Code Club at Ridgeway School Croydon – feedback from first 2 weeks

As I wrote about last month, following an initial presentation about code club to the year 5 assembly at Ridgeway primary school in Croydon, we’ve now started our first term of teaching and we’re 2 weeks into the course. I wanted to share some feedback about lessons learnt to date.

1. The assembly was a great idea, it enthused the children and got us lots of sign ups for the club. We offered 17 places (the total number of machines in the IT suite) and we got 35 applicants from about 90 or so children in year 5 (we only did the assembly for this year group).

2. 17 is a slightly higher number than code club recommend as ideal, but we thought we’d give it a go. I have one of the children’s teachers with me in the class, able to help out with questions, and this makes a real difference. We do get a lot of questions when we’re doing the exercises, but not more than we can handle. If I was on my own though, or if I didn’t have the teacher with me, this would probably prove difficult.

3. The children absolutely love the badges and the club signs. Just like they say on the website, it gives them an identity with the club. I made up all the badges with conference style laminated clips and they all love clipping these to different areas of their clothing! The signs are much the same and other children have been going past the room saying “oooh, what’s that, code club, wonder what that is”, which can’t be a bad thing either.

4. I have a perfect 50/50 split of girls to boys (OK I have an off number of children but as close to 50/50 as you can do with such). As a father of 2 girls I’m especially happy about this. All we need to do now is get this ratio up in the IT industry!

5. My classes are one hour long and I make sure I get there 20 minutes before to set up and confirm all the machines are OK and the projector for my machine is OK. I also make sure I do all the printing and collating of materials the night before and am completely ready to go as soon as the children arrive. The hour feels short and there’s no time to waste with admin!

6. In the first class I did an intro about scratch generally as per the code club materials and did some initial demos. This worked well and took about 30 minutes. I then let the children try the first project “Felix and Herbert”. This went OK, but we ran out of time before many of the children could finish. With hindsight, I’d have done more demos and interactive teaching with the children in the first class and then started the full project in the second week.

7. I use a generic school account on the scratch website so that all the children upload their work to the same place (prefixing their names on the projects). Although they’re welcome to have their own accounts, and some already have done so, it provides a nice view to the school of what we’ve achieved, all in one place. Check out what’s up there from week 2 projects

8. I let the children experiment. Straight away from minute 1 on the first class they were trying their own things, making  all sorts of sounds and little mini programs and sprites and laughing and joking. I think this is a great thing! I’ve heard others say that you shouldn’t allow this and that you should make them stick exactly to the project lists and not let them deviate. I personally strongly disagree with this and I think the children like the freedom. I do ensure that when I’ve a key point to make I get them to gather round on the carpet do a demo, for example yesterday I talked alot about variables and why they were so important and key to the project.

9. Despite point 8 above, I do encourage them to use the code club project materials. They are fantastically well designed, and with the tick boxes allow the children to keep good progress notes of how far they’ve gone with the project. What I observed yesterday in week 2 was that although some deviated to do their own thing slightly (I actually told them they could) by the end everyone was really focuses on following the project notes anyway.

10. In week 2 I had a much better timed lesson. I did a 5 minute recap of week 1, then I did a chat about variables as they were a key point to learn from week 2, and we did some collaborative coding with the children using my teaching / projector machine to do the first page or 2 of that weeks’ project. Then I gave them all 40 minutes to do the project themselves. Myself and the teacher then just answered questions as they came up and everything went really well. 5 minutes before the end  I made sure that everyone had saved and uploaded something to the website to ensure that they have something to show to friends and parents.

All in all I can already say that this is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in many years, and if you’re thinking about volunteering you need to do so immediately! It’s completely fantastic and the quality of the code club materials is fantastic. I can’t wait for next week!