1, 2, 3, code ! - Cycle 2 activities - Sequence II-a: Telling the adventure with Scratch Junior

This sequence deals with programming an animation to tell the hero's adventure from Sequence I.


Scratch Junioran ideal environment for learning to code

There are a variety of tools for learning to program, but few of them are suited to young elementary students who are still learning to read. To do this sequence as early as first grade, we chose to base it on the Scratch Junior programming environment, where all programming elements are represented by drawings, without any text other than numbers. The Scratch Junior application can be downloaded at http://www.Scratchjr.org/ in two versions, one for Android tablets (tap the  icon) and one for Apple tablets (tap the icon).

Scratch Junior has other advantages, such as being free, easy to use and very complete. Moreover, students who have used Scratch Junior during elementary school will feel comfortable continuing learning in Scratch grades four and up (see in the Cycle 3 activities, sequence II).


What can you do if your school has only computers but not tablets?

Scratch Junior is only available for tablets. This is easier for younger children because they do not need to know how to type, use the mouse or browse through a tree structure of folders and files. Tablets are ideal for programming in elementary school while computers are more relevant for grades four and up.

However, it is still possible to do programming in grades three and under. If your school does not have tablets, you can adapt this sequence to the more elaborate Scratch version, which runs on computers (on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems). To make the adaptation easier, we suggest doing an alternative sequence using Scratch instead of Scratch Junior (Sequence IIb: Telling an adventure with Scratch).


What can you do if your class has a robot?

We have another alternative to Scratch Junior if your class has a Thymio robot (Sequence III). Programming a robot uses the same concepts as programming on a computer; they are simply applied to a physical object. The Thymio robot is programmed using visual programming language (VPL), which, although not as rich or simple as Scratch Junior, is a very good tool for learning to program from first grade.


Working in half-groups

To make this possible and make it easier to manage the class during the programming activities (during which the teacher will have to work closely with students), half the class can work independently on exercises not requiring assistance from the teacher while the other half of the class can work on the project. Then, the teacher can have the groups switch roles (A and B in the following lessons).


Doing the project yourself first

It is essential for the teacher to take two or three hours of their own time BEFORE the first programming lesson to get familiar with Scratch Junior and carry out the tasks the students will have to perform during the project.

Otherwise, they may not be able to help the students when they need it. It is very easy (simply follow the instructions in this sequence) and even quite amusing.






Lesson 1

Getting started with Scratch Junior

The students are introduced to Scratch Junior, an easy-to-use graphic programming environment for children ages 5 to 8. They explore the ways to control a character's movements.

Lesson 2

The first episode: Choosing the hero and controlling his movements

Students tell an episode of their hero's adventure. While they do so, they learn the new functionalities of Scratch Junior (deleting a character, importing a new character, choosing a setting) and are exposed to the key ideas from the previous lessons (set of instructions, event).

Lesson 3

Simplifying a program by using loops

The students continue learning to use Scratch Junior by exploring the instruction "repeat...," which is a loop. They practice anticipating what a program given to them will do, combining loops and movement instructions. Finally, they revise their initial program by replacing the repeated instructions with loops.

Lesson 4

Coordinating several scripts

Students tell a new episode of their hero's adventure, with more autonomy than in the first lessons. They discover new functionalities in Scratch Junior and deepen their understanding of what a set of instructions and a program are.

Lesson 5

Predefined loops and infinite loops

Students tell a new episode of their hero's adventure. They reinforce the key ideas from the previous lessons, namely predefined loops, and learn about infinite loops.

Lesson 6

Adding recorded dialogues to the program

Students learn to record character dialogues.

Lesson 7

Producing the final episode autonomously

Students work on their own to tell the last episode of their hero's adventure. They cover the key ideas from the entire sequence and finish their program.


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