This second semester, sixth graders embarked on developing their coding skills with a visually computing programming language called Scratch. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu) makes it easy to create interactive art, stories, games and simulations and be able to share these creations online.
After a week of teacher-guided learning sessions with students, the succeeding lessons were taught by students themselves. The class was divided into groups and each group was assigned a set of blocks to teach and demonstrate to the rest of the class. While it was difficult to let go of the reigns in the classroom, the tasks proved to be more rewarding for students as they took ownership of their learning. It gave them a sense of responsibility that the rest of the class will only be able to understand the different blocks in Scratch if they teach them well.
Students learned to create animated stories with accompanying sound effects, through the use of motion, looks, sounds, and pen blocks. Being able to immediately see the output of writing codes or putting Scratch blocks together, students become aware that computer science or coding is not just a professional thing anymore. Programming is now something everybody can do to express creativity.
You may check students creations by going to their Scratch gallery online. Type http://scratch.mit.edu/users/ then add the student’s username at the end. Example: http:/scratch.mit.edu/users/janed22.
This year’s Makers’ Fest and Scratch Day was a display of students’ creativity and ingenuity. The day started off with a student assembly that featured the best Genius Hour projects of the year. It was unique a experience for everyone, listening to students share how they learned about their passion.
Here is the link to the Genius Hour presentations:
Opening of the exhibit of students’ creations followed shortly. Creations ranged from Scratch games and interactive stories to originally designed robot explorers. At the end of the day, students gathered again at the MPH for the awarding ceremony.
Since the start of the this quarter, the 6th graders have been learning and practicing basic programming skills using Scratch. They are now able to create digital stories, draw shapes and figures, remix and debug simple scripts. More than learning about programming, it is the attitude and intrinsic effect that is rewarding to me as a teacher.
Last Monday, the class had summative tasks to do. They were to re-create programs which I showed in class, and to follow the guidelines for these programs. While each student is required to submit their programs individually, they may choose to work or collaborate with their classmates to complete the tasks. This is reflecting real-life practice where ideas are more powerful when they are shared and challenged.
As a teacher, I always wait for those moments in class when students realize something about themselves. These moments are what drive us teachers to keep on teaching.
In the course of completing tasks, students were busy working together. There was one student who kept on telling me that he could not get the right scripts. I kept encouraging him to work with others first, before asking me. However, his seatmates were also busy creating their programs. I saw how persistent he was, and even if it took a long time, he was finally able to create the program, by himself. What he said right after was a kind of moment I was talking about. He said, “I’m so proud of myself.” And I was too!