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Design a Coding Unit for the Classroom

STEM learning objectives are being included in many school, district, and national curriculum standards. As a result, educators are challenged with creating engaging and challenging instructional materials to teach computer science skills. But most teachers don’t have a technology background, much less knowledge of programming. Here’s some help. Whether you’re using ScratchJr, Scratch, HTML and CSS, or Python and the Turtle Library, the activities will be similar. Following are some basic strategies to consider when you start to design a coding unit for the classroom.

Practice Sequencing Algorithms Offline

Design a coding unit to include offline exercises. This will develop computational thinking. A starting point for instruction is to build algorithms. An algortithm is a description of the program. It uses words and symbols to sequence the instructions.

The logical order of coded instructions is critical. To build this skill, instruct students to physically act out and order a list of directions in simple, everyday language first. For example, if a programmer had to write a program for the task of putting a piece of paper into the trash, it may have the steps:

design a coding unit

Have students act out the steps they listed to check them. Or, have a list of mixed up steps that students must unscramble to place them in the correct order.

Start Simple

When you design a coding unit, move from simple to more complex code slowly.

Don’t offer a complete set of instructions in code and have the students copy it and run it to see the result. This may intimidate young programmers and even make them think that coding is too difficult. Moreover, they won’t learn what each part of the code does.

Instead, write a few lines. Then test the result. The instant response will create a connection between the coding and its function.

coding for kids

In TechnoWhiz, primary students are introduced to ScratchJr by using one block at a time to move the character on the stage. They observe the resulting motion. Then they combine a series of blocks to create a script and see the effect. Next, they add more characters and move them, and learn to loop their actions. By the end of the project, they are able to make an interactive, one-of-a-kind racing game with a background, formatted text, and characters moving at different speeds, dancing, and talking!

Use Trial and Error

Invite students to experiment with values to figure out what works. Try a number or value. Does it need to be higher or lower? Test often to see what works.

Encourage exploration. For example, when using Python and the Turtle Library, circle(50) draws a circle with a specific size. Students can explore by changing the number to a higher value and a lower one. Or code left(90) to turn the turtle symbol. Then change the value to see what angles the turtle turns. The repeated experimentation will result in learning that can be applied in subsequent activities.

Teach Debugging

Don’t wait until mistakes are made. Early in the project, create errors with intention. Have students ‘break‘ the script, then fix it. As a result, they will recognize mistakes that may be made later in their own programming and be more likely to correct them independently.

design a coding unit

Apply Skills

Introduce a skill, repeat or review it, and then transfer it to another application using the program. Avoid teaching a concept in isolation. When students re-use skills in different contexts, they will accumulate their knowledge and be able to apply it in their own creative projects.

teaching coding to kids

For example, in TechnoTurtle students learn to use Python to control the movement of a turtle symbol. Then they apply their skills to write scripts to draw pictures and to move the turtle through a maze. In other parts of the project, they learn about variables. Then they use this concept to create Mad Libs and to produce an interactive carnival game.

Show Samples

Demonstrate how a completed project might look at the beginning of a lesson. This will serve multiple purposes: students will have a clear idea of what they’re making, they will be inspired to create their own unique version, and the sample can be a coding reference guide to use if trouble shooting is needed.

In TechnoHTML, a sample web page about skateboarding sparks student interest and demonstrates the skills they will learn using HTML and CSS:

design a coding unit

  • Formatting text
  • Adding images
  • Making lists
  • Linking to sites

Provide an Opportunity to Share

At the completion of the project, ensure that students have an authentic audience. This helps students to connect their work in the classroom to the real world and see a purpose for their efforts. Their peers are a perfect audience. Celebrate the finished projects and encourage interaction and feedback. The digital nature of programming projects makes it easier than ever to share work with classmates, family, and friends.

design a coding unit

For example, in TechnoCode, middle school students place their collection of completed animated scenes, stories, mazes, and games into an Activity Studio to share with others.

Then they invite feedback and recommendations for improvements.

Reflect on Learning

Finally, give students an opportunity to reflect on their experiences in learning to code. In either written form in a journal or as a class discussion, ask:

  1. What did you like about learning to program?
  2. Is there anything in your project that you would like to change?
  3. What do you wish you knew how to do?
  4. Have you learned anything about yourself?
  5. What advice would you give to a beginner programmer?

design a coding unit

In TechnoTales, students in grades 2 to 5 use five simple reflection responses to gain some insight into their learning.

