Code a Character
Using ScratchJr, students will create an animated character.
- Ask students, "Have you ever wanted to create your own cartoon character?" and "What kind of character might you create?"
- Explain that they are going to learn to create their own animated character using the ScratchJr app.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(5 minutes)
- Divide students into pairs and pass out devices.
- Show students how to turn on the devices and open the ScratchJr app.
Guided Practice(5 minutes)
- Explain that the ScratchJr app comes with many characters that have already been created for you. For example, the ScratchJr cat is always the first character you see when you open the app. The cat is the default character for this app. When you click on the plus sign, you can also see a whole menu of different characters, such as farm animals, human figures and silly creatures.
- Explain that ScratchJr also has a tool that allows you, the computer programmer, to create your own character. You can access that option by clicking on the paintbrush icon at the top right of the screen.
- Invite students to open the paint editor by clicking on the paintbrush
- For reference, a guide to the paint editor tool can be found here
Independent working time(20 minutes)
- Invite the pairs of students to take turns using the device until both students have had a turn.
- Invite students to experiment with the different tools on the screen, such as the shape tool, the line width tool, the color tool, and the fill tool.
- Once students have had a chance to experiment, ask students to focus on one tool, such as the line tool or shape tool, and use that tool to begin creating a character.
- Students who have experience with coding in ScratchJr can be encouraged to create a more detailed character or multiple characters. They can also be invited to program their character to speak or make sounds.
- For students who may be overwhelmed by the many tools and choices in ScratchJr, have them focus on using the fill tool to simply change the colors on an existing character.
- Circulate around the room and observe each pair of students working together.
- If your students have not had much experience using ScratchJr, they may need more than one session in order to create a new original character. Measure student success by whether or not each student is able to use at least one of the tools in an intentional way (beyond trial and error).
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Ask students to reflect on their coding experience.
- Discuss by asking questions like: "What tools did you use?" "How did you figure out what works and what doesn't work?"
- Invite peer-to-peer feedback by asking, “How did your partner help you learn?”
Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.