Friday, 24 May 2013

Scratch Club 22May13

My notes from the Scratch Club this week...

We covered variables today, using them to try and track the game score and lives left.

What went well:

  • Everyone was interested in variables and most got this idea
  • Behaviour was much improved today, the kids really got down to the task quickly
  • One of the students discovered the music blocks and created some pretty cool rhythms.

What could be improved?

  • We had a two week gap, and a few of the kids have forgotten most of what we learnt before!
  • Not all kids have Scratch at home, so I've written a letter to go out to the parents: Get the kids using Scratch at home
  • I'm still teaching only 8 kids, but there are many more in the school that want to take part.

Ideas

  • Some kids clearly know what they are doing now, so could help run the club? 
  • If we can have good behaviour and a recognition program so that we know when we have new trainers ready then I think this could work.

Scratch Programming at Home

Dear Parent / Guardian,

Your child has been learning to program a computer at school using an easy to learn and free application called Scratch.

Many children have asked if they can use Scratch at home, so below we explain what it is, and how to download it.

What is Scratch? 
Scratch is a downloadable application for your PC or Mac, that makes it easy for you to program your own interactive stories, games and animations, through colourful drag-and-drop blocks. It comes with some background images, characters and sounds ready to use, but you can also add your own images and sounds, making it even more fun.

Is it safe?
The software comes from trusted and respected education institute, MIT, and is safe to download.

Will my child have to sign up for anything?
Your child doesn't need to sign up for anything, but there is a free online moderated community that your child can join where they can share their projects with others. There is a huge benefit in sharing projects and receiving and giving constructive comments. For further information see http://scratch.mit.edu

Is it free? Where can my child download it?
Yes, completely free.
There are two versions of Scratch, version 1.4 which is the one we are using in school: http://scratch.mit.edu/scratch_1.4/
And the new version 2, which runs in your web browser with no download required: http://scratch.mit.edu/

I've got it, where do I learn more? 

Scratch has a good help system built in, just go to the Help menu and explore from there.

This book is well suited to children learning Scratch: Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

---------------------

Thanks to Andrew Johns for most of the content of this letter: http://andrewjohns.net/blog/2012/12/a-letter-to-parents-regarding-scratch/

Scratch Club Badges

Continuing on from my interest in how the Scouts maintain good behaviour and reward progress I'm going to introduce some badges to recognise students as they master the different aspects of programming.

So here's an initial list of badges (I need to make these sound more fun)...
  • Move a sprite around
  • Make infinite loops
  • Use the pen, both to make trails and draw shapes
  • Control a sprite with keyboard and mouse
  • Make aliens 
  • Artist: make backgrounds and new sprites
  • Conditional logic (if statements)
  • Sensing events (touching sprites or colors)
  • Sequencing and nesting commands (understanding the difference between putting things in a loop, or before a loop)
  • Variables to track scores and lives
  • Random walks and events
  • Animator: make sprites more realistic with moving legs etc
  • Drum rhythms
  • Broadcasting events (such as end-of-game)
  • Music
  • Intelligent aliens, e.g. that hunt down your character in interesting ways
  • Gameplay: challenging games that are not too hard or two easy
And:
  • Problem solver (debugging scripts)
  • Trainer (helping others learn)
  • Idea generator (lots of ideas for scratch projects)
Doubtless I'll add more as the club progresses.

So now I just need to make these into some sort of badges, or stickers!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Scratch Club 1 May 13

As I said in last week's post, I wanted to use this week's session to improve the learning process, rather than simply learning more about Scratch.

So we kicked off this session with a retrospective, I asked each student in turn what they liked and what they wanted to change, here are some of their responses:

Likes:
  • How to use 'if touching colour' to create interesting games
  • Learning about variables
  • Programming is fun
  • 'Everything'
  • Scratch is fun
Things to improve:
  • Often very noisy, and quite a bit of messing around (lots of kids said this, with no prompting from me)
  • Not enough time, want to start earlier
I added a few more things I wanted to improve:
  • There's lots to learn, and it's easy to forget what we've covered already
  • Lots of kids get stuck and wait for me to help them
We then discussed ideas for improvement:
  • For behaviour—the kids suggested writing names under happy + sad faces on the board, or giving out house points for good work. Everyone agreed that this was important to sort out.
  • For more independent learning—the kids suggested they try the Help feature in Scratch. I also suggested that they could ask each other.
  • And I also said I was going to try visiting each student in turn rather than going to whoever was shouting out.

So on to the lesson:

We began by recapping some stuff we learned last time, I put together a simple script on the big screen: bouncing the cat around the screen, using the pen to draw trails, using stamp to fill the screen with cats and changing the colours to make it look more interesting (see right).

I added each element in turn and asked the kids to shout out what they thought would happen for each element.

See below for the results.



I then set the kids lose trying to produce something similar. Many produced pretty psychedelic creations with multiple sprites bouncing, lots of colours and movement.

What went well?

  • Most of the kids have got the basics of programming sorted: loops, sprites, movement, etc
  • Everyone was much more self sufficient this time, walking around to each in turn worked really well, there was a lot less shouting out.
  • There was a bit of collaboration between kids, helping each other out and admiring each others' work.

What could be improved?

  • More tricks and tools to get the kids focussed more quickly, so we waste less time dealing with disruption.
  • It would be nice if the kids could start working towards a bigger project, rather than working on short, simple scripts each week.