By Steve Floyd

Literacy is about more than reading or writing -- it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture.

Those who use literacy take it for granted -- but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today's world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of "literacy as freedom."

UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003-2012

 

 

The integration of coding in Language Arts provides students with an opportunity to develop skills and competencies across a variety of strands including Oral Communication, Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy. Well developed coding and computational thinking tasks provide students with a context whereby they engage in areas that include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Developing Ideas
  • Organizing ideas
  • Extending Understanding
  • Clarity and Coherence
  • Producing Media Texts

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised

 

Activity

 

The following activity involves students representing stories using draggable blocks of code to control characters and events that take place on the screen.

 

The following document may be useful to use during class activities.

 

As students engage in these activities, educators may find opportunities to prompt students and to extend student thinking or activities.

 

Teachers are expected to plan activities that blend expectations from the four strands in order to provide students with the kinds of experiences that promote meaningful learning and that help students recognize how literacy skills in the four areas reinforce and strengthen one another.

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised

 

1. Present students with an appropriate story.

 

story clip

 

2. Have students decompose the story into smaller parts. Decomposing the story allows students to analyze each part on its own and is an important planning and design step. This decomposition can be done individually, in small groups, or together as a class with the story projected or written on the board.

 

story clip


screen capture of scratch jr. program

 

 

3. Have students choose an appropriate background (setting) and sprite (character). Both Scratch Jr and Scratch allow students to change backgrounds and sprites (a small image that can be controlled in a computer program). The selection of these program components requires students to consider the story elements carefully. A classroom discussion here works great.

 

4. Have students program the sprite. Ensure that students pay close attention to detail: Freddy walks to his bed, hops three times, then falls and bumps his head on his fourth hop.

 

screen capture of scratch jr. program

 

5. Have students share their programs with each other and add elements. Students may enjoy discussing the similarities and differences between their program and the program created by their classmate. Students may also enjoy adding sounds, speech bubbles or additional elements to extend the complexity of their programs.

 

 

6. Provide students with a second story to program.

screen capture of scratch jr. program


stacked commands in Scratch Jr.

This time, allow students to decompose the story and select program elements on their own. Again, they can share their finished product with their classmates to discuss similarities and differences.

 

7. Extend the activity allowing for creativity on the part of the students.

    • Allow students to write their own story for the class to program (they will have to carefully consider the background, sprites and actions that can be programmed).
    • Allow students to write a story and program it on their own. Then have them share the finished program with a classmate. This classmate can view the program and write what they believe to be the story. Students can then compare the “developers” story with the “viewers” story to see similarities and differences.

 

Coding and computational thinking activities such as this allow for a variety of additions, substitutions and extensions. Often teachers, and even students, will head off in a variety of different and valuable directions fuelled by curiosity. I would encourage educators to embrace these opportunities.

The first time, begin by following this lesson as instructed. As the lesson progresses, pay attention to student discussions, successes and challenges. You will then be prepared to alter the lesson in an effort to ensure that it meets the needs of future students.