Making ‘more blocks’ in Scratch – a great way to promote computational thinking

Last month on the blog I looked at ScratchMaths, an incredibly powerful tool for helping children to visualise abstract mathematical concepts like angles and coordinates, writes Rowan Roberts, London CLC’s computing tutor.

This month I want to delve a bit deeper into Scratch 2 and highlight a brilliant feature that has much to offer and yet I rarely see teachers using it – more blocks.

‘More blocks’ allows you to create your own instruction block, then tell Scratch what should happen when you click on the block. This can be really handy if you have a program which runs the same instruction lots of times but not necessarily consecutively (eg the chorus of a song), so where a repeat block alone won’t do the job. It’s also great for the developing the thinking skill ‘decomposition’; ie breaking things down into smaller parts.

For example, if I asked you to tell Scratch to draw a house your first response might be to program each line and turn within that drawing individually. This would be a time consuming process (you’d need at least 12 blocks) and would also create a program that is very difficult to read.

A better solution might be to first program the sprite to draw a square, and then a triangle, and then put the two scripts together. This is much easier to do when you create ‘more blocks’. It allows you to turn each of these two scripts into what, in programming terms, is know as a procedure. You could then combine the two procedures so that they run one after the other. You could even create a third block called ‘house’ which combines the two, which is known as ‘nesting’.

Procedures are not mentioned in the curriculum for primary but our pupils will need to know about them when they get to key stage 3 and, in my opinion, they can make a whole range of programming techniques and concepts way easier to understand. Programs are much easier to read and if they are broken down into simple, readable parts, and this makes them must easier to debug if they go wrong.

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

14/06/22,
09:15
- 15:30
EYFS, KS1, KS2
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.

Presentations

The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

24/06/22,
09:30
- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
25/11/21,
09:30
- 14:25
KS2

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum
21/02/22,
-
KS1

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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