This 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 Code.org. It introduces “why CS?” better than I can.
Next, we took a quick look at the CS Standards at http://www.csteachers.org/page/standards, 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:
- Script, Costume, Sound tabs
- Block menu
Then I let them try out the Virtual Pet project using the Scratch cards from https://scratch.mit.edu/tips. I picked the Virtual Pet project as it hits all the concepts I wanted to introduce.
Code from a student-made Virtual Baby project
These are the concepts I think are important for elementary students to be introduced to:
- Computational Thinking
- Initial Conditions
- Decisions / Conditionals
- Iteration, Loops and Forever
- Coordinate knowledge
- Data and variables
- 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.
- Intro to Scratch was independently made by one of my former Code Club members https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/177914932/
- Infinity and Beyond shows how a research topic (math topic in this case) can be shared using Scratch https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/22933952/
- Apple Inventory is another case of using Scratch to demonstrate understanding https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/66568488/
- Math Games by students for Hour of Code week https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/3616910/
- Winter Fun is an introductory project I’ve done with students https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/3664546/
- Spirograph Studio (reminiscent of the old Turtle paths play) https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/3984733/
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.
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:
Scratch online: Scratch.mit.edu
Teacher accounts https://scratch.mit.edu/educators/
Scratch cards & Educator Guides https://scratch.mit.edu/tips
Offline editor https://scratch.mit.edu/download
Starter Projects https://scratch.mit.edu/starter_projects/
ScratchEd online community http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/
Creative Computing Curriculum using Scratch http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/guide/
Code.org Teaching Computer Science Fundamentals PD
Code.org Lessons: https://code.org/student/elementary
CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards, Revised 2017
CS for All Teachers 7 “big ideas”:
K-12 Computer Science Framework: https://k12cs.org/