Taking code clubs to a whole new level of enthusiasm and awesomeness

Last year I began a Code Club at a school in Waltham Forest.  it was a rather mixed outcome.  It started off well enough but for a couple of reasons could have been so much better. One of those reasons is that I, as a volunteer, could do so much more.

It is my job as a volunteer, particularly one from a STEM background, to exceed the (amazingly high) level of enthusiasm that children have. If I were being graded I’d get a D. I can, should, and must do better!

I appreciate that not all volunteers have the time or funds to do more than the minimum, but there are also a number of volunteers already doing this and more.  If you have already started implementing great ideas at your code club, please feel free to tell everyone about them below, I’d love to hear about them.

Mistakes I made:

  • Relying on the school to print materials, which invariably meant not all materials were printed (Scratch reference cards, door signs, badges, etc) and that the worksheets were printed ad-hoc at the start of each lesson and in black and white.  Trust me, this DOES make a difference.  Do it up front, do it right, do it in colour.
  • Relying on the materials solely provided by Code Club, and then not actually listening to the advice they give to make it feel like a proper club.  (Sorry)
  • Letting students join halfway through a term, and having to start at the beginning, thus meaning projects 1, 2 and 3 running simultaneously.  Not a sensible approach.
  • Not having a fall-back option when the main projector was out of action for pretty much the entire term.

A manifesto for making our code club AWESOME

Here’s what I want to do with next year’s intake.

  1. Pre-printed materials, which I will bring with me and place on desks before each session.
  2. Full colour print-outs, taking advantage of one of Scratch’s most obvious navigational aids, its colourful interface.
  3. Print ALL code club materials, including scratch reference cards, badges and door signs.
  4. Laminated for re-use, possibly even the worksheets, though I like the idea of students taking them home, so may have to print off extra sheets.
  5. Scratch reference cards WILL be placed on tables.
  6. Making sure I have pencils (or wipe-able markers if using laminated worksheets) so that they can tick boxes to mark progress.
  7. A revised letter to parents updated to reflect the release of 2.0, and the installation/registration differences between 1.4 and 2.0.
  8. A website for the school’s code club, to show off student work, and a place to find further resources relating to the material in the term, e.g. using Scratch alternatives like Snap on iPads, instructions or making it easy for students to share their projects with others, perhaps through things like SB2JS.
  9. There will be an A4 sheet to complement each term, summarising the most important resources listed on the website.
  10. More challenges for the power users to try while other students finish projects, rather than letting them move onto the next project, again these challenges will be available on the website for students to access at any time.
  11. Having a year plan that is visible to the students, so that they can see their hard work will pay off, not just in the form of certificates, but in moving onto greater challenges each term.  Dangle those carrots!

Essentially my plan of can be broken down into 3 action points:

  1. Preparation
  2. Momentum
  3. Enthusiasm

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