Hour of Code week is officially over but that doesn’t mean that coding in the classroom should be over too. So in my constant quest to integrate technology authentically in the classroom I came up with this solution for how to blend coding with narrative writing. To give a little context, our Writing Workshop is focused on narrative writing, and more specifically focusing in on story elements, descriptive details, and adding dialog in our stories. It goes something like this …
- Students will include all the story elements to write a narrative that includes a clear beginning, middle, and end (CCSS.ELA.W.2.1) using Scratch Jr. to code and plan their story (CCSS.ELA.W.2.6).
- In my classroom we used 1-1 iPads with the Scratch Jr. App installed as well as a planning sheet that includes the “story elements” on one side and a “story mountain” on the other, including a link to a “moral” or lesson based on a learner profile trait. A pdf version of the planning sheet is available here.
- This whole process takes a few sessions so break it up however it fits into your schedule, but in essence on the first day after a brief intro of Scratch Jr. I let students explore freely for about 15 minutes. Half way through I asked them to focus on some characters and backgrounds available in Scratch Jr. which they would like to use in coding their own stories.
- The next day I asked students to finalize their planning sheets to serve as a guide when coding. Once complete the students start coding on their iPads. Scratch Jr. allows for a maximum of four scenes (hence the four blocks for planning out the story) and, in my experience, with the scaffolding of the planning sheet the students are usually able to code all four scenes with dialog and motion in an hour (so a couple of writing sessions).
- Once the coding part is done, the students realize that their ability to add details is very limited in Scratch Jr. due to the constrained amount of text input allowed so … turn the coded Scratch Jr. project into a paper and pencil story and really focus on bringing out details and dialog. It works.
Lessons learned and next steps:
- Don’t let students modify the background or characters (as in change the colors, etc.) because otherwise the students spend all their time on “coloring” as opposed to crafting stories.
- If you feel so inclined you can run the coded Scratch Jr. project while taking a screenshot of it and capturing. I used Quicktime on Mac and exported and uploaded to YouTube. You can then create a QR code for the video that you literally (as in with glue and paper) paste to the student’s written stories.
- This format worked for me with narrative writing but I can see how it can easily be modified to include other types of writing as well (ie. doing the same with a unit on poetry could be really cool for example)
All things considered, my students loved it! It gave a fresh look and feel to our Writing Workshop, and I am definitely going to do it again next year. Try it and let me know how it goes!