Coding Activity Notes
Here are some specific notes that may be helpful in getting familiar with and supporting specific coding activities:
- Each Sprout activity listed on the coder's home page corresponds to a "challenge" in the Sprout application. When the application starts, coders may want to walk through the initial tutorial ("Show me how Sprout works") but all of the activities are found by clicking the Take challenge button. Then look through the Sprout levels (which don't line up exactly with Coders' Club levels, after level 1) and find the challenge by name. Each challenge is to trace a provided shape.
- The button changes to Quit challenge after you start a challenge. Click it to leave the challenge: it changes back and you can Take challenge again and select a different challenge.
- The "language" of instructions available in the dropdown menus (the ones that say (Choose) grows and changes at higher levels. So for example a coder who has traced the level-1 shapes with just Draw, Skip, Turn left, and Turn right, may need to be shown that there is a new Repeat instruction starting with level 2.
- Inserting and removing instructions is not as obvious as it should be. To remove, just click the red X over to the right -- but sometimes it's way over to the right. To insert, float the mouse cursor around, and you'll see green "insert bars" lighting up in between the instructions. Click when lit, and get a new, blank instruction at that spot.
- You can move instructions by drag-and-drop, but it's pretty fussy. Float the cursor over a "blank" part of an instruction -- to the right of the last input field usually works. You'll see a four-arrow cursor. Click and drag, and as you drag look for those green insert bars to light up. Drop on one of them and the instruction will go there. (Note that on Macs the default behavior is a copy instead of a move.)
Blockly Maze Game
- This is generally nice and intuitive, and the first steps are easy. The last two steps are really tough, and especially step 10 doesn't have quite the right toolkit for a really good hug-the-wall algorithm. There are two or three solid solutions to this, but many kids really struggle with it and may give up. That's okay! They will learn alot from this one even if they don't solve it.
Chutes & Ladders
- Some find it confusing that only certain puzzles earn Coders'-Club points. These few puzzles happen to capture most or all of what's been learnt so far. It's usually still best for coders to work through the puzzles one at a time. Especially, don't jump from 11 up into the 20's, as you will miss some new instructions that are critical to solving the last few puzzles.
- Many students bang away at long melodies that could be done with much shorter programs. We don't limit the number of blocks you can use. So often it's up to coaches to point out and encourage the use of looping blocks and especially the custom "phrase" blocks (which are just callable functions, Blockly/Allegro style).
- "Ode to Joy" and "Do-Re-Mi" are both really involved programs to write. Expect this to take multiple sessions and a lot of patience on the coder's part.
- Often coders will think that they've completed the first, say, three games in Dicey when they've actually just done the first three pages of the first game. Completing a game in Dicey means that you've written a program that can win that game even when there's a totally random sequence, as in the final page for each game and set of rules.
All of the text-coding activities
(that is, Sprout Text, Number Crunch, and Secret Coders' Club)
- Remind coders that there are a couple of helpful hotkeys: Ctrl-Enter runs your program, and especially useful but easy to miss is Ctrl-Space, which brings up a simple code-assist dialog.