Scratch Writeups

Class 2

We finished class 2 of Uncle Forrest's programming and English class where we teach the Scratch programming language. This class was slightly more structured than the first class.

Thanks to my parents-in-law who take care of my son, enabling me to do this. And thanks to my wife who actually teaches the class. I am mostly advertising for the class. When I say "I" in this I mostly mean "my wife and I".

The main idea I tried to impart was that computers do not understand your intentions. To create a computer program according to your intentions, you must break your intentions down to small steps that the computer can execute. To demonstrate this I did an exercise where I was the computer and the students had to tell he how to put my coat on.

Today was extra fun because we had an adult student who joined on a whim. She had fun.

The coat was laying on a table where the students could see. At first the students gave high-level instructions like "put your coat on". But I refused, only accepting lower-level instructions such as "move your arm left". At first some of the students said "move/step to your left" but they didn't take into account that i was facing them and would move a different direction then they would expect. They also said "move forward" which I kept doing until I bumped against the wall and continued to walk into the wall until stopped. The students eventually learned to give me low-level instructions such as "move your arm left" and "catch your coat" (They meant something more like "close your fist, grasping your coat").

During the presentation I stepped through a program with three blocks and no flow control (if/loops). Some children have previous experience programming with Lego MindStorms and they can explore Scratch on their own. Other students are still grasping the basics, especially the younger students. I asked them to write a basic program where a character rusn and jumps. I drew out the steps on a whiteboard with X-Y coordinates (I touch on X-Y coordinates and angles every class. Personally as a teacher I devauled repetition until Nicole and Emma encouraged me to use it more). Some students were able to do this fairly easily, other students had trouble. We eventually got everyone up to speed, except one student, who doesn't really want to be there.

Then we went to the final project, which I kept wide open. I typically make final projects very wide open, since if I give students specific instructions they usually get ignored anyway and I don't want to constrain kids. At Nicole's suggestion Hai Tao tried to put the students into groups but they didn't want to physically move locations. We later had some kids who finished help other kids who did not finish.

Final project presentations went much better than last time. All laptops successfully connected to the TV and we kept the presentations much shorter. One studentd went a little over time but that's ok. One student was at a complete loss for words.

If I could do this class over again I would teach the class about Repeat loops, since many students went on to use repeat loops anyway. One student had a hard time with getting movement but I was able to help him with [adult student]'s help. The student ended up using Repeat loop + Move for the 'run and jump' exercise.

Final projects went well. We had two stories that were a little dark. One scene features a shark chasing a scuba diver. Another was a story about a lion trying to eat a dog, but the dog's mother prevents the lion from eating the the dog.

Amazingly we finished on time (9:30-11:30).