I would love to try to create a simple Lemonade Stand game with Scratch. I think it would be a ton of work to recreate the whole game, but it seems simple enough that the basic structure might work. But it's just a thought at this point. My students will already be familiar with that game when we get to Scratch later in the year, so it might be a neat way to introduce advanced concepts.
With the end of school closing in quickly (one more week!), I decided to show my students some of the advanced projects Scratch is capable of. I walked them through how to open the projects that come packaged with Scratch, and how to analyze the scripts to get techniques and ideas for their own projects.
At their own computers, students were able to explore the projects and try them out anyway they liked. Some simply played the games, some tried manipulating the scripts, and some just enjoyed the music. :p
Unfortunately, I think this is where my Scratch instruction is going to end this year. If I were to extend it from here, my next lesson would be to take an existing project and then tweak it into something else. I was actually planning to tweak Surf Taco by changing some costumes, and also adding the ability to keep score. But that will have to wait until next year.
I can't wait!
After briefly reviewing what we did together the previous week (see Lesson #1), I showed my students how to animate their characters. The most important recommendation was to keep the movement and animation scripts separate from each other. All we used was a "next costume" block and a "wait __ secs" block.
After animating some of our fish, I showed them how to play sounds. We added a bubbling sound effect to the fish tank, and we made one of our fish make noise as he swam. Again, the recommendation was to make the sound script separate from the other scripts so they wouldn't interfere with one another.
When the students went to try this out on their own there was more confusion than from the previous week. For animation, most of the confusion seemed to stem from confusion between Sprites and Costumes. For sounds, many students got sidetracked on just listening to all the sounds available or else began trying to record their own sounds. Either way some of them forgot how to use the sounds once they had what they wanted. There was also a small percentage of students who were absent for Lesson 1 and they were definitely unsure of what to do.
All said, after two weeks, Scratch is still a hugely engaging program which has really captured the interest of most of the 4th and 5th graders I am teaching it to.
I decided for lesson three to slow down a bit and allow the students to explore some of what is possible with Scratch. More on that soon...
Because my students don't really relate to the concept of "computer programming" I chose to relate Scratch to having your own personal robot. You could program your robot to clean your room, move around your house, etc. We were going to do the same with Scratch. I also tied Scratch to creating video games, since this is something they are enormously interested in.
After briefly reviewing the 4 main sections of the Scratch interface I began by demonstrating the "move 10 steps" block. When the students saw that little cat move the light bulbs over their heads were immediately blinking. I then showed them the result of changing the 10 to 1 or 100.
From here I began to introduce new aspects of Scratch by posing problems.
"Wouldn't it be better if we could just get our character to walk across the screen without having to keep double-clicking this block?" So I showed them the Forever block.
"Now our guy is off the screen, how can we keep him from running off?" -- edge, bounce.
"Oops, he's bouncing back upside down...." -- Changing rotation mode.
"The guy is only going in a straight line, I want him to go all over." -- Blue direction line.
So the first part was motion, and by now the students were pretty excited. So the next step was to put in a quick background and then tell them their task.
"Today, you will be creating a scene with a background, and at least two characters that move. Let's do one together, quickly. Let's make a fish tank."
This was entirely inspired by the aquarium animation that is included with Scratch. I started a new project, chose the underwater background, and showed the students how to change the cat costume to a fish. From there we repeated the motion-steps we previously explored.
Somewhere along the way I also showed them how to resize the sprites, how to create new sprites, and how to copy sprites. I also showed them about using the green flag block to start their scripts.
This was the whole lesson. To reign in their curiosity, especially concerning sounds, I told them that as long as they made a background with two moving characters they could explore other parts of the program on their own, but I wasn't going to show them how to do any of the other things until the following weeks.
I would rate this lesson as a big success. In a very short amount of time the students were able to get very creative with just the small bit that I showed them. They also had a huge amount of curiosity towards some of the other aspects of Scratch that I didn't show them, especially adding sounds.
My plan for lesson two, which I'll be starting tomorrow, is to introduce the concepts of sound and animation. That will probably be plenty...if not, I may also throw in the "Say" and "Think" blocks. I'm very excited!
The format of my computer lab is this: Students come in and sit on the floor, looking at a projection of my laptop on a large screen. I give them about a 15-20 minute lesson, which includes instruction and modeling of what they will be doing that day. Then they go to their individual computers and work on what I showed them.
One limitation to this method is that they don't all walk through the steps together with me on their own computers, instead they get all the information up front. Therefore, I have to be careful not to overload my lessons with too much information, otherwise they may get confused.
Despite that limitation, I really like having the lab setup this way. It has worked great for the past 2 years, and I have a pretty good sense of what a "digestible" lesson looks like.
But Scratch can become so complex that it really needs to be presented in a highly structured manner, or else the students can easily become lost.
That's my challenge. How would you begin?