The impetus behind this idea came from constantly reading over the Grade 2 Common Core standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.6 which basically states that students should, “with guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.”

Then one day as I was running my coding after-school activity and a student said “Hey, I can change the lights on the bot to match the mood” and that was all the spark I needed to see whether I could challenge my students to write poems sharing a strong feeling – and then do a little app smashing to put it all together as a video.

So I did. This is how …

Materials Used: 

  • An original poem.
  • A tablet device capable of running Blockly code by Wonder Workshop. A Dash or Dot bot. However, you can replicate this using concept use other hardware/software combos that you might have available (so long as the Bot is able to “speak” the poem). 
  • A green screen (or in my case two green cardboard folders) and a green screen software. We used the Green Screen app by DoInk.
  • Another table/device to video the performance (as the other tablet is busy running the code).
  • Some original artwork as the background for the poem (and to replace the green screen) – I had most students draw with color pencils.  Some really wanted to use a point application – the only thing I didn’t want was to “borrow” images from the internet (both for copyright infringement purposes and to help students understand the value of original content creation).

Part 1: Challenge students to write a poem that shares a feeling, or even better with a change in feeling (so you can change light colours on the bot to match). With the wisdom of hindsight the poem should be less than a minute to read around (due to audio clip file limitations during coding).

Part 2: Code the poem. The original idea was to change the color of the led lights to match the mood, however the change in color doesn’t really show up when you record the video.  Due to file size limitations we read in phrases (good for teaching into line breaks I suppose).

Part 3: Draw the background. Again here I had students use paper/pencil but whatever you prefer works.

Part 4: Record the video of the coded poem on a green screen. This is where you will need an additional device as the “original” device will be the one linked to the bot running the code.  Depending on the age of your students you might want to have set up a tripod and/or do the recording for them.

Part 5: Put it all together using a Green screen program and then export as a video. From there share and celebrate!

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Lessons Learned: the whole process (starting with writing the poem and ending with sharing the video) took about 4 hours with 20 students – we stretched it out over 4 hour blocks.  Use this number only as a rough guide as a lot of it depends on your level of comfort, the student’s familiarity with the tools, etc.

By popular request here are a few sample videos: