Monday, 12 May 2014

CodeClub for years 3-4 Week One

After lots of requests from parents, I've just started running a CodeClub for younger pupils (years 3 and 4). Although I could probably jump straight in with Scratch term one, I decided to try to offer some more introductory sessions first, as its the final term of the school year and the year 4s will be year 5s in September and therefore 'eligible' for the normal CodeClub. I also wanted to try some more activities away from the computers.

Here's a session plan, amended in light of what actually happened at the first club.

CodeClub for years 3-5. Week One

Time 1 hour


  • Get enough machines logged in, with Google Chrome fired up and the CodeClub RoboBoogie main page loaded.
  • Find a suitable table for the sandwich making
  • A JamSandwichRobot API  (a list of possible instructions) for displaying on the smartboard (but turn off the projector initially).
  • (optional) Have a voice changer toy available
  • If you can get some helpers - brilliant. I was lucky (I think) to have my sons as helpers, but if you're also running a year 5-6 CodeClub, you could ask some of those attendees if they'd be interested in acting as mentors. 

Clubbers arrival

  • Welcome each CodeClubber and direct them to one of the machines with RoboBoogie running. Encourage them to start playing around.
  • Once they've sat down, try to have a quick chat with each clubber, asking how much coding they've done already. Make some notes! Reassure any clubbers who have not done any programming before that they're in the right place!

First half- RoboBoogie (approx 25 mins)

  • Let all the clubbers mess around with RoboBoogie for 15 minutes or so. Accept that it will be NOISY but try to get them to set the volume to a reasonable level.
  • Keep an eye out for clubbers who investigate the 'code mode'. If needed, encourage them to change some of the values and see what happens. For clubbers who seem to get the hang of it quickly (perhaps they've done it before), challenge them to make their robot do something silly (e.g. 'can you make its head spin a loop round its body?')
  • Normally other clubbers will see what their neighbours are doing and copy them. Give any focussed/oblivious clubbers a nudge.
  • Let them experiment for a bit longer. Give lots of praise and highlight particularly funky robots. Suggest that any high-achievers help other clubbers.
  • Inevitably some errors will occur (missing semi-colons being the most likely/prevalent). Great! Point out where RoboBoogie reports the errors and try to get them to resolve the bug themselves.
End first half (approx 5 minutes)

  • Ask everyone to mute their computers (good luck!)
  • Request that everyone listen. Ask the clubbers what coding is all about and try to get a quick discussion going. Talk about the RoboBoogie experience. Tell them that what they've just been doing is hacking code. Talk about bugs and stress that finding and fixing bugs can be the most fun part of programming. Point out that the RoboBoogie robots were very fussy about their instructions.

Second half – JamSandwichRobot (approx 25 mins)

  • Tell the clubbers they're now going to get to program a Jam Sandwich making robot. The idea is pretty simple, as demonstrated here with some style by the excellent Philip Bagge:

  • Ask for a volunteer to try to program you (the robot) with instructions for making a jam sandwich. If you have one, let the volunteer use the voice-changer. The clubbers will find the antics of the silly robot funny but make sure their laughter is directed at you and not the volunteer.
  • Let a few different clubbers have a go. They should get progressively better as they note the previous mistakes, so start getting stricter with obeying their commands literally.
  • Pause the proceedings and explain that its hard to program anything when you don’t know what commands it will accept. Say that all languages will have a list of instructions. Reveal your JamSandwich API and ask the next volunteer to try their program using the actions and objects on screen. If you have time you could ask them to work in turns to prepare a set of instructions before attempting to run their program. There are some great worksheet ideas at Tell them they can add an extra element to each category of the API if needed.
  • Be aware that the clubbers will be keen to eat the sandwiches regardless of their condition!

Wrap-up (approx 5 mins)

  • Try to provide a quick summary. Ask your clubbers for feedback. Tell them what you have planned for the next session. Thank them for coming.


  • Clean up your sandwich making station. If the clubbers ended up eating their sandwiches, check keyboards and mice for stickiness and clean as necessary.   

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