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Reading and Writing with Scratch

« Teaching with Scratch
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Rick Ashby

I'm developing a workshop proposal for using Scratch in secondary English classes and hope I might be able to get some input and feedback.


To begin with, I need to decide how to focus my presentation.  Here are a few strands of thought I've considered:

  • Exploring the parallells between games and traditional narratives, particularly how most State Standards of learning for literature can be taught through video games.
  • Using Scratch as an new approach to reader response theory.
  • Developing cross curricular projects (and helping humanities teachers tap into STEM funding streams)
  • Teaching the process of composition with an emphasis on how new collaboration platforms and the fluidity of digital media change the traditional "Plan, Draft, Revise, Edit, Publish"  approach. 
  • Exploring "Kenetic Text" and how Timing, Location, Color, and Font have an impact on the meaning of a text (expanding the definition of literacy).
  • Creating relevant writing projects- Reviewing projects, Publishing a Scratch Newspaper, Producing a Scratch series.
  • Integrating Scratch with Moodle.


What would you want to learn more about? 

Which ideas need more clarificatioin?



Peter Ross



Any ideas about how to use the three string operator blocks (join, letter of, length of) in Scratch to help with reading and writing?



Ai Boon Tan

Hi. Moodle is new to me.  Can you explain how you can integrate Moodle with Scratch?

By the way, I have another suggestion for you to try out - In the area of Writing, perhaps you may want to use the idea of oral presentations via Scratch pages to explore personal family history.  For example,

I am trying to preserve some old Teochew rhymes which I learnt as a child.  Please see

In this project and other similar projects which I will be creating, I hope to be able to publish these rhymes so that my children and grandchildren (if any) etc can benefit from it.  In Singapore, Chinese dialects are dying through non-usage as we speak mainly English or Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and other languages. Many of us live as nuclear families and our children are not exposed to the dialects which their grandparents speak.  I must confess that my knowledge of Teochew is limited and that of my children even less.  As the older generation dies out, we will lose our dialects eventually.

I would appreciate any ideas you may have for my Preserving my Teochew heritage project.  Thanks.


Best regards,

Ai Boon


Ai Boon Tan

I like the idea of roles. I would like to suggest that the roles be interchangeable after a while eg. if the time allocated for the project is 40 minutes, will it be a good idea to change roles after 20 minutes so that students get to see from a different perspective.

An idea to share: How about creating a scenario as in you paint a particular Scratch background and let your students put in their characters.  For example, using the desert background imported from Scratch, have the students discuss desert people, animal and plant life and things associated with the desert. Then form into groups and let them create a project. They must start in the desert but can choose to leave the desert  so  you can include means of transportation in your brainstorming session.

Have fun!

Rick Ashby

I really like this idea.  Especially as it creates an opportunity for a cross curricular project.  From an English point of view you have an opportunity to reinforce the different types of conflict.  This project would probably be "man vs. nature," unlike typical action games that tend to be "man vs. man."  From the science perspective, you have an opportunity to research ecosystems.  And concepts from social studies, such as wants/needs. and environmental factors that lead to the development of cities could be incorporated.   Also, from a programming/math perspective, I see a great opportunity to use variables to track hunger, thirst, and exertion which all contribute to a variable for overall health. 

Ai Boon Tan

To add to your flow of ideas, you can also look at it from the geography viewpoint and suggest that students in different groups place their characters in deserts in different countries/continents.

You can also bring in the idea of desert wars for example,  for a history angle. For example, the character portrays a person who is fighting in the desert or a person who is living in the midst of a desert war, etc.  There is so much to choose from...

Karen Brennan

The trick that I have run into in class is creating an assignment that  provides the right balance structure and autonomy. 

I couldn't agree more. Finding that "just enough, but not too much" spot is such a challenge!

I thought your use of triads was interesting. Do people get a chance to rotate through the roles?

