Dear Natalie Kuhl,
There was a lot to think about and to consider how to apply in the classroom, and in this letter, I’d like to focus on how I could use Scratch to teach my students easy block-based visual programming as an educational tool. Using Scratch would allow students to build a community in which they can create their own stories, animations, and games, which would allow them to be engaged while learning the programming language. Students will be able to use Scratch inside and outside of the classroom. When I learned about Scratch I was amazed at how putting a couple of simple blocks together would make my animations come to life. While I was working on different projects through Scratch I learned a lot about myself and realized how beneficial and important it is for students to give this a try. I want students to learn that anyone can do programming, no matter their age and gender. I believe this will help a lot of students overcome their fears and learn new abilities.
Over the summer break, I participated in a professional learning experience with LUTE-STEM where we worked with online programs such as Scratch, Youth Voices, NowComment, and Kumospace at Lehman College. Through them all, I gained a lot of knowledgeable material, strategies, and skills on how to apply tactics to make student instruction more multimodal.
I would like to propose that we start by teaching the students the basic blocks in Scratch. Then we will give students the opportunity to connect at a higher level by starting a project named “I AM”. This project would allow students to learn the basics of programming while animating a story or poem about themselves so they can later share it with each other.
To do this we will need a computer lab as this project is computer-based where each student will work on their own project. Due to the age group, students will require the assistance of the teacher in order to guide and complete the project.
When the students complete this activity, they will have made progress on these three standards from the New York State Education Department of Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards
- 2-3.IC.6: Identify and discuss factors that make a computing device or software application easier or more difficult to use.
- 2-3.DL.1: Locate and use the main keys on a keyboard to enter text independently.
- 2-3.DL.2: Communicate and work with others using digital tools to share knowledge and convey ideas.
Here’s how I think we might introduce this activity. After the classroom has settled in and all the students are in their seats the teacher will say, “Today we are going to learn how we can use different programming to create live animations and games with simple coding blocks. Each of you will work on a project called, “I Am”. In this project, you will be able to create a live animation talking about yourself in the computer lab. You can talk about your hobbies, your family, your dreams, anything that represents you. The teacher will explain the platform being used, “Scratch is a platform where the community is designed for children to use coding language to create visual digital stories, animations, and games. Scratch is designed to encourage computational thinking and problem-solving skills”. The teacher will go on to explain the different blocks that Scratch has and will give them the basic 10 blocks that the students will need to create their project.
Once in the computer lab, the teacher will show her own example to the class and then will review once more the 10 basic blocks for those who didn’t understand the first time. The teacher will walk around the room observing, answering questions, and assisting those who need help. The teacher will inform them when they have 15 minutes left and will do a count down every other 5 minutes until it’s time for them to exchange seats.
I would also propose at the end that students exchange seats for sharing and giving feedback on each other’s projects. They could use this checklist to self-assess and to give each other feedback:
- I can see a lot of details that make his or her project stronger.
- I can see why he or she decided to add this to their project.
- I can suggest he or she add a bit more details about him or herself.
This activity should take at least an hour to complete, which should allow time for productive struggle. To encourage persistence, I think we might have them complete the final touches at home after they have received their feedback to revise and resubmit their work.
When they have finished this activity, It would be great if we could ask the students to write and talk about how they used one of these two Habits of Mind.
- Listening with Understanding and Empathy
- Thinking about your thinking
- Finding Humor
I will also use these Habits of Mind to give the students both written and oral feedback while they are working and once they finish their work! Thank you for taking the time to consider this proposal. I hope you see how valuable this activity could be for our students. Please let me know if you have any revisions that I might consider for this activity. I look forward to working with you on this.