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.
Click/Tap to download
Published by iCompute and licensed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
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.
Click/Tap to download this Periodic Table + Editable, Printable Scratch 2.0 Blocks
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.
Click to download our free lesson plan and computing resources
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!
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!
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
A Powerful Tool for Developing Digital Literacy
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.
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.
Click to download
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.
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!
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.
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.
Click to Download
Richards, Reshan. One Best Thing. iBooks, 2014. eBook [Available here]
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.
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.”
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.
Click to Download MDM Guide
Click to download file management guide
You may also find this post useful for some of my picks for iPad apps in the primary classroom.
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.
Primary Scratch Skills Progression – Click to download
Develop Primary Computational Thinking Skills With Puzzles
Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbooks
Computational thinking is at the heart of the statutory programme of study for Computing:
“A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world” (DfE).
Since the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing in 2014, schools now teach computing from the age of 5 and have developed curricula to meet their statutory obligations; however many lack a focus on developing computational thinking skills favouring, instead, to concentrate on the programming, or coding, objectives. In this post, I discuss computational thinking in more detail and how teaching it helps children become problem solvers which is important not just in computing but is an essential life skill.
There has been much research into the benefits of puzzle-based learning. Puzzles help children develop general problem-solving and independent learning skills.
According to Badger et al. (2012) engaging in puzzles means that pupils:
take personal responsibility;
adopt novel and creative approaches, making choices;
develop modelling skills;
practice recognition of cases, reducing problem situations to exercises.
Additionally, in solving puzzles pupils use and apply a range of strategies that cross disciplines in entertaining and engaging ways.
So what does any of this have to do with computational thinking? By selecting the right variety and complexity of puzzles, children will independently practise and develop computational thinking skills. Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve. It involves taking a complex problem and breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable parts (decomposition). Each part can then be looked at individually, considering how similar problems have been solved in the past (pattern recognition), and focusing only on the important details whilst ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms). Once we have a working solution, we then use evaluation to analyse it and ask – Is it any good ? Can it be improved? How?
This will enable them to find solutions and apply those already found to different problems, in different contexts. All of this helps lay the foundations for pupils to become effective problem solvers. Skills that are increasingly important, as discussed in this post, given the digital world we live in and the need to prepare pupils to solve as yet unknown problems using tools and technologies that do not yet exist.
Best Educational Book
UPDATE: iCompute’s Computational Thinking Puzzle Workbooks 1-4 have been shortlisted for prestigious ERA (Education Resource Awards) 2017 for Best Educational Book.
Badger, M., Sangwin, C, J., Ventura-Medina, E., Thomas, C, R.: 2012, A Guide To Puzzle-Based LearningIn Stem Subjects, University of Birmingham.
As part of my role with Computing At Schools (CAS) as a Primary Computer Science Master Teacher, I have recently been fortunate enough to teach using Sphero, having been lent a set by @cas_lancaster. The task was to produce a set of step-by-step Sphero lesson plans and associated teacher and pupil support materials for primary teachers to use. That is all now done and I’ve had great fun creating our new robotics unit – iCompute with Sphero – which forms part of our iPad pack , as well as being available separately. It will be lent out to other local schools by @cas_lancaster. Teaching progressive lessons using Spheros enables primary schools to meet a number of the objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2 Specifically:
design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts
use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; work with variables and various forms of input and output
use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs
select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information
Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics
iCompute – Features Flowchart
Here, I share my experiences of using Sphero 2.0 with primary pupils and give some general advice and classroom tips about how to use them effectively, engage and challenge your pupils. See this post which details my more recent experiences of teaching using Sphero SPRK+ edition.
What is Sphero?
Sphero is a robot ball with several features that can be controlled though apps and also includes the facility for pupils to create their own computer programs. The main features are:
Rolling – Sphero can roll at specified speeds and directions
Colours – Sphero can light up to a specified colour
Bluetooth – Sphero connects to mobile devices through wireless Bluetooth
As Spheros are connected to iPads via Bluetooth, preparing to use them in your classroom before your roll up brandishing them and creating general hysteria is vital! Make sure all are fully charged and that your have paired each to a particular tablet in advance. Each Sphero flashes a unique sequence of colours when they are ‘woken’ which can be used to identify them. A Sphero will appear on your tablet’s Bluetooth list using the initials of the three colours it flashes in order, Eg. Sphero-RGB for a colour sequence of Red, Green and Blue. Update: Connecting Sphero to tablets is much easier and more reliable since Sphero SPRK+ edition has been released (which I now have and teach with). Here, you simply hold Sphero close to your iPad to make a connection.
For Sphero 2.0, I added stickers to each of the Spheros with their unique name, as ‘YGO’, ‘RGW’ etc., and also to the corresponding tablet I’d paired it to. This made distributing them and the iPads much easier when in class. This isn’t necessary if using SPRK+.
You need lots of space to use these. I used the school hall. I refer back to ‘Preparation’ for this as it may be something you need to organise. I forgot on my first session and arrived with a very excitable class to a hall full of lunch tables. The first half of my lesson therefore involved getting those out of the way.
