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.


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


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.


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-5-26-41-pmAnd finally, the awesome: Sounds forever!


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.

Quick Rock Band Project

It seems like every time a 3rd grade teacher asks me for an idea for a project, I suggest a Scratch project. I have gone a little Scratch happy, I guess.

Last month the students were learning about light and sound. Scratch is great with sounds, so I suggested they make a clickable drums and build a “band” in Scratch.  I’ve looked through the Code Club’s Rock Band Project and am familiar with the song building ability in Scratch but I’ve never introduced these projects to a group of students.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.58.24 PM

The project I suggested uses the ideas from Code Club’s project but I didn’t handout any project pages. I set it up like this:

  1.  pick a stage appropriate for a band
  2.  add a drum Sprite and make it play a drum beat when clicked.
  3.  add 2 more drum Sprites and make them clickable with different drum sounds
  4.  add another instrument, or microphone and singer (make the clickable)
  5.  add any final personalized touches to your Rock Band

I was able to walk the group through the first two steps during their first session.  The class had other assignments in the computer lab during the next week or so but were able to get back to their Rock Band if they had time at the end. After the occasional chances to work on the project, it was time to have them finish up and “hand it in” virtually.

Here is the rubric I used.


(max 2 points)

There is no Stage (0) There is a Stage background (1) There is an appropriate Stage background (2)

(max 4 points)

There are no Sprites (0) There is at least one drum Sprite (1) There are 3 or more drum or band Sprites


There are at least 3 drum Sprites, a mic and singer or additional band instruments (4)

(max 4 points)

There are no clickable Sprites or no sounds (0) At least one drum Sprite is clickable and makes a drum sound when clicked (2) Most Sprites are clickable and make a sound when clicked (3) Each Sprite is clickable and makes a different sound when clicked (4)

Most of the students, if they lost points, only lost points on the Scripting.  I included a picture of their rock band with the graded rubric.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.59.03 PM


This served its purpose in that it was fun, gave the students a reason to play with Scratch and fit in with their science curriculum.  I think I would change the assignment some next time. There are many ways to use sound blocks and built-in sounds from the Scratch sound library.  I also would like to see the students record their own sounds, their voice or an instrument.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.13.44 PM

The students used Scratch 1.4 for this project only because it is the Scratch icon on their desktop and they’d have to go and “look for” Scratch 2 in All programs.  Scratch 2 would also work fine for this project.

A New Plan

(I know, 3 blogs in one week.  Bear with me. This one is short)

I spent some time over the weekend hashing out the project plan and learning objectives for my two code clubs.  I feel better with a plan and ideas in mind and on paper.

I also revised my expectations for last week.  My learning objective for the students last week was to get to know Scratch and the code blocks that include Events, Motion, Looks and Sound.  I have to remember there’s also a new costume editor they will have to get a feel for as well as the notion of the Stage and Sprites and how they are different.  That’s actually a lot. I think the majority of the students have got a grasp on some of those concepts. (If they haven’t forgotten them in the meantime)

One student came up to me today and said, “I wish Code Club was everyday!!” What an awesome sentiment.

This week I’d like to focus on Initial Conditions, Conditionals and Sensing blocks. To that end, I’ve updated the maze project to use for Scratch 2.0. And we will try it out tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 8.39.24 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 8.57.42 AM

Scratch 2 Maze Project – Google Docs

I wonder if I’ll have time to mention the “Think like a Programmer” ideas of make one change, test it, make another change, test it?

Then next week both clubs can work on the same project.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.37.02 PM

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