Friday, April 27, 2012

Gaming and Coding With Kids

Have just been finishing the plan (haha!) for this week's GATE (gifted and talented ed) group for thinking skills and problem-solving. I have been reflecting about how the session went last week when I introduced basic coding through the Scratch programme. If you have yet to look at it or even try it, then get a glass of vino or a G&T, grab some other mates and get clicking! The tutorials are pretty basic but it is, in essence, a game of problem-solving.

My group of 14 children aged from 8-9yrs old are all extremely clever kids. And by that, I mean that they are high octane, high motivation, high energy and high thinkers. They are certainly a challenging group since the behaviour with this group is quite difficult, as these big personalities claw at each other to speak louder and get their own, intelligent thoughts heard! So, the only way to 'teach' these kids as a group is to let the teaching be done by themselves. It is a problem-solving and thinking class - ergo, I give them the most simple of instructions with the most complex of tools and then glide around the classroom nudging them gently along.

Last week, the results were fantastic. They do not, by nature, listen well. They are mostly the kids who are always talking over others and are constantly interrupting and failing to listen to instructions. But their brains are hard-wired brilliantly as thinkers and they are best served to learn through their own discoveries. So they got started with a quick 3min youtube clip of the END result of a created Scratch game and then they were faced with a few pages of script ideas for the codes and a blank platform.

I set the timer (these kids work best within the challenge of having to beat a timer) and gave them the simple brief of making the Scratch sprite move, change colour and turn. Suffice it to say, that when the timer went off, they had done a great job. Everyone completed the brief well and then I sent them around to test one another's games so far. This is a powerful way to get kids to teach one another as they will always ask one another, "How did you do that?" and then set about sharing their new knowledge.

We repeated this process several times, adding different challenges, and the kids took total ownership of the challenges quickly, coming up with new ideas and new ways to make the challenges harder for each other.

At the end of the session I asked them to reflect on their new learning and to suggest 'what next?' for the next session so that they have more buy in for the process. They listened to each other, added to each others' comments and were awesome at suggesting other ideas for what they would like to learn next. They also talked about what was tricky and what was newly learnt.

So now I am trying to find some new coding platforms for them to experiment with. I am always trying to plan less and suggest more so that the learning is not restricted to what I plan, but is broadened by where the students lead the lesson.

Check out these platforms and have a fiddle! That's what my kids are doing and it's great!

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