Thursday, July 23, 2015

Animate Poems With Scratch

Some of the most successful tech integration collaborations happen at unexpected times. Our 5th grade English teacher, Jenny Kirsch, asked me to help brainstorm ideas for her students to somehow animate excerpts of poems they had written. It was meant to be a quick end-of-year activity, a fun way for the students to extend and present their work. What resulted was a very nice opportunity for
students to use some simple Scratch coding to add movement and imagery to their wonderful verses. Jenny writes eloquently about the activity here. I would simply like to focus on the computer science concepts this activity affords.
The students would have about two-and-a-half 45-minute class periods to work on their animations. I conceived of a model animation I could teach them how to make quickly, and that would give them enough to make fun things happen with just a few concepts. The basic idea was this:

  • First put each line of text on separate backdrops of the stage,
  • then script the stage so each backdrop shows for a couple seconds,
  • then add a sprite and make at hide and show when certain lines are being shown,
  • and finally, make the sprite move at some point, using the glide block. 
The concepts they learned were,

  • creating sequences of commands, 
  • synchronizing parallel script processes, 
  • and moving sprites using x, y coordinates. 
You can see the scripts in the model program linked above, and here is a, step-by-step tutorial that students can use for guidance.
We split the lessons into two parts, teaching them how to make the backdrops and their script first, then animating the sprite during the second class. It may occur to you that there are better ways to script the animations, such as using broadcast blocks to synchronize timing and putting the 'wait' and 'next backdrop' blocks in a 'repeat' block. With more time I would have taught them to use these approaches, and Jenny and I plan to give it more time next year. In fact a few students did suggest the latter idea because they had used it in our Girls Who Code club, and I let them run with it.
And finally, here are the results!

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