The young programmers used Scratch to design a story with four scenes, multiple animated characters, a plot with a dilemma to solve, and a happy ending!

Design a Coding Unit

TechnoKids has elementary and middle school programming projects for Scratch Jr, Scratch, Python and the Turtle Library, and HTML. Before starting to design a coding unit of your own, try one! Visit the TechnoKids online store.

design a coding unit

TechnoKids has programming projects to teach ScratchJr, Scratch, Python, and HTML and CSS

8 Coding Tips for Scratch Jr

In Scratch Jr, the Start On Bump block offers an opportunity to make fun action scenes. It also lays the foundation for teaching conditional logic, a cornerstone of computational thinking. Learn about how Start On Bump triggers animated sequences. Afterwards, refer to the helpful coding tips for Scratch Jr. This will allow you to support students when they need to troubleshoot their scripts.

What Is Bumping?

coding tips for scratch jr

Start On Bump is a triggering block that allows the programmer to sequence scripts that are activated when a character touches another character. It can cause a character to say something, grow or shrink, move, play a sound, speed up, or stop. One bump can even cause a chain reaction of succeeding bumps to happen.

Most scenes, stories, or games that students create require characters to interact. Start On Bump is a simple way to introduce cause and effect. It lays the groundwork for the logical thinking required in coding activities. Start On Bump is an ideal precursor to the more advanced programming blocks in Scratch, such as if-then, sensing blocks, and variables. It also provides a foundation for writing code in text-based programming languages such as Python.

coding tips

Sequence events in Scratch Jr using the coding block Start On Bump.

Random Bumping

A great way to introduce students to conditional logic is to create an animated scene that has random bumping. Games often have objects or characters respond when they contact one another. Using the Start On Bump coding block, a spaceship and an alien can be programmed to fly in two different, continuous action sequences. When they happen to touch by chance, the programmer can code the alien to disappear, change course, say something such as “Got me!”, make a sound, or another creative idea. Find this fun activity in TechnoTales, a coding project using Scratch Jr for primary and elementary grades. It’s the Session 4 Skill Review called Under Attack.

Intentional Bumping

The next step is to have characters bump in an purposeful way. Young programmers can use bumps to tell a story or have actions sequence in a timely, meaningful way. An object can move to another and only when it touches, does the resulting action occur. So a monster can walk to an apple and then eat it. Or in a fairy tale, a princess can ask for help and then run to a wizard who then moves to a dragon and, when he gets there, causes the dragon to fly away.

coding tips for Scratch Jr

Use the Start On Bump tool to cause a series of actions to occur.

Coding Tips for Scratch Jr Bumping

Triggering a script to run when characters bump can sometimes be difficult. If the characters do not touch, then no action will occur. Moreover, if the characters touch for too long, often an action will happen too many times.

If the characters do not bump, try these ideas:

  • Increase the number of steps in a script.
  • Increase the size of a character.
  • Change the position of a character on the stage.
  • Turn on the grid to accurately adjust the number of steps.

If the characters touch too long, try these ideas:

  • Always have the bumped character move one step to get away from the character that touched it. After that you can add different coding blocks.
  • Decrease the number of steps in a script.
  • Decrease the size of a character.
  • Change the position of a character on the stage.

TechnoTales is a new STEM project by TechnoKids Inc. It includes a Teacher Guide and Student Workbook with coding activities using Scratch Jr. Primary and elementary students in Grades 2-4 follow the illustrated, step-by-step instructions to create a modern fairy tale. They learn how to build scripts to animate the story action. Find these coding tips for Scratch Jr and more in this coding project!

Storytelling and Coding for Beginners

Storytelling and coding are the ideal combination when introducing programming concepts to beginners. If you are teaching a STEM unit with primary or elementary students consider designing an animated story using Scratch Jr. Discover the reasons for blending creative writing with coding activities.

Storytelling is Familiar

The structure of a story is familiar to children. They know a story has a beginning, middle, and end. This knowledge provides a foundation for organizing the scripts into manageable chunks. Student can code the action using separate story pages to animate each event. This can reduce a complex idea into a simple task.

Building Scripts is Similar to Writing Sentences

When students write a story, words are put together to form sentences. When they are read by a person, the sentences explain what is happening. This is similar to building scripts. When students write code, commands or blocks are put together to form a script. When the computer reads the script, it knows what action to do. The similarities provide a foundation for understanding how to sequence commands when coding.

creative writing and building scripts

Combine creative writing with building scripts.

