Phil Bagge Course notes: Scratch for programming in the new curriculum

screenshot of scratch
an example of scratch coding

I was very lucky to attend a full day course looking at Scratch programming with Phil Bagge today (29 September 2014).

Slides from Phil’s session are available at and all his planning resources are available on his website.

We started by understanding what computational thinking was and some useful definitions of the trickier terms in the new curriculum. Algorithms and abstraction (I loved the example that abstraction is precisely demonstrated by the London tube map), generalisation, decomposition and logical reasoning. Interestingly, our staff had missed out logical reasoning when dividing up the curriculum as they did not understand it all. We discussed this and they saw that actually this was about questioning the children, getting them to predict and evaluate what they do. Once we started talking about it, they realised that actually this was something they, as teachers, would do naturally through their questioning. This is exactly the definition that Phil gave us! It is a skill that needs to be a taught so that children can do it alone as they progress through the school.

A great article on computational thinking By David Barr, John Harrison, and Leslie Conery.

Some lovely posters to display in the ICT suite to illustrate those tricky computing terms.

One of the best things that Phil did was point out the common mistakes and misconceptions children have when he has taught these lessons. To me this was massively valuable, if you know what sorts of mistakes children are likely to make, it helps you deal with them when or before they arise. It also draws your attention to key teaching points. He was also fantastic at modelling exactly how to do things with the children, including silly voices, physical demonstrations and explaining why some of his modelling was so important. Proper meta-teaching!

For KS1 Phil recommends using the Scratch Junior app on iPads. It is free and does sequencing and repeat really well with very little written language and is highly visual.

For younger children, start with scratch 1.4 (drawing is easier for the younger children), then can graduate to scratch 2.0. Lego WeDo is a nice way to integrate physical control with scratch.

We were working with Scratch (we used version 1.4 but you could just as easily use scratch 2.0)

The Scratch projects we worked through from his computer science planning ideas.

1. Smoking car

Top tips for getting started:

  • Always get into the habit of renaming the sprites – so car, not sprite1.
  • Always model moving the blocks carefully to get them to snap together securely, making a big show of the white snap together line that appears under the blocks. It will pay off later when programmes are more complex and make children think more carefully.
  • When selecting a key – make the class read it aloud together, so that chn understand the action. Point out very carefully that the ‘1’ key is on their keyboard! Make a big point of showing the snap together line. Encourage the children to think what they putting together.
  • 10 steps  =  10 pixels
  • Always get children to test what they have done.
  • Use extension tasks for those children who want to experiment and challenge themselves.
  • Steering – use point blocks because they are always up, down, right left (see the drop down arrow to get degrees for angles for left, right etc).
  • Use zoom feature on your data projector to show the elements to the children.
  • Stage – allows you to programme the background. Makes sprite code disappear – it is not lost!
  • Use whiteboards for children to think through their actions – planning a route for a child to draw out how the car can get along the road (arrows and write down the directions – worked much better!).

2. Music Machine

Super way to introduce loops and repeats – fits with music really well and children can see the point of introducing loops to repeat sections of their music. Put one repeat inside another and ask children to explain to a partner what they will hear before they test it.  Can they predict what will happen?

  • Add the random number chooser in to the select instrument and the sounds will change on each play.
  • Import some loop sounds to show how they can be running underneath any other loops you are using.
  • Programme a button that you have drawn to play notes for a set number of beats, including decimals. Great for demonstrating that two tenths are smaller than five tenths! It sounds shorter – relate to a decimal number line.
  • Take actual music notation and provide a code so that children can convert notes to the numbers, show children that there is a difference between crochet and minims. Music notation is the algorithm that you can convert into a programme by decomposing the notation into pitch and timing and finding repeats.

3. Maths quiz

Uses sensing and selection. Make sure children understand the if/=/then/ else. Show some real life examples (if I get a cold then I will start sneezing).

