Cross-Curricular Connections: Exploring the "Apples, Apples" Unit

algorithmic thinking algorithms computer programming cross-curricular connections ela event driven programming procedural writing scratch technological literacy tinkercad Aug 31, 2023

This month’s unit feature focuses on our “Apples, Apples” submodule under the “Seasonal Creations” Unit in Content Library Junior. This unit combines English Language Arts skills in the form of procedural writing with programming to teach students how to code a program that shares a homemade applesauce recipe. The “Apples, Apples” submodule is the perfect starting unit for those who have never coded, as it is a simple activity. It is also an excellent activity to complete in celebration of the beginning of autumn!

Programming Scenes

In this activity, students learn how to create multiple backdrops. The first is an opening fall scene. Students learn how to use sprites to decorate backdrops. However, if sprites are used as part of the scenery, or backdrop, they need to be shown and hidden in the correct scenes. Because this opening fall scene shows multiple trees and apples, code can be written for just one of these sprites. Then, we can duplicate the sprites. 

When we duplicate a sprite in Scratch, the code for that sprite is also duplicated. Further, there is the option to use the Backpack at the bottom of the Scratch workspace. When a sprite is selected, its code can be dragged down to the Backpack. From here, when the programmer clicks on a different sprite, the code can be dragged up from the Backpack and into that particular sprite’s workspace. Sometimes, this will require making changes to the code, but in this instance, all of the sprites have the same code.

With programming scenes also comes learning how to switch between these different backdrops. In this activity, students add an Arrow Sprite that when clicked, switches to the scene containing the applesauce recipe. This is completed by combining a when this sprite clicked instruction from the Events category with a switch backdrop to ( ) instruction from the Looks category. 

In the same way we program a sprite to switch to the next backdrop, we can also program the sprites to return to a previous backdrop. We only focus on switching to the recipe page in this activity, making it a perfect introduction to learning these instructions for newer coders and young learners.

Customizing Backdrops Using the Scratch Editor

We’ve already discussed how sprites can be used to customize backdrops. However, students also learn how to use the Scratch editor to customize the backdrop. Once the backdrop - in this example, this is the Room 1 backdrop from Scratch - is selected, students can select the Stage on the right hand side of the screen. Then, they can go to the upper left hand corner of the Scratch workspace and choose Costumes.

The Scratch Editor contains a variety of tools - from creating shapes to adding text boxes. In this program, we use the Rectangle tool to create a background for a text box. Then, students use the T tool to create and format the recipe text. So, students practice both writing code for the program, as well as using the Scratch Editor.

Often, the skills we use for the Scratch Editor can be translated to other programs, as well. For example, if we create multiple shapes and want to group them together, we need to hold the Shift key and select each of the components. Then, we would choose Group at the top of the editor. This concept can be used in other programs, such as Tinkercad’s 3D Design platform. Students also learn that holding the Shift key while creating a shape will help the shape keep its perfect dimensions. This is another transferable skill. Finally, while copying and pasting seems simple, for our youngest learners and new coders who may not have had much practice with this skill, it can be very beneficial to learn. These tools are part of the Scratch editor, but can be translated to many other programs, helping to create technological literacy.

 ELA Connections: Procedural Writing

While all of our programs cover various computer programming concepts and often incorporate simple math skills, the English Language Arts skill of learning procedural writing is also present in this program. Texts that are written in a procedural format include step-by-step directions, such as a recipe.

In this activity, students write code for the Cat Sprite that informs the user of what to do to run this program. Students include both the recipe ingredients as part of the backdrop and the steps for using the ingredients when programming the cat. This is accomplished by using say instructions from the Looks category. In the bubble of each instruction, students type how the ingredients in the backdrop should be used in a crockpot to make applesauce. This involves including specific details, such as that the crockpot should be set to HIGH and the cooking time is 4-6 hours. Though a basic recipe, this activity lays the groundwork for learning how procedural writing works and combines this skill with computer programming.

Algorithms and Recipes

Though we actually write code for this program, recipes are a great way to introduce students to programming concepts without needing to write any code at all. This is because recipes can be equated to algorithms in programming. Algorithms in coding involve step-by-step procedures that must be carried out in a specific order in order for the program to work successfully. Similarly, a person must follow the steps of a recipe in the order given to produce a successful bake. Teaching students how to think procedurally allows them to begin thinking about what has to happen, and in what order, for the outcome to be successful. In this program, we use both algorithmic thinking and actual coding to teach programming skills.

Though simple, there are many skills at work in this unit and it is a great way to introduce students to programming. While this is a perfect activity for young learners and newer coders, it is also a fun activity for seasoned coders to work through in celebration of the upcoming season of fall. Sign up for your free trial of our Content Libraries today to get started with this unit and explore all we have to offer your students when it comes to STEM!

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