Inquiring Into Coding
In grade 4 we have been creating animations using Scratch Jr for the past 3 lessons.
I explained a little bit about start blocks, motion blocks, etc. and the students explored and created whatever they wanted.
I printed off some Scratch Jr task cards and students worked in table groups to ensure everyone could complete the task. By completing the tasks, students learned how to:
- adjust speed of motions (Run a Race activity)
- make objects appear/ disappear (Sunset)
- change from one scene to another (Moonrise after Sunset)
- use loops (Dribble a Basketball), make objects appear to move further away by becoming smaller and seem more lifelike by creating smaller and smaller bounces
- use envelope to send message from one character to another (Meet and Greet or Conversation)
For the Hour of Code, I found this video by Philip Bagge and created his game on my iPad. I connected my iPad to the class projector and played the game below in full screen mode so that students couldn’t see the code behind it.
Still without showing them the code, I tasked the students with re-creating the game. There were so many “lightbulb moments” that were clearly visible as students went from not knowing to knowing. I wish I had a camera with me to capture those exact moments of their joy of learning.
As I reflected on this most recent lesson, I tried to unpack what it was that made it so successful:
- students had a little background information and some skills upon which to build
- there was an achievable challenge and I could provide clues/ scaffolding for those who struggled before they became frustrated
- students who wanted to use different obstacles or flying objects were given the leeway to do so
- the only ‘pressure to perform came from successfully meeting the challenge – not a test or a grade
- it was fun – they were creating a game in class!
- when one person figured out how to do something they eagerly shared with others who were less sure – there was a camaraderie in ensuring that everyone was able to succeed
- they learned how to do something they could apply to new situations – when they learned of my plan to create games for their Kindergarten Learning Buddies they were very excited
It seems to me that we should try to achieve this type of learning in other areas as well. In general:
- build on prior knowledge
- differentiate support
- offer an element student choice
- work collaboratively
- allow students to iterate and tinker with their work until it is just the way they want it
- apply learning to new tasks/ take action