Report from CAS Leicester North Primary hub meeting March 2015

Report from the CAS Leicester North Primary hub meeting at Rushey Mead Primary School.

Tuesday 24 March 2015 : Rushey Mead Primary School, Leicester

Barefoot computing – Zoe Ross. How to use the resources available on the Barefoot project website to teaching the new computing curriculum in KS1 and KS2.

Zoe gave us a great introduction to the Barefoot site and in particular how each resource is linked directly to a statement from the computing curriculum. Each activity includes an explanation of the terms or concepts used so that you can check your own subject knowledge. Sign up for free to use the resources on the site. Barefoot are still offering FREE WORKSHOPS in your school until the end of this school year. Contact them to book one quick!

What will children be learning at KS3? Dave Abbott, Stonehill High School, Birstall.

Dave showed us what children will be doing in years 7 – 9. As a computing specialist, he was keen to support our use in primary of the correct terminology that so many of us are struggling to comprehend! He recognised that our teaching of the key concepts at primary was essential for him to progress computing at KS3 and was delighted to start seeing children who already knew what an algorithm was. Rather than teach specific languages, Dave uses projects, such as making games in Scratch to teach the principles of programming. Dave includes eSafety in his first term of teaching at year 7 and uses a video project to ensure that children can locate, transfer and save files using a USB, hard drive and online storage. Something that not every year 7 child can do but a real stand out message for us to start looking at teaching in primary school.

Schemes of work – led by Jo Badge, Rushey Mead Primary.

We discussed as a group the various schemes of work that we were using in the region and looked at a few other examples including Pete Richardson’s comprehensive WLD scheme (@primarypete_), Rising Stars switched on computing and the Somerset ELIM scheme. A valuable time for everyone to network and learn from each other, there was lots of great sharing going on!

We also gave out free copies of the Primary Quick start guide to computing which is a really useful guide to teaching the new computing curriculum.

Our next meeting will be on 10 June 2015. I hope you can join us!

CAS Leicester North Primary hub launch meeting

I am delighted to announce that, along with my Head Teacher, Debra Bailey, I will be leading a new primary focussed CAS hub in Leicester. Computing At School
is a great organisation that aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school. Membership of CAS is open to everyone, and is very broad, including teachers, parents, governors, exam boards, industry, professional societies, and universities.

A CAS hub is a meeting of teachers and lecturers who wish to share their ideas for developing the teaching of computing in their schools, their classrooms and their community.  It is a meeting of like-minded professionals with the general objective of supporting each other and the specific aim of providing (at least) one idea that can be taken and tried in the classroom. These meetings provide:

  • the opportunity for teachers to meet in a relaxed and informal atmosphere
  • to share ideas and resources
  • to receive training, and
  • to gain mutual support from discussing teaching methods with colleagues.

The launch of the CAS Leicester North Primary hub will take place on Wednesday 26 November 2014, from 16:00 – 17:30 at Rushey Mead Primary School, Leicester. The event is free and all you need to do is sign up online for a ticket. We are very excited to have one of the best Primary CAS Master Teachers of Computing , Phil Bagge, giving a presentation by Skype. Phil is a fantastic teacher of computing and delivers inspiring training on Scratch and other areas of the computing curriculum. I attended one of his Scratch courses recently, and was really impressed by the way he made sure that we knew the common misconceptions children could have and how we could deal with them in our teaching. His massive range and depth of experience in teaching computing lessons really shines through. His resources are all available online and provide an excellent way into teaching the computing curriculum with confidence.

CAS Leicester North Primary hub launch meeting programme

16.00 – 16.15  Introduction and Welcome – What is CAS? Why you should join us?

16.15 – 16.45 “How searching the Internet is just like asking your mum where you left something.” – Phil Bagge, CAS regional coordinator, has a strange but remarkably accurate approach to explaining to primary pupils how web searches work. Will your searching experience be the same after his talk?

16.45 – 17.00 refreshments

17.00 – 17.20 Where does the Internet come from?  a practical hands-on activity to use children to demonstrate how the Internet works by Jo Badge, Computing Lead Teacher, Rushey Mead Primary School.

17.20 – 1730 Evaluation and future CPD

This will be a great opportunity to meet other primary teachers and computing subject leaders locally and share some of the ways that we are beginning to implement the new computing curriculum (there will be tea, coffee, biscuits and hopefully cake on offer too!). I hope you will be able to join us!

Online registration for the launch meeting is now open (and it’s free!).

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.

Reflections on TeachMeet for Special Educational Needs #TMSEN12

Helping to organise a TeachMeet whilst trying to do a PGCE course is a bit bonkers, but then there is never a good time to anything in life, is there? Josie Fraser did the real work, and I was there to keep the publicity going, to nag her when she needed it ;-) and co-host.

I’ve been to two other TeachMeets and followed others online, and have always found them so inspirational. Following the tweets after the event, it has been a real pleasure to see people making connections with each other and continuing to to discuss the ideas they heard about and thinking about applying them in their own classrooms. Tony Hirst had a quick look at the community around the #tmsen12 tag we used for the event, which looks as though there was a potentially enormous community able to join in and share the practices we heard about.

Gephi visualisation of the community around #tmsen12
Flickr: psychemedia CC BY 2.0

I’ve heard from several teachers and students who have been inspired to join twitter, and the great community of educators it holds (if that was you, you might want to have a look at my quick guide about how to get the best out of twitter).

We did two things differently at this TeachMeet, the first was to hold a Critical Debate with invited speakers, which seemed to work really well and added a deeper, strategic tone to the wonderful practical resources and ideas that were shared. The second was that we committed to producing a micro-site with a selection of resources, videos, voxpops and tweets from the day. This will be produced in the next few weeks and should serve as a last reference to the collective knowledge and wisdom we pooled together during the day. One of the main reasons that TeachMeets work is due to their informal nature, but that means that often the great ideas they produce are not shared beyond the participants (real or virtual), liveblogs like those produced by Oliver Quinlan are another great way to keep a record that can be reshared at a later date. To give you a flavour of the day, I’ve used storify to collate some of the links and photos shared on twitter.