I’ve now been teaching Scratch to children for over 8 years and am very pleased to see some of those children deciding to take Computer Science at GCSE.
For primary school children, I use Scratch, which is a block programming language developed by MIT. They now hosts millions of projects created by children worldwide. It has transformed the way we teach computing to children.
Children gradually journey from learning to use the keyboard to creating games and animations with Scratch. It doesn’t happen overnight; it is like learning to swim. It takes perseverance, patience and practice.
A few lessons in Scratch at school or one ICT lesson every fortnight is in my view not enough if we want to nurture the next generation computer scientists. Likewise, one term of coding club is not enough to gain the digital skills that children need to navigate the digital world.
We also need parents fully engaged so they can help and encourage their boys and girls to take up coding. Being able to use a smart device or a play console is something that most children are used to doing (as ‘consumers’), but we need to teach them how smart devices and computers work.
We have just finished the first term of coding club and as always, Scratch was the children’s favourite coding program across all the schools. I’m always keen to see the reaction of the children when I tell them that we are going to try something different. The majority will tell me they prefer Scratch! I love Scratch, too; in my opinion, it is the best coding environment for children.
That said, it is important that the children get exposed to other software and activities – not just Scratch – to test and enhance their computational thinking knowledge and ability to solve problems.
In my experience, a child’s depth of understanding of code becomes more apparent when they are exposed to different programs.
This term the children created some wonderful games and stories.
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to run two coding workshops for primary school children at Portishead library at the start of the Easter break.
I planned the workshops – ‘Make a Minecraft Game’ and ‘Make a Pokémon game’ in Scratch – to challenge the children. I created two levels of difficulty, which meant the more advanced coders were able to create a scrollable platform game.
I only wished we had had a bit more time to go through some more coding challenges.
Thank you to all the staff at Portishead library staff for their support. We will be back soon.
If you would like a workshop at your school in Portishead – please do get in touch.
At coding club we always allocate time for ‘show and tell’. This usually happens near the end of a session when the children have finished their projects, and are ready to show them to the rest of the class.
I always consider this an opportunity for the children to show their pride in what they have achieved. Naturally, there are children who do not wish to show their projects to everyone but are still quietly proud of their achievements. However, I always encourage children to say something about their what they made – how the end product was produced; what was the most challenging; what characters they used; and what they would like to add next.
This is also an opportunity for the rest of the class to give feedback, and get some ideas for their own projects.
With practice, the children become more comfortable at ‘show and tell’. Younger children always get inspiration from seeing the projects of older groups… and what they can do themselves.
I encourage parents to ask their children at home about their Scratch projects and praise them for their achievements.
Our hosts made their fantastic boardroom available to us for three mornings during a normal working week. The children turned up with their laptops and learnt to code a spooky game in Scratch, made a Minecraft zombie game, and learnt how to code the micro:bit.
The Minecraft zombie game in particular was a real hit with the children and there was a real buzz in the room with everyone adding their own ideas to the game.
The children had an opportunity to show-off their projects with a ‘show and tell’ at the end of each of the sessions. The grown-ups present were very impressed with their creations.
Thank you to all the parents that let their children attend the sessions – and a special thanks to those who supported their children during the workshops.
Finally, a big *thank you* to Viper Innovations staff for their support with the workshops and to their STEM ambassadors who were of great help – including the ‘magician’!
We hope to repeat the experience again next year!
What parents told us was the best thing about the workshops:
“My son loved everything about this workshop”
“The boys hadn’t used the micro:bit before, so it gave them a new experience in coding in a relaxed atmosphere.”
“Thought the Halloween content was great.”
“Flexibility to fit all ages and abilities”
“My son was engaged and excited… he’s looking forward to attending again.”
Pac-man, the arcade game created in the 80’s was our chosen project for term 6. The children created their own versions of the game by drawing their own images. It was one of the longest projects we have ever done at coding club and to my surprise, the children never showed any signs of boredom with the game. Every week, they came to coding club looking forward to add to their projects.
The Pac-man game gave the children the opportunity to practice everything they had learned throughout the year by adding more layers of complexity to the game. Some of the children chose to create their sprites in Pixil art, a program that they learned how to use at coding club.
It gave me great pleasure to see the results and I know for sure the children thoroughly enjoyed it too. Here is a small selection of the projects created.
This term the children have been using the Scratch Programming environment to create fireworks displays, learn about gravity, make their own Pokemon games and to create maths quizzes. Here is just a small sample of some of their creations.
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.
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.