Getting to grips with the mouse

I’ve recently found myself with the challenge of teaching Reception age children Computing not in their own classroom, but in a traditional ICT suite with desks, PCs, keyboards and mice that actually aren’t even designed for Year 6 children, they are designed for adults.

The curriculum I inherited has them using Paint, but I soon discovered little hands cannot grip the mouse well – learning to hold it at the top and press the left button, not the right, no not the right, no not the wheel, the LEFT button… is Quite Hard.

I took inspiration from one of my favourite books: Stephen Levy’s Insanely Great, the story of the creation of the original Mac computer in the early 1980s. Some users struggled with the (one button!) mouse. Someone hacked a game with flies popping up round the screen. Use the mouse to swat the flies. Go.

So here are two very simple, but I hope effective, resources I made to help KS1 children with tiny hands get to grips with adult mice. I made them in Scratch, of course. I tested them with Year 1 to get feedback (“it’s boring!” – young kids are refreshingly honest), and made some tweaks before unleashing them on Reception next week.

In the first game, you move the mouse round the screen and click on the food to get points. Every 10 points the food and the backdrop changes. Get 100 and you become a Mouse Master. You can assess ability by noting scores at the end of a timed period.

The second game is a bit more complex. It requires the children to click on arrow buttons to guide the caterpillar around the screen to eat fruit. There are points and levels, the fruit gets a bit harder and on the last level there are unhealthy foods to avoid as they lose points. Year 1 loved this and got very competitive.

I’ve used Scratch many times for making teaching resources – including teaching binary and logic in KS3 – I really recommend it. And getting young learners to be your beta testers.

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