Scratch continues to inspire children

Scratch is a high level block-based visual programming language, which has inspired children around the world to code. As Scratch turns 15 in May 2022, we want to extend a virtual ‘thank you’ to MIT for providing us with such a fantastic coding tool and wonderful Scratch community.

Unlike other block programming platforms, Scratch is easy to use for a 7 year old, yet it has the complexity to keep a 15 year old engaged for hours. We have taught scores of children in North Somerset, some of whom have now chosen to take GCSE and A level computer science. I know that Scratch has played a key role in their respective journeys.

As with any coding environment, knowing some of the principles of computer programming will help young people to get the most of the application. We help them along the way through our coding clubs and other activities, and would encourage every parent out there to give their children an opportunity to code.

Coding helps children problem solve, develop their computational thinking, and vital digital skills.

This term we’re running a Code in Scratch online course suitable for children in Years 3 – 6.

Back to coding in school

This first term of a new year Codingbug is looking forward to going back into North Somerset schools. It will have been almost two years. We’ve been busy delivering online lessons since the first lockdown in March 2020 and know that some children have missed out.

If your son or daughter attends either Yatton Schools or Mary Elton School in North Somerset, you can now register for after school coding lessons starting next week.

I missed not giving out stickers at the end of the term and seeing the children learn how to use a USB stick (if they don’t know already!)… so I couldn’t be happier to be back at school.

We need to equip our children with the skills to navigate the digital world and ‘digital literacy’ is just as important a skill for our children to learn as reading and writing.

It’s never too late to start.

Online coding clubs

Since March 2020 we have been offering learning opportuities online tailored to suit different ages and abilities.

Primary


Our Coding in Scratch courses are suitable for children in Years 3 – 6. Every week, they create new projects carefully designed to help them grasp the key principles of computer programming. Each term, the children are challenged with puzzles that nurture and build their computational thinking skills. Our Scratch courses are ideal for any child starting their coding journey or for the more advanced coder who needs to be challenged a little more.

This acedemic year we’ve added a new course to our offer – Coding in Minecraft – in which the children learn to code inside the Minecraft environment. This course does not teach Minecraft, but rather how to use code to automate builds and make modifications to a Minecraft World and change game play. The children use block programming to achieve this, making it ideal for beginners.

Secondary

Our courses for secondary school students are designed to provide opportunities to learn to program in different coding environments, and to expand their knowledge using Python and JavaScript – two of the most popular computer programming languages. The students develop an understanding of the language as well write lots of code to make games and small applications. They get to collaborate with each other and develop their problem-solving skills. A new Creative Coding course starts in January 2022.

We also offer block programming for secondary school students as part of our Make Arcade Games or Make Web Apps courses. These courses are suitable for students in Years 7 – 9 and designed to help them learn more about the principles of computer programming and how to design and prototype a game or App.

With all our courses our aim to help students develop their coding skills… and have an enjoyable time while learning.

Programming skills for young people

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.

Codingbug teaches children coding skills using Scratch, JavaScript and the Python programming language. We develop their logical and computational thinking and encourage them to collaborate. We encourage creativity and play and help connecting the missing dots.

We offer online coding clubs to help to deliver just that.

Coding for fun

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.

To see more projects, go to the Codingbug YouTube channel.

Coding at Portishead library

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.

Show and Tell at coding club

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.

Autumn half-term coding

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We held some very successful coding workshops for primary school children at the offices of Viper Innovations in Portishead over the Autumn half-term.

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 continues to entertain

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.

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