Minds in Bloom is thrilled to welcome Jen from Tech with Jen to our blog today! She’s got a fantastic post about teaching interactive storytelling using Scratch and Scratch Jr. We think you’ll find it useful and informative!
I have a question I’d like you to reflect on as you read this post. Do you consider coding an important part of your everyday curriculum? I must admit I wasn’t ready to jump on the computer science bandwagon. As an instructional coach, I am not willing to add one more thing to my teachers’ plate unless I think it is a must. So, when I learned a few staggering statistics, I knew I had to rethink my position and figure out a way to fit coding into our already busy schedule.
According to the website Code.org, “Computer science drives innovation throughout the U.S. economy, but it remains marginalized throughout K-12 education.”
- Only 33 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation.
- There are currently 527,169 open computing jobs nationwide.
- Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.
If you take a thorough look at the statistics from Code.org, you soon realize the importance computer science plays in the U.S. economy. Some believe it is as essential as reading and writing. Providing students with skills that can benefit their future in the digital world we are living in means a lot.
One way to connect coding to the curriculum is through interactive storytelling. Interactive storytelling involves combining digital media, such as images, voice, text, etc., to tell a story. Interactive storytelling is nothing new, but as we move to powerful digital tools, students can use apps like Scratch Jr. and the Scratch website.
Using Scratch and Scratch Jr. to create interactive stories allows students to demonstrate learning, develop critical thinking, problem-solve, AND practice their coding skills. I like to relate coding concepts to a studied topic. Here are a few examples:
- Analyze circular endings (literacy) and the idea of looping (coding) – Circular endings have similar words, phrases, characters, or settings that you will see at the beginning, as well as at the end of the story. Circular endings connect the beginning to the end and help the author bring closure to the story. Loops in coding is an action repeated over and over. Therefore, there is a definite similarity between these two concepts.
- Creating timelines of famous Black Americans (social studies) and persevering as a coder – Allow students to research historical figures that have persevered and then create scenes in Scratch or Scratch Jr. to develop a timeline of a series of events in their lives. Students choose, draw, or upload backgrounds (scenes) and sprites (characters) that reflect the appropriate information about the historical figure being studied and animate their story as needed. During the lessons, I always discuss perseverance because coders hit roadblocks.
- Analyze words and phrases in stories (literacy) and conditionals (coding) – I love to study authors’ craft. So, this lesson is one of my faves. Using the book Come On, Rain!, I have students look for words and phrases the author used to show the reader it is about to rain. I then have students create scenes in Scratch/Scatch Jr. to illustrate the words and phrases. I relate this to coding to connect a concept known as conditionals. Conditionals are statements that can only run under certain conditions. In the book Come On, Rain!, the words and phrases are clues that it is about to rain. Rain occurs under certain circumstances.
- Create weather reports (science) and code conditionals – To extend students’ understanding of conditionals, have students create weather reports to show their understanding of different types of clouds. Certain clouds develop various kinds of weather. These conditions allow us to predict our weather more easily.
Now, these and other ideas help teachers feel confident in teaching coding skills in the classroom without having to add one more thing to their busy schedule.But if coding is to become embedded in schools, wouldn’t it take a massive overhaul in teacher training and, honestly, within the curriculum? I consider myself pretty proficient with technology and curriculum, but even I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of teaching my students how to code.
What I have found, though, through learning these lessons is you don’t have to worry if you don’t know enough about coding. You are not alone. You don’t have to be an expert; your students will figure it out if only given a chance. Learn it together; you’ll be glad you did! However, if you want to know more about coding basics, then you might be interested in a few posts I’ve written:
- Coding in the Classroom: Is it That Important?
- Coding Basics: What You Need to Know
- Interactive Storytelling and Coding
You may also want to try the technology challenge I created. My technology challenges will provide you small doses of information to help you integrate technology into the classroom seamlessly. Click here or on the picture below to download.
So, what do you think? Have I convinced you that coding is an important part
of your everyday curriculum? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I hope you enjoyed this post and got some value that you can take to your classroom. I’d love to hear from you! One way I like to connect with people is through my Facebook group called Tech with Us. There I have partnered with some of my favorite techie friends, and we have a whole group of educators who collaborate and learn from each other. If you are interested, I hope you will join us!
Jennifer Kimbrell is a curriculum designer and an educational consultant who supports school districts interested in going 1:1. She helps districts plan their initiative, train teachers, and integrate technology into their existing curriculum. She is the writer behind the blog Tech with Jen. She has been an educator for over 20 years and has a passion for ensuring technology isn’t something “extra” but fits naturally into the day-to-day instruction.