Learning to Program with Tablets & Scratch Jr
Introduce your KS1 computing pupils to algorithms and programming in a fun, intuitive way, using Scratch Jr on tablets. I’ve put together a 6-8 week KS1 computing unit and associated teacher/pupil resources that uses Scratch Jr and am struck by just how quickly my pupils pick up some of the fundamental principles of computer science.
I based the unit around Michael Rosen’s “We Going on a Bear Hunt” to give the children’s coding context and purpose. Over the weeks the children move progressively from adding sprites and programming some basic movement to programming sprites to go a more complex journey in the form of a hunt – just like in the story. The concepts covered that I found they grasped really quickly are:
- Understanding and developing algorithms
- Programming: sequence, selection and repetition
- Computational Thinking: logical thinking; abstraction; decomposition; generalisation; recognising patterns & relationships
- Testing & Debugging
Alongside that, the children learn to work collaboratively, develop digital literacy skills as well as persistence and resilience in problem solving.
You can download our glossary of computing terms for help with any of those concepts. I’ve also created a periodic table of Scratch Jr blocks which have editable blocks use in unplugged computing activities, and some basic blank Scratch Jr blocks for cutting/sticking activities which help support learning.
There are many creative ways to plan primary computing using Scratch Jr and I’m looking forward to starting another unit for our iPad scheme of work very soon!
Get it now and get creative in your KS1 computing classrooms.
Computing Assessment Toolkit
Along with the end of unit assessment guidance, new-look computing pupil progress trackers have been updated for each year group. This also now includes the Early Years Foundation Stage and revised P-Scales for computing to reflect the addition of our EYFS Computing pack and to support inclusion, computing and SEN.
We’ve also added a Quick Look Computing Skills Progression Grid to use alongside the other guidance and tools.
Out now is our whole-school primary computing assessment tests and tasks. Online diagnostic tests and end-of-unit assessment tasks that feed directly into our pupil progress trackers within the primary computing assessment toolkit.
Existing iCompute schools can access the full toolkit by logging in to our main website at www.icompute-uk.com Our Assessment Tests and Tasks pack will be an optional extra.
Computer Science Unplugged
I’m writing new units for our iPad pack. Starting with KS1 using Scratch Jr, I’ve made these basic blank blocks for pupils to use in cutting and sticking activities for computing unplugged (i.e. without the need for computers). I’m using this particular resource in my computing lesson plans for a unit set around the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. The children will plan algorithms using physical grid maps and cut/stick Scratch Jr blocks to give directions on the bear hunt.
They are great to work alongside the Periodic Table of Scratch Jr blocks I posted recently here.
Scratch Jr Blocks for Display & Computing Unplugged
I’ve created editable, scaleable, Scratch Jr blocks for you to download and use in your coding lessons. Click/tap the Periodic Table of Scratch Jr blocks image (see below). The blocks can be edited using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr). They are also included in .png format for printing.
It’s important that young children have the opportunity to interact with concrete materials (i.e. printed Scratch blocks) to help them understand both their function and the underlying concepts. I use them in groups for the children to program me and/or each other before moving on to programming using Scratch Jr itself.
I’ve also made a full set of Editable, Printable Scratch 2.0 blocks, and Scratch 3.0, in other posts, which you can also use.
Published by iCompute and licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
Scratch Classroom Display & Unplugged Activities
I’ve created an updated version of a full set of Scratch blocks (Scratch 2.0) which now includes the blocks inside the Sensing, Operator, Data, Custom palettes and LEGO™ WeDo motor blocks. Available to download by clicking/tapping the Periodic Table of Scratch blocks image (see below). The blocks can be edited and scaled using image editing tools (e.g. Illustrator, Inkscape, Vectr). The blocks are also provided in .png format.
It’s important that children be given opportunities to interact with physical programming blocks to help them understand both their function and the underlying concepts. I use them in groups for the children to program me and/or each other as well as programming using Scratch itself.
Published by iCompute and licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
Also available in the same format are Scratch Jr blocks from this post.
Saving Santa with Scratch at Christmas
Looking for Christmas Computing lessons and activities? Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to have some fun and challenge pupils to show what they know about coding in Scratch.
