How I Use It
I used this product to teach my students how to program their own interactive stories. After our narrative writing unit, I introduced my students to Scratch and Scratch Jr. so they could create a digital version of one of their narratives or create a new one. I used Scratch in our computer lab and was able to demonstrate to students how to drag and drop the color-coded command and action blocks via an overhead projector. Thankfully, I had a parent helper in the lab with me to help troubleshoot any difficulties students were having (basically they wanted to know how to change the character and the backdrop (i.e. setting) or how to delete objects, or undo actions)). Once they got the hang of it they were off and programming. When I used Scratch Jr., I checked out the two carts of iPads and distributed one iPad to each child. They preferred using the Scratch Jr. App to the Scratch website because it was more intuitive for them and easier to drag and drop the color-coded programming blocks with their finger than with the mouse. However, once my students became familiar with the command and action blocks, they were able to successfully create their own interactive stories or games.
Created by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a free tool that allows students to learn introductory computer programming. They also have an App called Scratch Jr. for younger children (ages 5-7) available for download on both apple and android platforms. I have found that Scratch Jr. is a little more intuitive and easier for my first graders to use. However, with both Scratch and Scratch Jr. students can program their own stories. Students are able to choose their own characters and settings. By placing a command block and an action block together, they can have their character walk, jump, dance, etc. Also, they can type in text to make their character talk or record their own voice/sounds (which they loved) and have their character talk, sing, or make sounds. By continuing to drag and drop these color-coded blocks, students are able to create codes for interactive stories or games. I like that students are able to test their codes immediately (as soon as they drag and link the color-coded blocks together) to see if it worked the way they envisioned and if not go back and try a different set of instructions. My students love the gaming element, creativity components, and simplicity of use. I love it because I can seemlessly incorporate technology into the reading and writing curriculum by having students create interactive stories. Plus there are so many options that my students are motivated to write more stories.