Rick Ashby

It's interesting that I got two comments about changing roles.  This is a topic that I've discussed with colleagues before.  I tend to keep people in the same roles for much longer than other teachers I know.  When doing project work, my inclination is to keep students in the same role for at least two or three projects.  My day-to-day workgroups may keep the same roles for as long as six weeks.  I think that constantly changing roles creates a fragmented experience for students. It's better for them to master one skill-set than to dabble in all of them. 


In the context of a workshop for teachers, I'd offer the option of changing roles if there is time to produce more than one project. The problem with the format I originally described is that not everyone actually gets to put their hands on  Scratch.  So perhaps I need to schedule individual play time at the end of the session. 



Karen Randall

"Teaching the process of composition with an emphasis on how new collaboration platforms and the fluidity of digital media change the traditional "Plan, Draft, Revise, Edit, Publish"  approach. " has my vote.  It reflects the whole converstaion about how school changes to reflect kids' digital lives

Karen Brennan

This sounds great. I like the idea of using Scratch to blur the boundary between stories and games.

Don't know if this will be helpful, but I put together a collection of stories (broadly conceived) constructed with Scratch for a Pixar demo. The collection is available at

Ai Boon Tan

Hi. Loved the stories. Really wonderful. Thanks for highlighting them.  Just to let you know that I was able to view all except for Worst Day ever , the third story which did not open. You may want to check that out.

Rick Ashby

Can you add to the list or thing of another frame to use?


Both games and traditional narrative can, and typically do,  have:

Common Structural Components

  • Conflict
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Setting
  • Plot- Cause and Effect, escalating stakes
  • Exposition
  • P.O.V.
  • Variety of Genres
  • Continum from abstract to concrete- Checkers is abstract; Grand Theft Auto is concrete.  Parrables are abstract; novels are concrete.
  • Variety of Purposes- both can be theraputic, instructional, entertaining.
  • Dynamic Characters

Common Audience Experiences

  • Make, test, and revise predictions
  • Make choices
  • Resopnd Emotionally
  • Build Community
  • Can be approached with multiple strategies
  • Frequently require multiple passes to "resolve."
  • Safely explore threatening experiences.


Rick Ashby

Adding to the list of similarities above, writers and game makers must both have the abilitity to identify with their audiences.  They have to be able to imagine, on a moment by moment basis, how their audience will probably react to what has just happened.


On to the next big question:

Why Bother

  • It's fun
  • May be particularly interesting to boys who are commonly read to solve problems: Reading Don't Fix No Cheveys
  • It's High Interest topic. 
  • Students have significant prior knowledge about playing games.
  • Relevent themes/ Essential Questions: Interplay of Tech and Art, Quest for Mastery, Ethics of Art, Interplay of Culture and Personal Choice,
  • Can be easily extended with Nonfiction readings:  The Scratch Manual, the scratch website, News Articles, Editorials
  • 21st Century Literacy: Composition must be taught as a multimedia endevour, game production lends itself to collaboration. Designing and developing interactive presentations will be an essential skill.
  • Writing Games and Training Simulations is a growing profession. 
Karen Brennan

I'm very concrete, so in addition to this framing, I'd love to hear more about particular activities you're thinking about... 

Rick Ashby

I agree.  The next big question is HOW DO YOU DO IT?

I think the best way to get people inspired by Scratch is to let them play with it.  After providing a quick introduction, I plan to let participants work through a project as if they were students. 


The trick that I have run into in class is creating an assignment that  provides the right balance structure and autonomy. 


It's all fun and games. . .

even when somebody looses an eye


My first idea is to base the lesson on a short familiar story, Odysseus' encounter with the cyclops.


After reading the story, particpants will work in triads to create a game inspired by the story.  Based on the technique of pairs programming, there will be a driver (sitting at the keyboard) and a navigator (reading the criteria and Scratch cards.  In addition, there will be a research and development role  will reffer to the original text and search or creating necessary resources (costumes & sound effects).


Participants will then use a rubric and review template to give feedback to other projects.

Finally, participants will be given reflection questions, a few general, and a few  taylored to the role they played in their production team. 


I'll be working on creating specific materials over then next few days.






Peter Ross

I don't have any input for you right now, but I am in total support of this idea, especially for ELS learners.