I’ve prepared a step-by-step lesson plan and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using in my computing lessons to celebrate all that is Christmas and festive. Feel free to download and use in your own classroom.
It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is off on his travels around the world delivering presents when catastrophe strikes! He’s fallen out of his Sleigh! Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program Santa to get back into his sleigh in any way they know.
Lots of opportunities for differentiation here. For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Catch Me Card which is included in the pack) and/or write a simple program where Santa is moved using arrow keys. Your more able pupils could:
- program Santa to follow the mouse
- change the sleigh to make glide randomly across the sky
- add sound effects when the sleigh is caught
- program presents to appear/disappear
- program presents to change effects (e.g. colour or size)
- program presents to fall, so the player must dodge them
- program Santa to throw snowballs at randomly appearing presents – Angry Birds style
Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative with my gift to you!
The Hour of Code is Coming!
Not long to go now for the Hour of Code (December 5th – 11th) and we can’t wait to see how many pupils and schools participate around the world this year.
iCompute are delighted to be involved by providing a selection of fun, creative, activities for schools to use as part of this event and throughout the year. We’ve put together, free, cross-curricular computing activities that include Computing with English, Computing with Maths and Robotics with Sphero!
We really hope you join us this year for The Hour of Code and introduce your children to the joy of creative computing!
Hour of Code Lesson Plans & Resources
We in England are very fortunate that Computing is now a statutory entitlement for pupils aged five and over, with the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014. We owe it to our children to equip them with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will enable them to fully participate in the modern digital world. We lead the way in teaching and learning in computing science. Elsewhere around the world there is not (yet) the same emphasis on preparing our children to – not just consume technology, but to – understand how computers and computers systems work. In doing so, we set the next generation on a path to become the innovators and digital creators of our future.
I’m passionate about getting across the message that Computing is so much more than just ‘code’ – see this post for more on that. At Computing’s heart, and the heart of the National Curriculum, is developing computational thinking. A fundamental life skill in itself but, with regard to computing, computational thinking enables children to become effective problem solvers: teaching them skills to solve problems (as yet unknown) for technology that does not yet exist! Find out more about computational thinking in this post.
The Hour of Code is a global movement by Computer Science Education Week reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries through a one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming. As I’m very keen for others to see the benefit of computing throughout the curriculum, I’ve put together three teacher-led cross-curricular activities as iCompute’s contribution to this year’s Hour of Code – scheduled to take place this December – find out more about that here.
Here’s a sneak look. Watch this space as I might have time to contribute more…
Developing Digital Literacy by Blogging with Primary Children
Blogging is a powerful tool for developing digital literacy in primary schools. It provides a responsive community-driven environment that gives pupil’s writing a voice, an audience and a platform. When children share their world and their thoughts through writing, they understand how connected people are. They learn from each other, challenge one other, question and receive feedback.
My pupils love blogging and I often use it as a way to engage my reluctant writers. See below some of the comments the children wrote about blogging in my classes.
When pupils know they have a genuine audience for their writing, especially when its other children, I see both an increase in motivation and in product; which in turn helps me more accurately assess their work.
To help other schools introduce primary blogging into their classrooms, I’ve developed six new units for iCompute primary computing scheme of work. iBlog contains step-by-step primary blogging lesson plans and associated resources. Existing iCompute Online schools have access to all new units at no additional cost.
I’ve also put together a free infographic about the benefits of blogging with primary children that you can download here.
New Year, New Tech
Some schools have been teaching primary computing since its introduction into the National Curriculum since 2014 and some have yet to really get going. Either way, the very nature of Computing is that things change rapidly and it’s time to start doing something new.
One of the things I like best about Computing is that you can’t churn out the same old lessons year on year. Technology’s rapid development demands we pay attention to change; that we learn; that we adapt and, most importantly, that we create.
We owe it to our pupils to keep abreast of pedagogical and technological change. I’ve put together a selection of the fantastic tools and technologies that I use to teach Computing, some of which you’ll know but lots of which I hope are new and you’ll give a go. Adapted from a previous post here, I’ve turned it into a periodic table of primary computing resources. I keep banging on about this but Computing is more than just programming and lots of the resources listed here are for you to use with your pupils to teach the other strands of the curriculum as well as to use with cross curricular approaches.
