When someone shares with me a new technology tool, I immediately try to think of ways I can use it in the classroom. There are a lot of cool apps and websites out there, but not everything is appropriate for teaching to the curriculum. One of the most important things I can do in my work with teachers is to make sure I share solid ideas to help them teach their existing standards. So when coding came on the scene, I wasn’t sure how I could incorporate it into the literacy standards. Fortunately, I learned about interactive storytelling and coding using Scratch Jr., but there isn’t a lot of ideas or products to help me implement interactive storytelling with ease.
Knowing that coding is an important skill for students to learn, I knew I had to come up with ways to teach coding skills. However, I knew nothing about coding, so I needed to learn a few basics. With my new found knowledge, I came up with so many fun ideas for integrating coding into my literacy lessons. Which is why I am so happy I get to share one of the first ever coding lessons I incorporated into the literacy curriculum AND it is just in time for the Mentor Text Lessons to Warm Up Your Winter Link-Up using the book Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner.
I chose this book because it has a circular ending. I wanted to tie in circular endings to the idea of looping as it relates to coding. Loops are the action of repeating over and over again.
While circular endings have similar words, phrases, characters, or settings that you see at the beginning, as well as at the end of the story. Authors use this technique to help bring closure and connect the beginning to the end.
The two have lots in common because of the repeating patterns and the ability to connect actions within the code or story. Even though I chose this story because I want to link the two concepts, I don’t immediately begin the unit with technology. There is nothing better than pulling out a good book and reading for enjoyment.
Before and During Reading
The first thing I would do is introduce the story to the students by telling them a bit about the objective. I want students to be aware that we are going to look at how authors use techniques for adding closure to their story using something called circular endings. However, I don’t want to discuss this too much at first.
I would also ask a few questions to help build background and assist them to predict such as:
- Have you ever built snowmen?
- What did you use to build the snowmen?
- Predict what might happen in the story based on the cover.
While I try not to stop a lot during the first reading of a story, I would stop in places to help students make predictions or pause to discuss relevant vocabulary. For example, I might ask students to predict what they think snowmen might do at night or explain words and phrases like wonder or tuckered out.
After the reading of the story, I want to remind students of the objective and tell them they are going to look closely at the beginning and ending to see if the author used a circular ending in the book.
In order to compare the beginning of the story to the end, students are going to start their interactive storytelling in Scratch Jr. to create the two scenes. Show students pictures of the beginning of the book. Have students analyze the following:
- Words and Phrases
Students will use Scratch Jr. to create their first scene by choosing their setting and characters. Scratch Jr. has already made characters or students may draw their own. Another feature I like is that students can take an existing character and edit. I did this to add a wintry apparel to my character to resemble the boy in the story.
Next, I have students create the second scene which is the ending of the story. Students choose their setting, characters and add the words from the story. Once they create their two scenes, it is time to analyze the beginning and ending to determine if the story has a circular ending.
More Coding Integration
The complete product includes more information about looping and coding:
- Understand the looping concept through movement activities
- Use drag and drop blocks to animate the scenes they created for the book Snowmen at Night
- Analyze other books to determine if they have circular endings
- Create their own digital, interactive stories using looping and circular endings.
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