Sunday, April 15, 2012

Integrating Scratch!

Scratch is a programming language developed at MIT for young people to use to create interactive stories, animation and more.  It is free to download.  I recently discovered it through district colleagues in my PLN.  I have introduced it to my students in grades 3-6.

I developed a unit for my third graders that integrates Minnesota history and geography with the technology components of Scratch, Photo Booth, various websites and videos, and ActivInspire Flipcharts using a Promethean (interactive) Board.  Each third grader created an animated tour of Minnesota.  I created lessons about historically significant locations in Minnesota such as Pipestone National Monument, the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Iron Range.  Each lesson utilized our interactive whiteboard.  Students manipulated diagrams, analyzed text and viewed photographs, videos and maps.  Here are some examples of my flipcharts.

The Scratch workspace looks like this:

Users write programs for their moving objects, called sprites, on a stage that can have any kind of background.  The program comes with a wide variety of sprites, such as animals, letters and people; there are various categories of available backgrounds.  My students created their own.  They imported screenshots and photographs.  They also used photo editing tools to create text sprites and their face using Photo Booth effects.

After I modeled the processes of writing programs by dragging in command bars, students wrote their programs.  They moved their "face sprites" around the state.  At each location, they gave information through the use of speech bubbles.

This is one of the programs written.  Locations are given using coordinates on a grid.

As new places were studied, students created new sprites and edited the stage background.

This two-week project was very engaging.  Students were enthusiastic and eager to keep adding information to their tours.  Some students had visited the sites, so there were opportunities for them to share experiences.  Math was incorporated informally as we estimated driving times.  Students talked about making plans to travel to the places we learned about.

I definitely plan on using Scratch next year as I refine my plans.  I am currently planning a similar project for fourth-graders in which we will study the early history of the United States.  Their tours will show the expansion of the country.

Scratch is easy to learn how to use.  The website,, gives examples, guides and tutorials.  Users can also upload their creations to the gallery.

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