There are many, many, more and I’d love to hear how you have been getting on teaching computing in your classrooms as well as hearing about the resources you’ve been using.
Full, progressive step-by-step, lesson plans and all associated lesson resources and worksheets are available for the tools and resources included in the table. Visit our website for more information.
Logical Thinking Puzzle for Key Stage 2 Computing
Here’s one of our computational thinking puzzles designed for independent work for pupils aged 7-11 to practise and develop the computational thinking skills that lie at the heart of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
To find out more about Computational Thinking and how puzzles can help children engage and develop analytical problem solving skills that will help them, not just in computing, but throughout their lives read this post.
To find out the answer, scroll down. After you’ve had a go!
To reveal the answer click/tap ‘MORE’
Digital Literacy in Primary Schools
Now that Computing has been statutory in primary schools since the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 in 2014, many schools feel that they have got to grips with the objectives and have a view, if not a plan, of how to meet them. With computer science being at the core of the curriculum, its perhaps easy for schools to neglect the other aspects of it – including digital literacy.
A Powerful Tool for Assessment
I’ve covered a number methods for primary computing assessment in this post but, as I’ve been creating some pupil/teacher resources for video screencasting using, free, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), I thought I’d go over the screencasting part of it again here. You can download the pupil/teacher support card by clicking on the image in this post.
Potentially one of the most powerful tools for assessment in computing is engaging pupils in creating screencasts – recording computer screen video with audio narration. Research indicates that by making learning visual and documenting thinking – through screencasting – pupils more naturally engage in self-assessment. Even when recordings are made without any intended audience and in the absence of prompting, pupils automatically listen back to themselves, reflect, assess and adjust (Richards, 2014)
This promising tool could be used to further develop information technology and digital literacy skills whilst also engaging pupils in the assessment process by editing screencasts for an intended audience with audio and creating visual effects such as captioning. The screencasts could then be uploaded to individual or class blogs, using categories and tags mapped to the appropriate strand of the National Curriculum for Computing, as evidence of learning or saved as a video file for storage on file servers either at school or in the Cloud. Similarly, teachers could use screencasts to provide audio/visual pupil feedback by making recordings when reviewing work. The screencasts could be cross-referenced against a project and uploaded into the pupil’s e-Portfolio.
Richards, Reshan. One Best Thing. iBooks, 2014. eBook [Available here]
Primary Computing eSafety
I’m writing a new six week unit for our primary computing scheme of work for Year 2 children about creating multimedia eBooks and thought I’d share one of the resources I’ve created for eSafety. Most children, and many adults, think that the first result returned from a search engine is the best and likely to be reliable.
As I detail in this post, I make eSafety part of everyday discussion with my pupils and advise the teachers I train and schools using iCompute to do the same. Feel free to use the attached resource with your pupils to help them develop a little healthy skepticism about the information available on websites.
Computing Glossary of Terms
We Computer Scientists like our jargon but now (due to the National Curriculum for Computing) we are teaching pupils as young as five about how computers and computer systems work; teachers need to know – and be able to explain to children – what a plethora of confusing words mean. As Kurt Vonnegut observed “if you are going to teach, you should either teach graduate school or fourth grade… and if you can’t explain it to fourth graders, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Here I’ve put together a computing glossary of terms that I hope are useful to computing teachers and are used in iCompute’s primary computing schemes of work.
Mobile Device Management
Having recently conducted some CPD for teaching computing with iPads, some of the teachers raised the issue of how best to manage their iPads in school.
iPads are 1:1 devices and were never intended to be used on networks or alongside file management systems. When we first introduced iPads in my school, I researched many options and found some quite sophisticated solutions out there but they came at quite a hefty price.
I’ve attached the following guides as to how I manage the iPads in my school that can be downloaded. They may prove useful to those who are trying to manage iPads alongside a Windows-based school network. I’d love to hear how you are managing yours so feel free to leave comments after this post to help other schools.
You may also find this post useful for some of my picks for iPad apps in the primary classroom.
Have you got it covered?
The primary computing curriculum has now been statutory since September 2014 with the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. All schools should now be teaching a broad and balanced computing curriculum that provides full curriculum coverage of the aims and objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing. But are they?
