Tuesday, February 23, 2016

STEM Studio: Coding a Story Assignment on Scratch--Free Lesson Plan and Worksheet!

In a peculiar plot twist, for the last few years I've been a full-time STEM teacher.  I teach engineering, robotics, computer programming and 3D modeling to middle schoolers.  Best. Job. Ever.

In my 6th grade class, the students are learning computer programming using Scratch. I have a student that is quite a gifted animator. One assignment focused on creating a story, complete with a plot, theme, characters, conflict and resolution.  She created a character for the story called Cake Troll.

I am obsessed with Cake Troll.  I want to hug Cake Troll.  I want to wipe his tears, he's so adorable. Here is the story:

This young lady is in 6th grade!  Yeah, I know.  She's a really gifted animator.  Anyway, I wanted to share my project plans with you in case you'd like to do the same lesson with your students.


  • Digital copy of Story Map
  • Video of Tick Tock Tale or other animated short story
  • printed copies of Story Map for each student
  • SCRATCH account for each student at mit.scratch.edu
  • 3-5 class periods of 45 minutes each

1. Engage interest in the lesson by showing a good short story. I like to use Disney's Tick Tock Tale because there's no dialogue to distract from the little clocks that are bursting with personality. It also enables kids to think more critically about story elements, because they are open to interpretation without dialogue.  It's interesting how certain students will focus on the little clock feeling lonely, or left out and some won't pick up on that at all!  Here's a clip:

2. Project this Story Map. Discuss each story element to remind kids of what they are (this is a STEM class, so I really depend on the Language Arts department for doing some seriously good teaching on story structure).

3. Watch the video again, if you have time, and fill in the map as you go (or afterward).

4. Explain that they will be programming stories in Scratch, but they need to plan out their story before they begin.  One way to develop a good project is to plan it out.  In Scratch, create a Studio full of projects that you think are good examples of short stories. You could also use this studio if you like, which is filled with projects that my own students created or projects that I just thought were cool--for better or for worse! Many of these kids are 11 or 12 years old, don't be too critical.  Lots of them have never coded before.

5. Work in groups to brainstorm ideas and create a story map. Each student should make their own, or you can let them work in groups on the project. After they get you to check their work they can start coding on Scratch!

6. After they are done, gather all the projects in another Studio.  I do this step by posting an assignment on Google Classroom and having them submit the shared link to their project as an ADD>LINK .
Share the link to the studio with your students (I use Google Classroom for this also).

Good Digital Citizenship (GDC)
7. In another class period, we share our projects and practice commenting using specific, constructive and supportive feedback. 

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