Thursday, March 22, 2018

Scratch's updated Getting Started page and Coding as a Language Activity

As I have mentioned here and here, coding is a naturalistic language activity in which we can engage students to build a number of skills: following directions, collaborating with peers, and expository language. This can extend to using if/then sentence constructions or explaining how they constructed a program. These activities need not take any programming expertise on your part, or extended amounts of activity time; simple, discrete activities can be conducted using the web-based (Flash in fact, so you'll need your laptop or a Chromebook) Scratch and their Getting Started page. Call it building "games" and your students will be hooked.

To get started with Scratch, you'll want to sign up for a free account. The Getting Started page has selected activities, but I would recommend downloading the entire set of "cards" and printing them on a color printer (you can also buy the whole set for $18.50)- the colors are helpful for students to find. You can also download the card set, send it to your iPad and have the visual be displayed from iBooks as the students use a laptop or Chromebook.

Here's a simple sample activity. You can't imagine the joy I saw on two 2nd graders' faces as they were successful in creating a program where you click a trackpad and a letter changes color:

In the process, they needed to practice: 
-stating the "big picture" of the activity (using when or if/then)
-following written directions
-"thinking with their eyes"
-navigating categories (of scripts- Events and Looks)

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