There seems to be a wealth of resources available now to help teachers teach computing. There’s lots of stuff online. Even better, free stuff! Gather all that; organise it (roughly) into year groups and that’s Computing sorted!
The trouble is, most of it is targeted to help schools in only one aspect of the computing curriculum: coding. And Computing is so much more than just coding.
School’s really don’t have it covered if that’s all they’re doing. Or, even, if they’re doing some bits on eSafety too; or one lesson about networks before falling back to those old ICT units (Word processing, Spreadsheets and good-old Powerpoint) that someone – now long gone from the school – put together from the QCA ICT scheme of work back in 2000. Or, even, if they bought a scheme adapted from an old ICT scheme with about twelve extra lessons on coding added in. Schools are being let down. More importantly, they’re letting pupils down.
In what other subject is it okay for teachers to admit they know nothing about the subject they teach? To proffer copying answers and children teaching each other as the only pedagogical approaches? In what other profession would teachers offer support and training whilst freely admitting you know very little? Would it be acceptable for a maths coordinator to miss out all of the bits of maths they don’t understand? Or teach from outdated materials? – ‘Look, I don’t really like that the government want us to teach graphs and algebra and some other hard bits and I’ve got some really good stuff on counting with an abacus that I found on Wikipedia via the Ancient Chinese so I’m going to do that all year instead’.
I don’t care whose materials schools use or who helps teachers, as long as they’re good because what I do, passionately, care about is that children are taught computing well. And I don’t think they are. Most schools aren’t teaching it properly. Schools need to give computing the status and comprehensive coverage it deserves.
The three strands of computing are:
- Computer Science
- Digital Literacy (incl. eSafety)
- Information Technology
According to Ofsted inspection guidance for Computing:
For Good or Better teaching, teachers have an enthusiasm and passion for computing. Teachers use a wide variety of innovative and imaginative resources and teaching techniques.
Subject knowledge is excellent, continually up-to-date and demonstrates a high level of technical expertise.
The curriculum is broad and balanced and covers all three strands of computing. It is imaginative, stimulating, progressive and set in contexts meaningful to the children.
Children use their knowledge, skills and understanding in realistic and challenging situations. Pupils have comprehensive knowledge and understanding about how to stay safe when using new technologies.
High levels of subject expertise and vision with a strong record of innovation in computing. CPD is well-targeted.
Access to computing equipment is outstanding and the school is likely to have promoted the use of mobile technologies.
There is an engaging, age-appropriate e-safety curriculum in place.
E-safety is a priority within the school and promoted throughout. Staff receive regular training and rigorous policies are in place.
How are you doing?
Children have a statutory entitlement to a high-quality computing education. I encourage you to reflect on the practice and provision within your school.
In doing so, here are some questions you could use as a basis for reflection:
Do all staff have:
- good or better subject knowledge?
- good or better subject pedagogy?
- the ability and time to develop comprehensive, progressive, computing curricula?
- high expectations of learning in computing?
Do you have a computing curriculum that:
- provides full coverage of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 & 2?
- is broad, balanced and meets the needs of all learners?
- is engaging and inclusive?
- uses a rich and varied range of software, tools and technologies?
- supports teaching and learning with comprehensive assessment guidance?
Teach controlling physical systems
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently written a primary programming robotics scheme of work as part of my role as a primary computing master teacher with Computing At Schools and having been kindly loaned five Sphero. @cas_lancaster will be lending these lesson plans and resources out as part of their equipment loan scheme and the complete unit and associated resources, assessment guidance etc, now forms part of the iCompute for iPad scheme of work.
Today, I presented at #CASLancaster16 conference about my experiences of teaching with Sphero. Check out my posts elsewhere on this blog for tips on teaching with physical systems and visit iCompute Free Stuff to download the free robotics resources I contributed to support The Hour of Code.
Also, check out this post which is an updated version of my teaching experiences with Sphero SPRK+ Edition.
Download and use as a guide to primary programming skills progression with Scratch
Please note that children progress at different rates and this is intended as a guide only. iCompute’s whole-school primary computing scheme of work provides computing lesson plans that have built in differentiation, extension and enrichment activities to include, engage and challenge all pupils in primary computing.