Animating a Story is Engaging for Students

Coding a story is fun. In the past, students will have written, illustrated, and read stories. However, they may have never animated one. This task will hold their attention, not only because it is new, but because it is so enjoyable. Building scripts to have characters speak and move will engage even the most reluctant writer. Scratch Jr has a library of backdrops and characters that make it easy to make a story come to life.

Coding Follows the Stages of the Writing Process

Coding an animated story has a similar design process as creative writing. First students plan and organize the story idea. They must select a setting, characters, and plot. Next, they build scripts to tell about the events. The content is edited by debugging the scripts to enhance the quality of the storytelling. Upon completion, students publish the coding project to share with an audience.

Transform Reluctant Writers into Coders

Not all students like to express their ideas using text. Coding provides an opportunity to tell a story by building scripts using blocks. The color-coded blocks are sequenced together to control how a character looks and moves. This is a unique way to transform reluctant writers into storytellers.

Storytelling and Coding Activities for Kids

Are you interested in having your elementary students in Grades 2-4 code an interactive story using Scratch Jr? TechnoTales has detailed instructions that explain how to create a modern fairy tale. Each story page introduces a new coding technique. Helpful resources support learning. The project includes a teacher guide, workbook, example videos, coding block flashcards, assessment tools, and more!

storytelling and coding

TechnoTales is a technology project that blends storytelling and coding.

NEW! TechnoTales Coding Activities for Beginners

TechnoTales is a new STEM project by TechnoKids Inc. It includes coding activities for beginners. Primary and elementary students in Grades 2-4 follow the detailed instructions to create a modern fairy tale using Scratch Jr. They learn how to build scripts to animate the story action.

coding activities for beginners

TechnoTales has coding activities for beginners. Build scripts to create an interactive story.

Blend Creative Writing With Coding

The lessons in TechnoTales guide students through the writing process. The project begins with an exercise that forms a connection between storytelling and scripts. Next, students answer questions about an example fairy tale to recognize the story elements. Once familiar with the task, they use a planning sheet to select the setting, characters, and plot. Afterwards, step-by-step instructions explain how create the story pages. A checklist is used to help students review the completed fairy tale to make revisions. Upon completion, the Techno Tale is shared with viewers.

story planner for a coding unit

Imaginative resources support learning.

Storytelling and Coding Activities for Beginners

TechnoTales gradually introduces students to programming concepts. Each story page applies a different coding technique:

Page 1 – Once Upon a Time: Introduce the problem in the story. Animate the hero embarking on a quest using Motion and Looks blocks.
Page 2 – Find a Hidden Item: Engage the viewer. Tap objects on the story page to reveal a hidden item that will help the hero.
Page 3 – Get Help: Seek someone that will help to solve the problem. Count the number of steps to produce an animated sequence that triggers an event when characters bump each other.
Page 4 – Happily Ever After: Create the story ending. Send and receive messages to show the characters celebrating.

Download Scratch Jr to Complete TechnoTales

To use the coding activities in TechnoTales you must have Scratch Jr installed on your devices. Scratch Jr is a free coding app for iPad, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. The interface is designed specially for children. To introduce programming concepts, colored blocks are sequenced together to form scripts. It is fun and easy to build interactive stories, animated scenes, and games.

Scratch Jr interface

Combine coding blocks to build scripts that animate the story action.

Teach Coding to Kids Using TechnoTales Instructional Resources

When you purchase TechnoTales, you will receive:

  • Teacher Guide: Detailed instructions for teaching a coding unit provide tips and strategies.
  • Student Workbook: Digital worksheets with screenshots and illustrated scripts support learning.
  • Example Videos: Sample fairy tales created with Scratch Jr help students gain an understanding of the task and spark inspiration.
  • Scratch Jr Flashcards: Large colored or black and white coding blocks can be used to build scripts as a visual aid.
  • Review Questions: Multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer questions assess knowledge of Scratch Jr tools and scripts.
  • Skill Reviews: Optional activities solidify learning by transferring skills to a new coding project.
  • Assessment Tools: Customizable checklists and marking sheets evaluate the fairy tale.
  • Extension Activities: Enrichment lessons challenge students to expand their coding skills.
  • Offline Coding Exercises: Board game that applies computational thinking to have a player complete a quest.