Scratch Logo, courtesy of MIT Media LabLiteracy from Scratch

Materials by Teachers in English - Primary

Algorithms (Rantej Gill)

Project to educate teachers on how to teach children algorithms.

Algorithms in the Kitchen Michael Gove has demanded that children in year 1 (5-6 year olds) should learn and implement algorithms, as well as debugging a simple program. The main problem with this is that many teachers don’t understand what an algorithm is, and therefore won’t be able to teach children about algorithms. When I first heard about this change to the curriculum I was worried about how it would be possible to teach 5-6 year olds about algorithms. I do believe that teaching children in primary school about algorithms will have future implications, however practically this is a lot less achievable. My Scratch project is mainly focused at educating teacher about algorithms and also giving ideas about how to teach children algorithms and includes many cross-curricular links.

1. How has this project impacted on your personal learning?

What went well?

I am glad that I chose a project that will help teachers with teaching children about algorithms. Many people don’t understand what an algorithm actually is and that we use them every day. I decided to have my Scratch project based in a classroom with a teacher and two students. I believe that this project has helped me with furthering my own knowledge of algorithms and hopefully it educated teachers on how to teach algorithms.

What did you find challenging?

My biggest challenge that I faced was timing. It was extremely difficult to make sure that every Sprite speaks at the right time. It was a very time-consuming aspect of my project that kept changing every time I added a new sentence.

Another big challenge I faced was when I wanted to change anything and ensure that the timing was right, I had to start the project from the start every time. Even if the problem was right at the end, you had to start the project from the beginning in order to make changes or even check your work. This again was very time-consuming.

When starting my project, I found it difficult to think about how I am going to approach this project. My main point was that I wanted to ensure that the teachers know what and how to teach algorithms to 5-6 year-olds. I also wanted to create a project that is interactive and the children can use this in their ICT lessons or even Literacy lessons, however found this a bit difficult so decided to educate teachers about algorithms.

What did you learn?

I learnt to importance of planning and efficiency. By planning what I need to do, I never wasted anytime in thinking about my next steps or about what I am doing. I also learnt how great of a tool Scratch is in teaching our children about loads of different aspects on the new curriculum. It has loads of cross-curricular links and can be used to teach children about algorithms, coding and debugging simple programs. However, at times Scratch can be very infuriating however at the same time greatly rewarding as it allowed children to use their creativity in designing projects.

2. What problems did you encounter, and how did you resolve them?

When starting my project I wasn’t sure who I would be addressing my project to. After deciding who my project would be addressed to, it was easy to start and complete. I also came across problems with my sprites not talking at certain points and also hiding. I made sure that I had a show tab right at the start so that my sprites were always on screen.

3. What would you change or add?

I would have preferred my project to be more interactive to ensure that the audience don’t get demotivated. In the future, I plan on developing certain Scratch projects addressed directly to the children. These projects will be designed so that the children can independently access them in their own time at home, or during a lesson at school.

Notes from the Course Tutor

These files are for use in the classroom. They can, of course, be adapted by teachers, with further resources, such as Sprites or Backgrounds, added by pupils.

I have included all the work of my teaching group here. There are many wonderful teaching ideas, and if we did not solve every coding problem effectively (none of us is an expert in Computing, including me!), the creativity of these young teachers more than makes up for it.

The teaching programme covered 30 hours of work at the computer, so if you start with one session of 60 minutes per week, you will become as proficient as they have been well before the end of your teaching year!

The key to success is to work with a partner, share ideas, and problem-solve together.