I was invited to help a couple of first grade classes with Hour of Code activities last week, and thought that we would try using Scratch Jr. I had a different lesson planned for our Friday morning (“Can I Make the Sun Set?”) – but then it snowed in San Antonio Thursday night.
For those of you in northern climes, snow may be somewhat unexceptional, but in San Antonio snow is pretty close to miraculous. Many of my younger students had never seen snow in their entire lives, so it seemed only fair to change our Scratch Jr. lesson the morning following our unusual weather phenomena.
Most of the students in the class were as new to Scratch Jr. and programming as they were to snow. I started the class with the BrainPop Jr. video I mentioned in last week’s post. Then I used Reflector to demonstrate the Scratch Jr. interface on the classroom screen. I talked about the meaning of “character” in Scratch Jr., and how it could be any object that you want to program to move in some way. I showed them how to add a background. I also demonstrated that they would need a “trigger” for their character such as the green flag, and how to program characters to move. Then I gave them some time to explore.
After they played around a bit in pairs on the iPads, I asked for their attention so I could show them how to add a camera shot as a background. This was something new I had learned last week, and it takes a bit of practice. This video explains it well. (She is using the tool to make a character, but you can use it for a background as well.)
The students worked on taking pictures for the background. Some chose the classroom for photos, and some chose themselves. Their homeroom teachers and I definitely needed to give support to many students – especially when we realized the camera tool wasn’t enabled for Scratch Jr. on all of the iPads.
Once most of the students had backgrounds, I showed them how to add snow as a character. They clicked on the + sign to add a character, and then the paintbrush icon to make their own. After choosing the color white, I told them to make white dots all over with the tip of their finger. It’s difficult to see the white dots on the white canvas, but after they click the checkmark at the top, the dots should show up on their background.
Students can move the white dots to the top of the background, and then program their snow “character” to move down when the green flag is triggered. I showed them how to add higher numbers under the down arrow so the snow would reappear at the top and come down again if they wanted.
To make it look a bit more realistic, the students can add snow as characters several times, positioning them at different spots on the top to fill the screen with snow falling once the flag is tapped.
Another extension would be to teach the students the “bump” trigger so that when the snow hits another character, such as the Scratch cat, the character can say something, such as, “It’s snowing!” You could also ask them if they can figure out a way to make the snow accumulate at the bottom of the screen.
There were various rates of success in the classroom for this project. Some students got confused and added snow to the background instead of making it a character, and the camera tool required patience and practice. However, there was a lot of learning going on, and great engagement.
This lesson could be another way to connect to the Snow Globe lesson that I have posted about in the past. . Hopefully, the students will now think of other ways to use Scratch Jr. for storytelling and creating in their classrooms and at home.