How can computational thinking be authentically integrated into writing workshop? People usually say that computational thinking is more connected to math and science, but I think that the inclusion of computational thinking, computer science, and coding into a writing unit will open a tremendous amount of doors for young writers who may have never considered the possibility of Scratch as an entry point for written expression.

When narrative writing, specifically play-writing, is introduced to students, what if students were able to use Scratch to support the writing process – brainstorming, composition, revision, editing and publishing? I think that this would be a powerful way for students to have their words come to life through the animated characters, engaging backgrounds, and even interactivity for their audience. Not only that, it seems as though parts of the writing process are similar to computational thinking and it would be worth the time to work with students to notice the similarities and differences.  Some people might say that writing has a specific structure and way that it needs to be done in an paragraph format or an essay. This makes me think that it would be important to emphasize that structure lives within computational thinking as well in the form of algorithms and careful attention must be given the sequence of blocks and commands so that the story is cohesive and focused. It may be beneficial for many writers to have the visual component side by side while they compose so that they can clearly identify places or moments that they are glossing over or they do not make sense. This is an area that can be challenging for writers of all ages and experiences.

Can a writing unit be taught using the language of computational thinking rather than the language typically associated with the writing process?  Algorithms are at the heart of strategy instruction and task initiation and completion. If students are given a writing task from the start (write a play), with support and guidance from an educator, they can decompose the task into smaller pieces to establish the ordering that needs to be followed to get from brainstorming to publishing. With Scratch, this may look like – Select a background for the setting, choose two sprites as characters, identify a conflict that the two will encounter, etc. Instead of brainstorming, planning and drafting, the writer could say that they they are decomposing, From this, I also believe that revision could be explained as abstraction – We look back at the story and take out what is unnecessary

Scratch Surprise – I could see the language within the blocks posing a challenge to all learners. Not only is coding a language in itself, the written language has vocabulary that may need to be explicitly taught to students. However, I think students would enjoy Scratch as a playground to experiment with and perhaps discovering on their own what each block means and does which in turn would support their independent building of vocabulary in an implicit manner.

I did not feel limited by the 10 blocks. It was a fun challenge. On my first round, I used 11 blocks and upon review, I realized that there was a block that I could eliminate and still get the effect that I wanted.

I like tutorials and use them often but I often feel impulsive and impatient when I am waiting. I found that pausing and working through a tutorial side by side helps me to be more productive. It’s hard to compare the projects. I feel that even though there were specific objectives, they were still open ended enough to create something unique.

The Scratch program shows that I like to have fun with new tools. I tried out a bunch of new blocks and sprites including using the drawing tool for to draw a sprite and uploading a png file to add a sprite. Thanks for that tip Tom! One new thing that I learned while creating this project is that I can change the effect of a sprite. For example, I had arrows appear to point to a purple balloon after I said that my favorite color is purple. I used a mosaic setting.

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Nile
August 19, 2021 8:20 pm

Hi Marina:

I agree that computational thinking can also be applied to subjects other than math and science. I think it can certainly be applied to writing for either English or ELA classes. It can certainly be used as a script to outline exactly what someone wants to draw or the story that they want to tell. Writing in this context as it relates to scratch could also be used as a way to network, collaborate and get feedback from your peers. I also agree that the tutorials could be confusing for not only students with disabilities but also students who are new language learners as well. They might have a hard time comprehending the meaning of some of the vocabulary terms and not be able to follow the instructions. In order for students to be successful with both computational thinking, scratch and writing, I think the instructors would have to do a pre-teach of all three. After that they can tie all of the components from each one to build a great lesson.

Maritza
August 16, 2021 6:18 am

Dear Marina:

I am amazed by your post, “Marina’s Scratch Funhouse” because you went in-depth with how computational thinking can be incorporated into writing workshop. I have read many articles about how computational thinking can be applied to any discipline, but I have not come across an article that explains in detail how this is possible.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “When narrative writing, specifically play-writing, is introduced to students, what if students were able to use Scratch to support the writing process – brainstorming, composition, revision, editing and publishing?” I love how you explained how students are able to experience this writing process by creating projects in Scratch. In Scratch students have the opportunity to create their own stories and sometimes they don’t realize how they are not only putting their computational thinking skills into practice, but also building on their writing skills.

Another sentence that I was amazed by was “It may be beneficial for many writers to have the visual component side by side while they compose so that they can clearly identify places or moments that they are glossing over or they do not make sense.” I agree with this statement because many children need visual support to better understand and complete an assignment. For example, when completing my Scratch projects, I often referred to the video samples given in each project to better access the information. In addition, visual aids can facilitate the writing process for ESL/MLL and students with special needs.

Have you seen this article, “Storytelling, Writing and Computational Thinking?” (https://nevershushed.com/2020/01/02/storytelling-writing-and-computational-thinking/) I thought you might be interested in this because in his writing the author included real life stories about how families and children have used Scratchjr to create digital storytelling while practicing early computational thinking.  

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I learned so much from your post on how I can use Scratch to teach students about the writing process. 

Khurram
August 2, 2021 3:45 pm

Dear Marina:

I am interested by your post, “Marina’s Scratch Funhouse
,” because of the connections you bring up between the schools writing unit and computational thinking.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “It may be beneficial for many writers to have the visual component side by side while they compose so that they can clearly identify places or moments that they are glossing over or they do not make sense.” I think this is interesting because a lot of what we do in the classroom is usually done without a visual component.

Another sentence that I agreed with was: “Some people might say that writing has a specific structure and way that it needs to be done in an paragraph format or an essay.” This stood out for me because a lot of my life I was used to the default that an essay is something like 5 paragraphs (an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion) but I realized this was not a way for my writing to be expressive if I only stuck to this format.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I do not have much experience with connections to the writing process.

Last edited 1 year ago by Khurram
Jennifer
July 29, 2021 4:37 pm

Dear Marina: 
I am interested in your inquiry post “Marina’s Scratch Funhouse” because I am also thinking about the relationship between computational thinking and the writing process. Your suggestion of starting with using Scratch in playwriting makes a lot of sense to me because drama is such a visual medium. I think you are right that it would be helpful for students to be able to compare their writing and its visual depiction in Scratch side by side. I also think that giving students the language to think of writing as a form of coding could be really powerful.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “On my first round, I used 11 blocks and upon review, I realized that there was a block that I could eliminate and still get the effect that I wanted.” This related to your earlier comment about how revision could mean looking at your code and figuring out what to take out.

Another part that I appreciated was: “Algorithms are at the heart of strategy instruction and task initiation and completion. If students are given a writing task from the start (write a play), with support and guidance from an educator, they can decompose the task into smaller pieces to establish the ordering that needs to be followed to get from brainstorming to publishing.” This stood out for me because I am interested in becoming more effective at scaffolding learning for my students and helping them to identify the precise steps that go into writing (and other elements of an English classroom). I have a tendency to rebel against structure and I need to consciously remind myself that while some students are limited by things like sentence prompts and graphic organizers, others rely on them to render invisible processes visible. 

Have you seen this http://fie-conference.org/sites/fie-conference.org/files/1570093959.pdf? I thought you might be interested in this because it describes an English unit that incorporated computational thinking in some of the ways you describe. In particular, it had resources for using play scenes that had been coded along with analysis of the play itself.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I think there are many ways we could explore integrating computational thinking into the writing process. I am also curious if you have thoughts about ways to incorporate it, and Scratch specifically, into other elements of the English curriculum. For example, I wonder how we might use it in reading workshop or literary analysis tasks.
Jen

Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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