Use variable to create the score. Then model how the score changes (how the variable changes) by having a child hold a pot and put pens inside to represent the score. At the end the child says what the final score is by looking in the pot and counting the pens.

4. Counting machine

A nice way to look using variables in a real life situation. Extensions – can you make it count faster? Count in 2s? Count backwards from 1000? Count in tenths?

Can you make it count to any number you input?

Make a thirty second count down timer to use in the classroom for our tidy up time! Can you make the timer count down from a time chosen by the teacher?

5. Working with variables (perimeter lesson)

Explain what variables are – moods are variable, the weather is variable (changes). Introduce the idea for what might vary in science (temperature).

Teach children that in a multiplication sum a different symbol is needed to replace the ‘x’ (*).

Create a menu that children can choose 1 for a triangle, 2 for a square using if/then and loops.

6. Games – Slug trail

Use the forever loop to keep the slug moving permanently. Make it move more slowly by decreasing the number of steps it travels within the loop. Again, it is a great idea to model this physically with the children by reading out the blocks and moving across the floor.

A handy hint, to get the slug back off the edge of the screen, right-click on the sprite on the bottom of the screen and use ‘show’.

Draw lines using pen down – point out to children that it is more efficient to put the pen down before the loop starts. Ask chn to draw a background with a path for the slug to move along, code the slug so that it if touches the background colour (goes off the path) it makes a horrid noise and says ‘uh oh!’.

Overall, it was a super day. lots of information and practical hands on activities packed in. Clear ideas on progression and really clear modelling of exactly how to teach programming to children.

Introducing the new computing curriculum as a new Computing Subject Leader

At Easter I moved schools and took on a new role as Computing Subject Leader at a large Leicester city primary school. Some time had been set aside at a twilight session on the new curriculum to talk about the Computing Curriculum. The school have been trialling the new curriculum for foundation subjects this year and my role was created when staff realised that they need some support to help implement the new computing curriculum.

In the twilight session, I wanted to demystify the curriculum (and some of the jargon in it), provide staff with an overview of the aims and give them some resources to take away that they could use. I used the excellent Naace / CAS computing guide as a foundation, drawing on their separation of the curriculum into three main strands, digital literacy, information technology and computer science. I wanted to reassure staff that they already knew how to teach much of digital literacy (esafety) and information technology (content creation and analysis) strands so that I could focus on the computer science strand. I also wanted to show how staff could do computing without using a computer, as I hoped that this would demonstrate it isn’t as scary as it first seems and give them some practical activities that could also serve to develop children’s spoken language.

I used @RevErasumus staff meeting notes as a guide to get me started and included two practical activities for staff to try. The first was a KS1 algorithm lesson from Phil Bagge – the human crane. To show progression in algorithms, I then used Phil’s Sandwich bot, where he makes a jam sandwich following his children’s instructions very literally and much hilarity (and some very serious learning! ) ensues. I’ve written about the impact of using activities that don’t involve computers on Staffrm as the feedback I had was fascinating.

Next, for a KS2 activity, we looked at how search algorithms rely on data being sorted. Following inspiration from a great live demonstration at #camped14 by Catherine Elliot (@catherinelliott), I got staff to do a bubble sort based on height. By making them stand on a bench, you can only get into order by comparing pairs of people and swapping places one pair at a time. A great illustration of how a bubble sort works and followed up by the amazing Hungarian Folk Dance version!

At the end of the meeting, I gave out a skills audit (a version for teachers and a different one for teaching assistants), a curriculum review form and a pupil questionnaire.

Finally, I have to say a big thank you to a colleague who helped me put all this together. Just after I had finished meeting with my Head teacher about where to start on computing curriculum for the school, she went on to meet with a deputy from a local infant school who was looking to work with us as a partner school for her NPQH project. Serendipity struck as she was also the ICT lead at her school and so my Head suggested that we work together on the curriculum. I have so enjoyed working with her, we’ve bounced ideas off each other, she has a been a great critical friend and our different skills fitted well together.

iPads for teaching staff

Having moved schools at Easter, I am now the computing lead for a two form entry school in addition to teaching a year 5 class. The school took this year as an opportunity to work with the new curriculum for all the subjects outside of maths and literacy. However, when it came to the new computing curriculum they identified that additional input was needed. Consequently, they added the computing lead role to a KS2 teaching post that became available and this is the role that I have taken on.

