Last year my classes participated in the Hour of Code. It was an engaging and unique experience for the students and many of them continued to explore coding throughout the school year. As the year progressed students started using the app Hopscotch and explored code.org. I thought that an Hour of Code was amazing, but not enough for some students.
So I spoke with two other colleagues and one mentioned that we should probably offer a technology/coding club for the 2014-15 school year. We spoke with our administrator and it was approved as a school club. At the time we were excited yet a bit anxious because we all knew very little about using code in the classroom. I have a bit of background in using HTML, but that’s about it.
Over the summer another colleague and I were able to visit the DG58 SAMRi conference in Downer’s Grove. I’m always impressed with the teacher workshops that they put together. While there, I was able to attend a session by James on Coding in the Classroom. The session had around 30 interested teachers with a variety of experience with coding. The notes for the session can be found here. After the session I felt like I had gained a better understanding of how to use the Scratch coding language.
After the workshop I checked out Help Your Kids with Computer Coding and Super Scratch Programming Adventure from the local library. I found both books be valuable in building an understanding of using Scratch. So I decided to open up a Scratch account and started to explore. I completed a few lessons within the books above and felt a bit more comfortable with using the program. I was also able to connect with other teachers on Twitter to learn more about the topic. Mary inspired me to start looking at using Scratch to possible create an introduction game for my students. I especially found Havard’s Creative Computing to be helpful with lesson planning.
During the month of August the team created a digital pamphlet that explained the class to parents of the community. The team limited the roster to the first 20 students in grades 3-5 that registered. The pamphlet was distributed with the principal’s digital monthly newsletter. Within the first two days we had approximately 40 students that registered. My colleagues and I started to think that this was a bigger deal than what we originally thought. We sent out emails to the parents indicating whether their child will be participating or not. Based on the demand we may offer a spring session.
Last Wednesday was our first coding club class. Students participated in an introduction activity where they needed to guide each other to different parts of the classroom using commands that are found in Scratch. They could only use specific verbs found on notecards. This activity also had the participants get acquainted with each other. Afterwards students logged into their accounts and started to explore the different aspects of Scratch. Before leaving the class on the first day students were able to start their first program called escape the dragon.
Going forward, I’m interested to see what is created through this class. Throughout the class the students will develop their own portfolio of creations that they can share with others.