Step-by-Step Video Tutorials for Scratch

Students new to Scratch Programming can view a number of animated tutorials on Scratch’s website. When a student opens a new project, the tutorials can be seen behind the question mark on the right side of the web page. Clicking the question mark expands the menu.

Scratch question mark for reaching tutorials

While animated tutorials are helpful, they’re greatly improved with narration. Take for example the Catch Game. Students are shown how to select an apple and a bowl for their sprites. The apple must be programmed to repeatedly fall randomly from the sky; the bowl must be programmed to move left or right at the bottom of the screen (it will catch the apples). As students follow the tutorial, adding code blocks, the animation will move repeatedly between the apple and the bowl. This leads students to create scripts for the wrong sprite. Close attention to detail requires not only watching the animation but reading the directions. Young programmers are eager to build games – – as quickly as possible.  Reading directions is not always a top priority. So, I created this step-by-step tutorial with narration for the Catch Game. In the video, you’ll see me make two errors and then stop and correct myself. Making mistakes requires a redo but in programming it’s called iteration.  Teaching kids how to code with an appropriate computer language like Scratch helps them build computational skills.  Computational skills include decomposition, pattern recognition, and algorithmic design.


Game Creation with Scratch

I recently programmed a 4-level game with Scratch. I used a honey bee for the theme. Each level used a unique piece of music designed to create anxiety in the player,  making young players–and some older–freak out! Upon closer inspection, each level is not quite so difficult. It took about 70-80 hours to program the game.

Level 1:
Player directs the bee through a honeycomb maze to reach the hive.
Touching a flower along the way earns a point.
Touching a black line makes the bee say “Ouch” and returns the bee to starting position.

level 1 screenshot











Level 2:
Player must move the bee diagonally between the honeycomb-shaped flowers to reach the swarm.
Touching a honeycomb flower or being run over by the moving black squares returns the bee to starting position.

level 2 screenshot











Level 3:
Player must move the bee safely across the highway to reach the pink flower.
If the bee is run over by the moving fly swatter, fly paper, or insect potions, the player blows up and is returned to starting position.
Player can’t let the bee touch any white lines or the perimeter of the background; otherwise, the sound of breaking glass is triggered and returns the player to starting position. 

level 3 screenshot










Level 4:
Player must help the bee fly toward the passing objects in the night sky while avoiding contact with the vertically moving insect zappers.
Player has 2 minutes to earn as many points as possible.

level 4 screenshot











This video tutorial shows how the game appears to the player.

Visual Coding for Kids with Scratch

Scratch is a simple-to-use free programming language for kids, though also popular with adults. It uses colorfully coded blocks to help young programmers develop an understanding of programming. Users can create interactive projects by simply snapping blocks together. The video shown below demonstrates the steps needed to animate your name.

This tutorial demonstrates the following skills:

how to title and share your project
-how to select letters, resize, and color them
-how to select a backdrop
-how to troubleshoot letters when they don’t return to their normal position
-how to add sound files
-how to duplicate scripts

An Intro to Python Programming

Python snake pictureDo you speak Python? I don’t…yet. Is Python something two reptiles speak upon first encounter? No! Python is a high-level computer programming language. High-level means it comes as close as possible to mimicking human language, which–in theory–makes it somewhat easier to learn and apply. Python is used to Program YouTube and DropBox. Python is currently one of the fastest growing computer languages. Introduction to Python programming is most appropriately introduced at the college level, though there could be some early exposure at the high-school level.  As a new student to Python, where would I suggest a newby begin? Answer: with an introduction to the hashtag. Hashtags are used to create comments. Comments are used by programmers as a way to create notes about the code they’re writing. Comments can also be read by any coder wanting to read what the original programmer intended for his/her code because it’s not uncommon for code to have errors (bugs) that need correction. With this in mind, please view the video shown here to begin your introduction to Python. The Python interpreter can be downloaded here.

Computational Thinking in the K-12 Classroom

The title Computational Thinking in the K-12 Classroom might seem to discuss the skill of adding and subtracting. It actually refers to the use of computer programming to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. One such site for this development is Scratch. Scratch was created at the Massachussettes Institute of Technology. It uses color coded blocks. Kids snap the blocks into order to create a script for their sprites (elements on the screen). Students can create self-running activities or ones which require user interaction. I made this screen capture to explain the process of scripting for a snowflake project. CRES students in grades 5 and 6 have been introduced to this program.

The screen shots shown below capture the artistic abilities and creative thinking of students.