So I finally did it. After 2 years of teaching Code Clubs I finally started doing some Python with them. For a couple of reasons I’d not managed it previously. First of all getting Python onto the school computers was difficult for reasons I’ve discussed before. But also I wasn’t seeing sufficient mastery of Scratch to convince me that the kids would understand Python. But I went for it anyway, solving the Python install problem by using trinket.io/python instead of the installed version. I even let the kids all login to that site using the same account so they can save all their work, albeit in one big dogpile.
So how has this exercise gone? Well I began by using the Code Club worksheets. And to be honest they show evidence of the same concerns I had myself. This programming thing assumes a lot of prior knowledge. It’s hard and as a result the worksheets are a little too noddy. The kids quickly get bored of drawing a dog with ACSII characters because it’s much less engaging than the Scratch experience.
Given that the first couple of worksheets were so noddy I decided to start going through the worksheet with them on the big screen at the start of class. I did this for worksheet 2 – calculating your age. And it went better I think. I was able to throw some fun in by letting the kids guess (and be rude!) about my age. And it meant I could talk about stuff like the form of a function call and what a string was and so on. Some kids glazed over and some got it. And I should have been WAY more brief. But it worked.
So with some hesitation I recommend those wanting to start out teaching some Python should do so with some explanation and demonstration. Get the class sat down and do it in front of them. Talk to them and get them coding it with you. Then send them off to do it again solo. At least to begin with this seemed to get them producing working code. And best of all the accompanying teacher – you do have one of those don’t you? – sees what you’ve taught the kids and can help answer the kids’ questions.