One of my first jobs was to help deploy a set of iPad Airs that have been ordered for the teaching staff. There is one for each teacher and they arrived just in time for the summer holidays, so staff have time to play and learn on them home. We have a set of 8 iPad minis which were bought with a charging trolley and sorting and syncing the iPads is managed by our IT support contractor using Meraki.

We supplied the iPads to staff with the standard iOS7 apps and a few free ones (see blow).

We have also allowed them to explore the App Store and have a small budget to try and buy other apps. As a staff we can decide which apps we will add to everyone’s iPads using the Volume Purchasing Program. I’m hoping this will help to give staff a sense of ownership and the joy of discovery of great apps, whilst trying to prevent us ending up with hundreds of apps that don’t get used and multiple versions of apps that do similar things. Dughall McCormick suggested we try App Parties – 5 minutes at the start or end of every staff meeting to share any new apps staff have found, or how they have used the apps we already have. A fabulous idea that should help us learn and share together.

We will be using airserver to mirror the iPads on our interactive whiteboards. Staff have asked for visualisers, but we may hold off on those until after I’ve shown them mirroring! As these are new iPads, they will have iMovie, garage band, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto and Keynote for free (though this require separate download and installation which took some time!). Of course, there are lots of ways these can be used in the classroom, but there are still a few ‘essentials’ I’d like to add. The aim here is to provide apps that all can be used in a wide variety of ways and in a variety of contexts.

So far the list of ‘essentials’ includes:

A way of getting stuff on and off the iPads!
Our IT support recommended this. A sort of Dropbox, it allows direct connection to our shared planning drive, which all staff already access through VPN on laptops and desktops. This will enable staff to upload documents, photos and any other material created on the iPads to the shared system. It can also create links to be shared outside the system using password protection. However, the cost of this is now looking prohibitive, so I’m looking for alternatives.

Google earth (free)
A great way to quickly give children real perspective on where they are in the world.

Pic collage (free)
I used this almost daily in my last school. This has so many uses and a great way to quickly make attractive collages of photos for books, displays, story planning, explaining, labelling and identifying.

QR code reader and creator
QR codes are a great way to link to digital content. A quick way for children to find a website that you want them to use without being able to read, or copy complicated URLs. Link to audio or video content to make interactive displays. Create treasure hunts, use in geography for orienteering style challenges.

For learning programming for KS1 and a great companion to actual beebots.

Explain everything £1.99 (half price for educational use on VPP)
A whiteboard style app has been a game changer for many teachers in the classroom. Again can be used in many ways for example in plenaries to show work, for modelling, peer marking or demonstrating. Used by children, this can also be effective way for them to show what they know about a subject by making guides for others to use (e.g. How to use the grid method for a two digit multiplication sum).

Book creator £2.99 (half price for educational use on VPP)
Although the new iPads will have pages, book creator enables children and teachers to quickly create beautiful books with added sound. There is a free version that lets you create one book for free, the paid version allows unlimited book creations.

Volume Purchasing Plan
Setting up the VPP was straightforward but as we don’t have a credit card, setting up a payment system using Purchase Orders was long and painful, a process I started before the summer holidays and is still dragging on! To be fair, I didn’t chase it over the summer but it takes several steps which involve our business manager so between us it has slowed things down.

I’ve already seen that staff are beginning to use their iPads for iMovie and pic collage. I’m looking forward to encouraging their use everyday.

