to:

    1. Computational Thinking
    2. Algorithms
    3. Commands
    4. Events
    5. Initial Conditions
    6. Decisions / Conditionals
    7. Iteration, Loops and Forever
    8. Coordinate knowledge
    9. Data and variables
    10. Debugging – Checking for errors

I had one Kindergarten teacher attend my session, so I handed her an iPad with Scratch Jr. on it.  She had a great time playing and exploring Scratch Jr. while the rest of us working on our Virtual Pets.

The Virtual Pet project turned out to be pretty complicated for a first time Scratcher. They had a hard time with Broadcast and Recieve, just like my Code Club members when they tried the Virtual Pet project. I guess I knew this would be a difficult concept but it is so powerful. I like all the things you learn when trying this project out, even if it is a bit overwhelming.

After some success, we moved on and I showed them some student work.  I wanted them to see examples of how to incorporate Scratch into their curriculum.

    1. Intro to Scratch was independently made by one of my former Code Club members
    2. Infinity and Beyond shows how a research topic (math topic in this case) can be shared using Scratch
    3. Apple Inventory is another case of using Scratch to demonstrate understanding
    4. Math Games by students for Hour of Code week
    5. Winter Fun is an introductory project I’ve done with students
    6. Spirograph Studio (reminiscent of the old Turtle paths play)


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Using Scratch to show your math solution.


I have many more, but as we were running out of time I quickly went through some Debug-It projects I found on the Scratch site.  I think it is important that teachers feel confident in helping students when they get stuck.  Knowing how to debug Scratch projects can help.

Debug it


I didn’t really pick the right Debug it projects for my attendees.  These were more challenging for my audience than I thought they would be.  I wish I had chosen easier ones or left this for another session altogether.

I hope my session left them with an idea of how to start using Scratch in their classroom.  I also hope they will reach out to me if they would like support facilitating Scratch projects in their classroom.  I worry that they were a bit overwhelmed with all I presented. They were a pretty quiet bunch, but I guess I’m used to a room full of rambunctious 10-year olds.

Oh, and I also compiled this list of resources:

Resource List


Scratch online: 

Teacher accounts

Scratch cards & Educator Guides

Offline editor

Starter Projects

ScratchEd online community

Creative Computing Curriculum using Scratch Teaching Computer Science Fundamentals PD Lessons:

CS4NH resources:

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards, Revised 2017

CS for All Teachers 7 “big ideas”:

K-12 Computer Science Framework:



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.

Computer Science Education Week

Hour of Code 2017 is here.  I’ve got a lot lined up this week for my school and clubs. There will be Hour of Code activities from available for all classes K-4 during the week in the computer lab.  In addition, I’ve got plans for some 3rd graders to draw a letter (like the first letter of their name) and learn about coordinates using Scratch.  Some 1st graders will begin using Scratch Jr. to make a winter project on iPads.

Each of the 4th-grade classes is starting a different Scratch project – Math game, Labyrinth and Ada’s poetry Generator, or Beetle Blocks project – print your name.

The library club with be trying out the Virtual Pet project from Scratch tomorrow and my school club will be starting their individual projects.

maze game

Labyrinth – reach the dragon. Don’t touch the sides.

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My Penguin Pet



Name in Beetle Blocks

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Ada’s Poetry Generator Project


I’ve done some of these projects before but I’m hoping to blog about some of the new ones in more detail. This is just a preview of the week to come.


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.

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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.

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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)

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Click on the Sprites when they appear to get points.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

Your Name Animated

To start off the school year, I thought it would be great to have 3rd graders work on a Scratch project and I’ve been wanting to try the animated name project from Made with Code for a while now.  You can find the resource cards here. (I printed a couple of sets) Animating your name seems like a good beginner project but not one that I do in Code Club.  And who wouldn’t want to play with their name in code?

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We started off by creating a backdrop for the Stage with the drawing tools in Scratch. I didn’t want them using one from the library, but to make their own.  Then we brainstormed ways to animate the letter Sprites – bouncing, turning upside down, changing color, spinning, growing, making a sound, etc.  This got them thinking about the possibilities. Next, we started adding letter Sprites.  Each Sprite was coded to be interactive by using the “when this Sprite is clicked” event block and adding an action to it.


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Example of 2 different letters interactivity


I used the resource cards to support students who preferred directions to be written out or visual or struggled to keep up with the general pace of the class.

Each third-grade class added their own flair to the project. One teacher decided to take photos of the students with a green screen background.  The students added themselves as a Sprite to their name project and animated themselves.

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I can’t share any of the actual student works as they include both the name and photo of the students.  We are going to record a video of the project like we do with our cloud project and include it in the students’ digital portfolio.

Another third-grade was finishing up the name project so close to Halloween that we incorporated the Trick or Treat project in with the animated names.  I didn’t present this part very well.  I needed to explain the difference between adding a costume to a Sprite and adding a separate Sprite. A lot of students made this mistake and there was general confusion.

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My next task is to finish the rubric for this project (which I should be doing right now).  The students enjoyed this project but we need to wrap these up.