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December 20, 2014

English stories and their scratch avatars

Delivering a good English program is a challenge in most rural schools. To make it a creative exercise at Udavi children are asked to write their own stories. I have already been working with scratch with the 7th graders and with their English teacher we decided to give our time in the holidays for children interested to create their scratch avatars.

The creation of stories into scratch makes the children convert the story into a drama and they need to choose what they want to communicate through the characters and what they want to communicate through a narrator. It also allows for children to work at various levels from those who want to do elaborate animation to those who want only characters to talk alternatively. The aspects of logical thinking is highlighted and some children did have issues when they had more than two characters and they needed to track which character is speaking and how long the other characters need to hold their silence in order not to overlap.

A further complication was when the backgrounds and scenes changed and they needed to time these also right. This got further complicated if they changed the sequence and added a few seconds to read a specific text as all timings after that would change. A couple of students found their story too complicated to implement with timing and were able to learn and use the power of Scratch being an event driven programming language and broadcasted messages when certain events were complete to keep timing manageable even with a large number of characters.

One of the more elaborate stories involved a cat that made machines, got transformed into a half-cat and half-boy, saved the world from a monster, went to sleep and had a dream about an alien attack, then waking up and seeing the dream become a reality and then defeating the aliens. No really, the story exceeds my capacity to make things up:

The 8th grade tried to use the same two characters and have adventures that went to different places. One such story had a very elaborate backgrounds that were hand crafted by the student.

I tried to put a process of students typing in what they wanted to enter as conversation text in the hope that the spell checker will catch something for them and help them learn English. Unfortunately, in the excitement of making the program new dialogues were added and old ones removed resulting in a fair number of errors. However, by and large the idea that they were creating a sort of product was in the students mind and they also made a presentation to the coordinator of the school. Most children were happy that they had something to present.

About 80% of the class who came in the holidays and started the process were able to complete their projects. Here is one in which the child struggled to complete and put in extra time to complete the story.

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