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ScratchJr for Key Stage 1

Teaching ScratchJr to Year 1 and Year 2 children has been a particularly rewarding and challenging experience this past academic year. When the children start learning to code at such a young age it is important to keep them engaged and interested. ScratchJr has been fantastic in providing the levels of engagement the children need while at the same time nurturing their creativity.

ScratchJr has all the basic elements of a design tool to draw characters and backgrounds, which is perfect for young creative coders. It also comes ready with a set of characters and backgrounds from which to draw – and the children love using a combination of both. At every session I see ideas come to life with beautifully-drawn characters, backgrounds and ‘abstract’ drawings (use your ‘imagination’)!

Although the coding blocks that come with ScratchJr are pretty basic, there is so much to learn and it takes time for the children to master the concepts.

My approach is broadly as follows… with the obvious caveat that we see beginners and more experienced coders in both Year groups:

Year 1 – the children learn basic algorithms; how to give instructions to their characters to make them move, rotate, dance, etc. In computer programming, this is called ‘sequencing’.

Year 2 – the children learn more complex algorithms. They start making small games and use computational thinking in their thought process.

In Year 1 and Year 2 the children learn to identify ‘bugs’ in their code and how to ‘fix’ them. They also learn to collaborate by helping each other and explain how they solve their coding challenges.

In order to for the children to advance their understanding of coding, I also introduce them to the fantastic resources of Code.org which help reinforce their understanding of computer programming concepts.

We always try to allocate time to ‘show and tell’ at the end of each session.

This academic year has been another big success. Special ‘thank you’ to parents for encouraging their ‘little ones’ to code.

Here are some of the children at work and some of their work.

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micro:bit workshop

During the half-term I ran a workshop about ‘Getting started with micro:bit’ – an electronic device created by the BBC to get children coding.

The session was a couple of hours long – enough time to cover all the basics and for the children to write their first programs.

We opted to work with the JavaScript block programming interface. The children that already had some experience of coding with Scratch found it relatively easy to get started. The ‘drag and drop’ interface makes it more accessible for younger children.

All the children had the opportunity to get setup with a micro:bit. Seeing the childrens’ smiles as their first ‘Hello World’ program displayed on the micro:bit was a great moment.

Once the children understood how to download their programs to the micro:bit and test them, the tinkering and the fun started. We took advantage of the micro:bit accelerometer and created a ‘guess-the-number’ game, which was played by shaking the micro:bit. The children *loved* shaking the micro:bit and seeing the results on the display.

Tinkering with the micro:bit is a great way to get young people into coding and understanding about the connection between the code and its interaction with the real world.

As always, thanks to The Curzon Cinema in Clevedon for hosting us.

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Coding a website

This term the children are having a crack at creating a website. They’re learning how a webpage is structured, what language is used to create a website and how to style their pages.

Learning HTML and CSS (the two essential markup languages used to create a website) at young age is challenging. But at coding club I make sure the children learn all the foundation skills they need in order to tackle these challenges.

Creating a website about Pichu

One of the first hurdles when programming young is that most children don’t know how to use the keyboard. Not only do they learn to use the keyboard and the ‘special characters’ needed when writing code, but they also learn how code is constructed and how important it is to type with accuracy. The children quickly appreciate that any missing semi-colon or ‘curly’ bracket will mean their code simply will not run as expected.

Paying attention to detail, learning to be patient and staying calm when things go wrong are all critical skills that they acquire when coding. Everyone makes mistakes (and this is how we learn) but knowing how to spot the problem is crucial to a successful outcome.

Another important element of learning to make a website is understanding about images and their different formats. Sourcing images from the web; learning how to use them and manipulate them with code – these are skills that are essential to their understanding of how images work for the web.

I’m pleased to see that all the children that have been coding with me for some time are making some great mini-websites – often using their favourite characters! They feel confident enough to tackle the code and are beginning to show me they can debug the code by themselves before calling for help.

 

 

Make a Pokémon game in Scratch

The Curzon Clevedon was once again the venue for a workshop on ‘How to make a Pokémon game in Scratch’.

The game the children made consisted of adding a Pokémon trainer that could catch the childrens’ favourite Pokémons using three different poké balls. Pokemon game in Scratch

The children learnt how to manipulate their favourite Pokémon images in Scratch and animate the balls in order to catch Pokémons. Once the Pokémons were ‘caught’, these followed their trainer everywhere s/he went. There were different variations of the game, but all the children amused themselves by solving the challenges.

Kids coding at the Curzon Clevedon

Look out for more workshops coming up at the Clevedon Curzon.

 

 

Is 14 too late to start coding?

Girl coder

Clearly, someone can learn to code at any age. I would not go as far to say that children who learn to code at primary school age should be taking a GCSE in Computer Science – but it is my view that those choosing their GCSE options when they are 14 who haven’t already been introduced to coding will be far less likely to choose to pursue Computer Science at GCSE.

Coding allows children to be creative and to develop many skills such as problem-solving and applying mathematical concepts. They also learn to collaborate with their peers. All this will help them throughout their time at school and beyond.

However, children who do coding from an early age – in or out of school – may go on to become the technologists of the future.

I truly believe that introducing coding from a young age open up a child’s options. Children have free spirits, learn quickly and have very creative minds; they like exploring and tinkering; most of all they have fun.

I have 7-year olds at coding club who are already creating their first games. I have also seen young coders move on to secondary school and continue to code on their own.

I’d like to see more secondary schools offer creative coding workshops to help children discover there’s a lot more to coding.

 

The Hour of Code 2016

The Hour of Code is a worldwide event where young people and adults take part in ‘learn to code’ activities during December.

I was delighted to be part of this year’s Hour of Code and thanks to the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon, pulled together the event at their wonderful site.

A group of young enthusiastic children arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon to learn how to program their own Minecraft worlds. We used Code.org – home to some fantastic Minecraft activities which were a real hit with the children. I was very impressed on how the young coders got on with the challenges and were able to share with their peers.

Thank you to everyone that attended and special thanks to the Curzon Cinema for their continued support, which allows us to inspire more children to code.

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