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Using Scratch in ELL Learning

« Teaching with Scratch
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Teachers at the Governor's Career and Technical Academy in Arlington are using Scratch with our English Language Learners.  This discussion will be used to document and share our experience.


We've finished the second quarter and find that evaluation (in keeping with our jurisdiction's guidelines) is problematic. There is no question that learning is occurring among our 25 student-community. In fact, the fact that we see ourselves as a true learning community somewhat adds to the difficulty of grading students. We have rubrics to guide them (and us), but our rubrics always seem to fall short. Our students always seem to be able to surprise us with capabilities that we don't foresee. For example, in our most recent project, the students imported 30" of music--a skill not covered in our rubric.

In summary, though, we continue to struggle with grading--content and skills. We observe how some students are able to work fast, help others, show creativity, use correct grammar and mechanics, and get the work done on time. We also observe less skilled students getting the help from those others and learning to the best of their (language and technical) ability. We attempt to pair students with different first languages in order to have them use language for authentic (and more rewarding on many levels) purposes. 


As a learning communicty, the class deserves an A. I'm not sure how the individuals will fare....




Thanks so much for sharing the update!

we continue to struggle with grading--content and skills

How much of the rubric is focused on language acquisition and how much on technical acquisition? Is there any peer-evaluation component?



Yes, having the students demonstrate their understanding of a story is powerful. The two main characters are stuck in an elevator for 19 hours. The students are able to "de-construct" the scene as depicted via the words in the story, but we are finding that they are, in fact, having difficulty inferring what the conversation may be between 2 strangers stuck on an elevator together (who later fall in love and get married!) Most of them have the characters saying, "Hi, how are you?" and the responses are mostly formulaic, "I'm fine. How are you?" It's a step that needs more discussion.... On the other hand, our expectations for the project are constantly being "upped" in that we think they should be able to do certain things (change backgrounds, have the characters move, "talk" --and then someone learns how to record their voices and vroom! the rest of the group wants to learn how to record their dialogs! Very exciting. I'm finding (via focus group) that some students prefer to use the"big" computers rather than the laptops. Stay tuned.


I'm finding (via focus group) that some students prefer to use the"big" computers rather than the laptops.

I find that so interesting. Most of the kids (and adults) I've worked with prefer the freedom of laptops. (Although having a plug-in/non-integrated mouse is very frequently requested.) I look forward to hearing more about why that's the case...


Assorted reflections from today's class:

1. We are using a lesson that Isaac and I made this past Summer (  The goals of the lesson are to help develop a feel for how changes in x and y effect direction, and changes in the repeat value effect magnitude (distance).  For most students the lesson is working as planned. I encountered one student, however, who can not yet compare numbers, so the lesson was completely inappropriate for her.  I immediately when looking for a Scratch activity involving "which number is bigger", but I didn't find one.  Perhaps Galleries linked to math domains could be setup to help make these easier?

2.  I haven't used Galleries yet.  It wasn't until today that I started thinking about them, but I can imagine a lot of uses for them.  We could create a gallery for each class, or even each project.  Perhaps Galleries could be used to link project to specific curricula, by openning them up to the world and labelling them clearly.  I created one now to get started with our next class project:  It will be interesting to see how it works.


I really like the idea of connecting to true stories, and want to work that approach in to future workshops. I particularly love the Elevator Romance theme for the gallery!


Since all of our students are among my friends, Karen, you can see their by starting here:

and looking at my friends.




Great, thanks!


More information on the pilot Jeff and I did last year (2008-2009) can be found here:

This year (2009-2010), we have more students and are more ambitious in planning and assessment (and covering specific curriculum requirements). Stay tuned.

Hi Ann,

I am very interested in your language learning project.

I clicked on the above link, but it doesn't seem to active anymore. I realise that it has been five years since it was first posted and wondering if you could perhaps direct me to a more up-to-date resource regarding your research.

Kind regards,

Thanks for sharing what's happening -- I enjoyed reading the article.

A couple of questions:

  • Do the students use the blocks translation feature?
  • Is there a link to the projects the students have shared on the web?

Thanks again!



As a reading specialist collaborating with Jeff, I am interested in accelerating our English language learners' academic achievement. The class is made up of Level 1 and Level 2 (WIDA Access) adolescents, many of whom arrive in the States with little if any previous formal education. There is a lot of incidental learning, i.e., they are acquiring skills without realizing it, especially in algebra and math applications. We are cognizant that, as each student explores new skills (adding color, adding sound, etc.), he/she becomes an "expert" and we encourage the social interaction that naturally occurs. Language teachers take note: all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) are very organically involved in each class session; the communication is authentic and therefore very powerful. We're about 6 weeks into it, and even the most "disengaged" adolescents (we are noticing) are plugging into the program, so to speak. They want to be part of the "fun"!