Sunday, January 24, 2016

Coding in English Class - Perfect Pair

I'm working with a English teacher on a very simple Scratch coding project. If you are not familiar with Scratch, this is a block based programming environment created by MIT years ago. I've loved it ever since it came out because kids of all ages can create amazing things in Scratch. It's funny, but we rarely think of coding and English going hand in hand, yet as I was instructing the students, I was amazed at the similarities I found.

I started by telling them we wouldn't really be "writing" code but that the sequence of the blocks was very important. The "setting" is vital. Every piece of code must be just right, getting the backdrop and characters (known as Sprites in Scratch) in the correct place, defining which direction they face, how fast they will move, etc...  So similar to writing in many ways. You can't start writing and have no direction.

As we began to create our own blocks, I spoke about computer programmers needing their own grammar rules called syntax. That syntax determines whether the next programmer will be able to read the code as well as whether the code will run correctly. Such a wonderful analogy to actual grammar.

Finally, teaching the logic behind conditional statements is the art of writing a great comparative essay or a great reinforcement to so many subjective decisions about literature. The If-Then-Else block requires students to weigh two possible scenarios and never leave anything out. There are so many applications to using that flow chart concept in English class. Here is an example of a Point of View flow chart that could be also coded using the If - Then - Else blocks.

So our project was a very simple overview of a non-fiction book. In the process of teaching them Scratch, I demonstrated the use of conditionals with the If-Then-Else block. The students are asked to create a very simple quiz game. This is a short video showing how easy it is for students to create this quiz game in Scratch. Imagine being the first English teacher in your school to teach coding!

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