You can also buy covers called a ‘Nubby’ for outside use.
I tried this with one of my classes and we had to come back inside as it was sunny and therefore impossible to see Sphero’s tail-light: essential to be able to aim it to move in the direction you want it to go. Also, we had iPads and the children couldn’t see the screens. When our school went on to buy the SPRK+ edition of Sphero, we didn’t bother buying the covers.
Now on to the good stuff. My specialism is teaching primary pupils aged 3-11. I think coding with Sphero is suitable for Key Stage 2 pupils, children aged 7-11.
I suggest your first session focus on teaching the children how to wake Sphero, Orient (aim) it and control it using the standard Sphero app. Each Sphero (2.0 version) comes with, amongst other things, a pair of ramps and once the children have got used to moving Sphero forward and backward with reasonable accuracy, add the ramps and other obstacles to make things interesting and develop accuracy further. The SPRK+ edition, doesn’t have ramps but has tapes and measures instead.
A lesson, including step-by-step instructions for both teacher and pupil for this are available in our robotics pack.
iCompute with Sphero
The following lessons progress to using the drive function of the Sphero Edu app enabling the children to gain greater control and begin to understand that Sphero can be controlled to perform specific actions.
I then move things on for the rest of the unit to programming Sphero using Sphero Edu.
We created quizzes that the children programmed Sphero to move and change colour to answer. This presents great cross-curricular opportunities. We create algorithms and program Sphero to be our dance partners for Physical Education. Also, mazes to navigate with excellent links to Mathematics for distance, direction and angle work. The children also program Sphero to travel the globe, linking to Geography, using a free floor map from National Geographic.
Using robotics in the primary classroom presents creative and engaging opportunities for the children to extend what they have learned about algorithms and programming in Computing by understanding that physical systems can be controlled too. With the right blend planning and imaginative resources, using Sphero’s in your classroom has the potential to inspire the next generation of software designers and systems engineers! The possibilities are exciting…
Use our free computing and science resource to conduct a water cycle investigation. The children could then use Scratch to program an animation of it. We have a template scratch project you could use. Find out more on our website
Computational Thinking is a life skill for everyone. It’s analytical problem solving: finding solutions to ‘problems’ using logical reasoning and systematic approaches. By ‘problem’ I mean something you want to achieve. This could be anything from designing and building a physical structure to creating a piece of art.
Click to download the poster
Fundamentally, Computational Thinking is about transforming a seemingly complex problem into a simple one that we know how to solve. It involves taking a complex problem and breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable parts (decomposition). Each part can then be looked at individually, considering how similar problems have been solved in the past (pattern recognition), and focusing only on the important details whilst ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms). Once we have a working solution, we then use evaluation to analyse it and ask – Is it any good ? Can it be improved? How?
Teaching computational thinking is not teaching children how to think like a computer. Computers cannot think. Computers are stupid. Everything computers do, people make happen. It’s also not teaching children how to compute. It’s developing the knowledge, skills and understanding of how people solve problems. As such, it absolutely should not be confined to computing lessons and should be used throughout the curriculum to approach and solve problems and communicate and collaborate with others.
Computing is one of the most fundamentally cross curricular subject areas in education. It’s about using technology, logic, creativity and computational thinking to solve problems that cross all disciplines. It requires the systematic breakdown (decomposition) of both the problem and the solution. We need to prepare pupils for how to live in an increasingly digital world by equipping them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to solve as yet unknown problems using tools and technologies that do not yet exist. We can work towards achieving this by using computing as a means of making sense of the world and using what the children learn in computing across the curriculum.
The best primary practice includes blending thorough, discrete, subject teaching with effective cross-curricular work. “…high standards are best secured when essential knowledge and skills are learned both through direct, high-quality subject teaching and also through this content being applied and used in cross-curricular studies.” [Rose, 2009]. Both approaches are needed for effective learning to take place, to enable children to make links between subjects and to set learning in meaningful contexts. Using computing throughout the primary curriculum offers a way to enrich and deepen learning through engaging, interconnected, topics.
Our cross-curricular computing pack is designed to complement our whole school primary computing scheme of work. It provides pupils with an engaging exploration of computing through a rich variety of media and technologies set within other subject areas. It supports teachers with step-by-step cross curricular computing lesson plans and cross curricular computing resources.
Visit www.icompute-uk.com to find out more about our highly acclaimed primary computing schemes of work. iCompute is used by thousands of teachers around the world and features on BBC Bitesize for Primary Computing and the Hour of Code (code.org).
Here are some free resources that I created to embed Computing within History by creating a podcast of an interview with a child evacuated during World War 2. The materials for using Audacity to edit audio, add backing tracks, effects etc. support pupils’ podcasting and the guide for conducting an interview help pupils construct open questions.
Could easily be applied elsewhere within the curriculum. Check out the other free resources on my Blog and enjoy! Our cross-curricular scheme of work (iCompute Across the Curriculum) is coming soon – find out more here