#camped14 activities and notes to remember

Camped14 was brilliant this weekend (23- 26 May 2014 at Cliffe House near Huddersfield). Before I forget, here are the events I took part in:


  • Go Bananas! Run by my husband, Richard Badge, this was a hands on workshop to extract DNA from bananas. Full instructions on how to do this at school (or at home!) are available on the GENIE website (GENIE is part of the University of Leicester and is based in the genetics dept where Richard works). We had a raft of very successful scientists take part and they made some excellent DNA – some of the best we’ve seen when doing this workshop. We decided that working in the Cliffe House classroom with the door open and a view of the pouring rain must definitely be the right sort of conditions for DNA precipitation!


  • Animation workshop – run by animate to educate (

    ). A chance to play and make a a stop motion film using Zu3D Ellie really enjoyed this one, and so did I. The software was easy to use. The ideas for making simple stages to film on, great use of props (MacDonald’s toys, plasticine, sparkly rocks) and the ability to add text and speech bubbles meant that you could achieve a great movie really quickly. Definitely one to look at when I get back to school.

  • Photo orienteering run by Katherine who works at Cliffe House (lucky lady, it was such a beautiful and inspiring place! Her classroom was perfect – lab benches combined with stunning sculptures and Harry Potter wands). In pairs and threes, we took laminated photos of places around the grounds and looked for a symbol painted on the objects or nearby, noted it down and went back for another photo. Simple to set up, great for finding our way around the place and we all felt we knew the grounds really well once we’d finished!


  • Walking – several of us went for a lovely walk around the edge of the village. It was good to blow the cobwebs away and one of those important spaces to talk and think.
  • Choral singing – something I never thought I’d do, but under the brilliant instruction of Ceri Williams, we had a go at becoming a crowd-sourced instrument using the pentatonic scale (Bobbie McFerrin style) . Huge fun (even if it wasn’t that tuneful!).
  • Catherine Elliott at short notice (read – Catherine had planned to show us how to play ultimate frisbee but the Yorkshire weather put paid to that) gave a great workshop with some ideas on teaching Computational Thinking. We looked at sorting algorithms using coloured blocks to introduce language such as IF and ELSE, and a bubble sort using children and adults on a bench getting in to height order. We did a quick sort using animals and who would win in a fight (if you are interested, a gorilla beats a donkey in a fight but not a lion). We also looked at writing algorithms for drawing a spiral (something I’d just touched on with my class last week using logo!).
  • Cat on yer head – a fabulous game to teach children about game design hosted by Dawn Hallybone and Tony Parkin. Tricky to describe, hopefully, Tony will write it up and I think Alex videoed us (should be very funny to watch!). Another one I’ll definitely be trying at school.


#camped14 An extended teachmeet with space to think

Science at camped14

I was still a PGCE student when I persuaded the family to go to #camped12. Learning and sharing in a field, it was a fantastic experience that at the whole family really enjoyed. They took no persuading to go to the second #camped, and for me it was even better than the first. Apart from the fantastic range of activities, beautiful and inspiring venue and the gathering of some amazing people and their families, the best part about camped14 for me was the space in between the sessions.

It may have only been a 4 week half term, but moving schools has had a huge impact on me. Going back to family camping after a 2 year break (PGCE and NQT years took their toll on my energy levels!) meant concentrating on the basics – getting the tent up quickly to avoid the worst of the rain, slowing down and taking time out to just sit a while and wait for the kettle to boil on the gas stove, stopping to talk to my daughters and husband. Camped provided the space to talk through the changes I’ve experienced in the past two years with colleagues and mull over some of the challenges still ahead was invaluable. The wisdom and practical experience of twitter friends has given me a raft of strategies, ideas and practical tips to get me started as an effective Computing Lead in my new school. I already know that that space to chat, ask questions, think aloud and reflect will impact on my practise. Of course, it helped that the whole weekend was huge fun, with belly laughs, good food and fabulous music too!

