Long-term community member Rich Hind took a break from Code Club, but in 2021 he resumed his adventure with code and launched a new club at Congleton Library in Cheshire, England. Rich shares his experience and advice on getting back to running a Code Club.
Starting a Code Club after a break, or even starting one from scratch (pardon the pun), can feel like a daunting task. However, you have so much support around you from the Code Club team and other volunteers across the country (there’s a whole gaggle of us on Twitter to help!).
I remember launching my first Code Club in 2016, and facing that first group of children felt very intimidating. In some ways, those feelings were there again when I started up my new club in 2021, at Congleton Library in Cheshire, England.
It had been over three years since I had run my last club, and it was now in a new location where no one knew my previous achievements with so many cohorts of kids.
It can feel overwhelming, but there are several things that work to your advantage if you are returning after a break.
The kids want to be there!
This isn’t your usual after-school club. The crowd you attract to this are going to be very keen on this specific area, and the interest and engagement will be very different to something that is considered ‘school’.
Some will be absolutely new to the idea of coding, some will have had a go on their own (some might even give you a run for your money!), but they want to be in the group. They’ve chosen to join you!
You are building on a foundation of experience
Whether in the past you have run one module of the Code Club materials or you have run a club for years, you have experience you can build upon which is absolutely going to hold you in good stead. I found that within ten minutes of standing in front of the class again, my muscle memory kicked in and a lot of old knowledge came flooding to the front of my mind — for example, how to encourage kids to keep focused on a task! We all know that sometimes that can be hard.
I will always break down bigger tasks into chunks and piece them up, or get the class to break a big task into steps. I often get the children to act out what we are trying to achieve. For example, in the Scratch project Lost in space, I get one child to be the rocket and one to be the Earth, and we physically walk through each step in space to make a list of what each bit of code needs to do.
If Code Club is entirely new to you, why not use the expertise of others? You can find a fully formed session all ready for you to deliver in the first session pack. There are so many resources available to you. Make sure you explore the resource library.
Write it all down
When running my last Code Club, I started a blog to write down my thoughts, ideas, and plans for future lessons, and it worked well (until the coronavirus pandemic). I would recommend doing some pre- and post-work for every session, as this helped me remember what worked (and what didn’t), along with ideas and improvements for the future.
My pre-work is:
- Running through the lesson plan from beginning to end. This jogs the brain into remembering what you need to do, and allows me to make notes on where I think the stumbling blocks are for the children. Sometimes it’s good as it lets you let them make mistakes and figure out the steps!
- I screenshot and print out the sections of the code, and have them to hand — this helps me as I have a fully formed version of each sprite’s/background element’s code and I can refer to it quickly if I want a quick refresher or to compare it to a child’s code to ensure it’s running smoothly.
My post-work is:
- I make some notes when I get home about what worked, and what didn’t. This can be what the class struggled with, and what they excelled at. It can also include things about where you thought they would struggle and they didn’t, or bits you were surprised they found tough. Every child is different.
- I write it up as a blog post, and put in bits of code and screenshots and chat about how it went. I now refer to older blog posts and compare years, see how the group did and what the differences are, and build upon the previous sessions.
I hope that your new clubs, be they completely brand new or ones you have restarted, run fantastically! The whole Code Club volunteer community are rooting for you and are always happy to answer any questions. Come and say hello to me on Twitter.
You can inspire young people by setting up a Code Club in your community. Find out how!