by Katharine Childs, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for the East Midlands
One of the best parts of my job is visiting Code Clubs. I really enjoy seeing the different ways in which clubs structure their time, and I often get asked if there are any recommended ways to start a Code Club session – so here are my six top tips!
1. Show a completed version of the project
If most children of the group are going to be working on the same project, it’s a good idea to first show them a completed version of it. Our projects include such a version for just this purpose. Of course, if you’ve worked through the project yourself, you can show your version. This is a tangible way of demonstrating to the children what their aim for the session is. They may even come up with ideas for how they can extend the project.
2. Demonstrate a small section of a project
If you’ve worked through a project before the club session, you may have found a section which will be new to most of the children. For example, children may need to learn how to place blocks of code on top of one another as well as clipping them together. Volunteers of some clubs find it useful to spend the first few minutes demonstrating new ideas so that children can work more independently during the session.
3. Do a stand-up
If all the children are working on different projects, it can be tricky to find a common theme for an introduction. In this case, you could have everyone do a stand-up: stand-ups take place in software development companies when each team member explains what they are working on to build communication amongst the team. In the same way, each child in your club could briefly tell the rest of the group what they achieved last week, what they are going to work on this week, and what help they think they might need.
4. Look at some online Scratch projects
This suggestion may be a little controversial, as I know some clubs actively encourage their children to create their own games instead of playing other people’s. However, it can be really valuable for the children to spend a few minutes exploring some online projects because it can help them to understand the potential of Scratch and to find new ideas. You can focus this activity by suggesting children search around a keyword for projects relating to a particular theme such as ‘nature’ or ‘racing’.
5. Have a routine
Several clubs I’ve visited have a routine for the children to follow when they arrive. This often includes tasks such as getting a laptop, collecting login details, setting up their computer, and reviewing what they did last week. After the first two or three sessions, this becomes second nature and frees up the adults helping at the club to answer any individual queries.
6. Talk about how to support each other
Code Clubs work best when adults support children and children support other children. Sometimes you might need to define what this support looks like and get agreement from everyone in the club. It’s a good idea to talk through ground rules, such as what to do if you get stuck, and how to test each other’s projects out.
A dynamic short introduction prepares the way for the rest of the session to run smoothly. When clubs start their sessions well, it makes the children excited about the creative opportunities that coding offers, and helps them develop a resilient approach to problem-solving.