I’ll post separately about the workshops and activities, as they are important in their own right and I need to get them noted before I forget! BUt I felt it important to note the impact that this weekend has already had on me and send a massive thanks to Dughall McCormick  and Bill Lord and everyone else that helped to put the weekend together and make it such a success. I really hope that there is another CampEd, it’s a valuable space to have in the diary for any educator.

Leicester Teachmeet #TMLD14 QR codes for paired reading

My presentation for Leicester Teachmeet on 18 March 2014 at CrownHills School, Leicester. This was based on a teachtweet video I made earlier this year. I added a little extra about teaching algorithms too.

Livestream recording of the teachmeet now available thanks to Leon @eyebeams

This was an idea that David Mitchell described that he used in school, I tried it this autumn, and it worked really well!

QR codes and paired reading

During daily guided reading with my year 4 class, which I run as a carousel of activities, my children can use the class iPad on a rota. A different pair of children each day get to use the iPad with a focussed task. During the first half term of the school year, their task was to find a book from our year 1 classroom and record themselves reading it (with good expression!) using Audioboo (a free sound recording app).  They photograph the cover of the book and publish the recording. The Audioboo recording is set to publish directly to our class blog (in Audioboo settings set to publish to your blog). We then make a QR code to link to the blog post and print out a copy. The paper QR code is stuck into the book and placed back in the year 1 classroom. The year 1 children can use their class iPad to scan the QR code and listen to the story book being read aloud.

Example – Where’s my teddy? Read by Eden and Lewis.

screenshot of blog post audioboo player

Slides on Google


Audioboo app:

QR code reader app

QR stuff screenshot:

iPad image

Audioboo image


I will soon be changing schools, starting at Rushey Mead Primary school as ICT lead after Easter. I am very much looking forward to the challenge and for my interview lesson I taught a group of year 5 children how to write an algorithm. The main idea was to show that although the new ICT curriculum has a lot of technical language in it, some of it can be taught from what teachers already know how to do well. Algorithms are basically instructions. I used padlocks and a mixed set of keys to get the children to write some instructions on how to choose a key to open the padlock. They included a decision (does the key fit?) to make the change from simple instructions to become an algorithm.

I was directed (by lots of lovely people on twitter) to several great resources whilst researching the lesson:

Phil Bagge’s Code it.

A treasure trove of planning, ideas, videos and very practical help for anyone worried about the new computing curriculum. If you haven’t seen sandwich bot, you are missing a treat!

Computer science unplugged

Teaching computing without a computer. Does what it says on the tin 🙂

This started me thinking about cross curricular links, with maths and science. I’ve started to work computing language into my maths lessons, to get children to realise the connections between sorting and maths. We were playing 20 questions to guess a number (is it odd? does it have 3 digits?) and I pointed out that Google search works by a process of sorting that many of the children resorted to. They realised that if they knew it was a 3 digit number, they could ask if it was bigger than 500 and narrow down the search options quickly, by picking the mid point to ask about each time (is it bigger than 250?). Branching databases in science are another perfect opportunity to link to computing.

Teachtweet: QR codes for paired reading

This is a video presentation I made for the #ukedchat Teachtweet online meeting on 16 January 2014.

This was an idea that David Mitchell described that he used in school, I tried it this autumn, and it worked really well!

During daily guided reading with my year 4 class, which I run as a carousel of activities, my children can use the class iPad on a rota. A different pair of children each day get to use the iPad with a focussed task. During the first half term of the school year, their task was to find a book from our year 1 classroom and record themselves reading it (with good expression!) using Audioboo (a free sound recording app).  They photograph the cover of the book and publish the recording. The Audioboo recording is set to publish directly to our class blog (in Audioboo settings set to publish to your blog). We then make a QR code to link to the blog post and print out a copy. The paper QR code is stuck into the book and placed back in the year 1 classroom. The year 1 children can use their class iPad to scan the QR code and listen to the story book being read aloud.

Example – Where’s my teddy? Read by Eden and Lewis.

Slides available on Google 


Audioboo app:

QR code reader app

QR stuff screenshot:

iPad image

Audioboo image