Hi all! Thank you for taking the time to read this; I am sorry it is so long, but I am looking for advice, and maybe some critique as to what I did wrong the first time. I am a librarian, NOT really a trained teacher, and I appreciate any help I can get!
I work for a public library that offers after school and summer S.T.E.A.M.-based classes and programs. Last spring (2016) I was asked to do a one hour introduction to Scratch as a part of this program because our youth director noticed I was helping a few students who had questions about Scratch. I agreed to do the class and put together what I thought would be a great hour for the kids, but it was kind of a chaotic disaster. Here's what I did:
1) Had them watch a short, exciting introductory video that demonstrated all the fun things you can do with Scratch. (This can be found here: https://vimeo.com/65583694 )
2) Showed them a VERY short powerpoint (2 slides) with a few common coding and Scratch terms. I had students from many backgrounds and skill levels, so I just wanted to make sure we all knew what "coding" meant, and what a "script" was, etc. There were only 5 terms in the entire powerpoint.
3) Then we went to Scratch online and played around with some of the shared projects, just so they could see what other people were doing. (We only did this for about 5-7 minutes).
4) I had them open a blank project and did a quick overview of all the different parts of Scratch (scrpit area, stage, sprites, etc...), which I figured was a good idea since most of the kids had never tried Scratch before.
5) We then launched in to creating a small game that I had chosen in advance. The game was Star Hunter from one of the Scratch books I was using at the time. The title escapes me at the moment, as I was working with about 4 different books.
6) Then, at the end of the class, I had a whole packet of materials for them to take home: Scratch cards, some free Scratch stickers that I got at a library conference, a new game for them to try, an info sheet for parents, a Scratch book list, and a small vocabulary list to help them understand some of the coding terms they would encounter.
I HAD PROBLEMS.
Phew! As you can imagine, this was a lot to cram into an hour, and we ended up running about an hour and fifteen minutes. This kind of irked some of the parents who were waiting outside of our computer lab to pick up their kids, so I need to trim some of the fat and smooth out some of the "wrinkles". Here are the problems I encountered:
- As I mentioned in the subject line, the class is for ages 8 to 12. I had a really hard time getting this age group to follow what I was doing. They wanted to branch off on thier own right away and some of them made quite a mess of the program we were trying to make. I had to fix these kids' code before we could move on, taking up precious time.
- They were just not interested in any of the preliminary stuff that I did (#'s 1-4 above). They all sat there, deadpan, looking at me like I had 2 heads. Maybe this is normal for that age group? Should I just scratch those parts completely? Maybe just the video? Shoud I assume these kids are learning these terms at school? Arrrgh!!
- I thought I had chosen a really cool game for them to make. I was corrected right away (kids are honest like that, eh?). The game took too long to make, they didn't want to be locked into the sprites and backgrounds that I pre-chose to save time, and some of them didn't even bother to try and make the game I selected. I eventually just let those kids create and explore on thier own with the understanding that if they needed my help it would have to be after the class.
- Being a library, our public computers do not have external speakers. Public users can bring headphones to use, and we have headphones for our adult computer classes, but I was not going to give the 8 - 12 year olds headphones because I figured they would never pay attention to me that way! The kids were all very disappointed that they could add sounds to their project but not near what they sound like. I had a set of speakers that I attached to the admin computer so I could play them examples of the sounds, but this was not fulfilling for them. I don't know what I'm going to do about this. Even if I could scare up 12 sets of speakers for the class, I can only imagine the noise this would create.
- They were not really interested in the packets I made so I felt like I failed to pique their interest. I know that we are a digital society now, and kids especially so, so maybe they are just not used to getting information this way. Most of the information I put in the take home packets is available online, anyway, so I will probably just skip this next time.
Most of the online help I have found so far is for an entire 10-12 week Scratch curriculum. I do not need this much material. Any suggestions? Has anyone else taught a short introductory class like this?
My thoughts are to cut out the vocab. power point and the Scratch overview (I would just explain as we went) and to then just have a ton of ideas to get the kids started on whatever they feel like making. I could have scratch cards and print off some small projects for the kids to try (if they want), and then just sort of float the room and help them individually. Last time, this is what I ended up doing for most of the class anyway. I think more freedom to create might be a better idea than trying to drag them all through a lengthy peice of Scratch code. Thoughts on this plan?
Thank you so very much if you have made it this far. This is a long shot cry for help (lol), and I am sure that I will figure out something for them to do... but I thought if someone with more experience could weigh-in that it might help me.