Word up! In this activity, children will explore decision-making as they use PBS KIDS ScratchJr to help WordGirl make a tough choice between saving the day and going to her friend’s birthday party.
Total time to completion: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Getting Started: 5 minutes
Play: 10 minutes
Explore: 15 minutes
Watch: 15 minutes
Create: 30 minutes
Share: 15 minutes
Keep Going: 10 minutes
Children will learn how to use the PBS KIDS ScratchJr programming blocks to make animated stories and interactive projects. They will explore coding and computational thinking practices as they utilize technology as a tool for creativity, expression and learning with the PBS KIDS ScratchJr app.
- Programming / Coding - Creating a sequence of instructions that tells a computer (or other technology) what to do
- Remix - Building off the ideas and work of others. Remixing, reusing, and building upon other's work is a great way to go farther with a project/idea than you'd be able to on your own. Just make sure you give credit where credit is due!
- Dilemma - A situation in which a person has to choose between two or more options
- Consequence - Something that happens as a result of a particular action
- iPads or Android tablets for each child
- The WORDGIRL “Smile Collector,” episode
- TV, projector, computer, or other device to play the episode
- A document camera to display tablet work to the whole group or a cable to connect the tablet and projector
- Chalkboard, whiteboard, or poster paper for brainstorming
- Human Robot Activity Handout
- Design Handouts
- Parent Handout (English | Spanish)
The context in which you are engaging in this activity will impact how you get started. Take the time to set-up cues, preview what you’re going to be doing and why, and to get the kids ready and focused for a fun and creative PBS KIDS challenge.
Ask the group if they can define the word, dilemma. Explain that a dilemma is when a difficult choice has to be made between two or more options. Today, you will be exploring dilemmas with WordGirl. As both a superhero and a 10-year-old girl, WordGirl is constantly dealing with tough choices and today the whole group will be using the WORDGIRL Story Starter to help her explore a really big dilemma and the potential consequences of her choices.
Ask a focusing question and have each child answer: What is a time when you faced a dilemma?
Split everyone into group of 2-4 for a game of Human Robot. This is a great game to reiterate the idea of sequences and to reinforce the meaning of the various PBS KIDS ScratchJr blocks by having children physically embody the different block actions.
- Have children cut out the cards from the Human Robot Handout
- Have each group designate one child as the robot and the rest as the programmers.
- The programmers should create a program for the robot to follow by putting the cards together in a sequence of their choosing.
- Then the robot must act out the programming sequence.
- Let the group repeat this a few times so everyone gets at least one turn as the robot.
Project your tablet onto a big screen and have the group follow along on their own tablets as you go.
- Go to the Story Starters section inside the app (tap the lightbulb) and open up Becky’s Dilemma.
- Explain to the group that the Story Starters inside PBS KIDS ScratchJr are projects that have already been started that anyone can play with, remix, and make their own.
- Spend some time exploring Becky’s Dilemma together.
- First, play the project in Presentation Mode and have the children try and guess what blocks are being used in the project. Leave Presentation mode to examine the code and see if they were right.
- Tap on each of the characters on the first page and explore the blocks being used.
- Have the children identify the blocks and have them describe what will happen when you tap on the Green Flag or on any of the characters.
- Test out their predictions.
- Make sure to explore how tapping on Violet and Two Brains triggers the project to go to a different page.
Give children free time to continue to explore the other Story Starters in the app.
Click the image above to view the 11-minute WORDGIRL episode, “Smile Collector,” and have everyone look out for the dilemma that Becky/WordGirl finds herself in. After the episode, discuss why it was a hard choice for Becky. Ask the group what they would have done if they were in Becky’s shoes? Have they ever had a tough choice like that to make? Encourage children to share their stories.
Now that you have explored how the project works, discuss the project's content with everyone and capture the group's thinking on the board; making children's thinking visible can help inspire ideas later on when they are figuring out what they want to create with their projects.
- What is Becky’s dilemma?
- Why is this a tough choice?
- What are the consequences of both choices?
- What is a consequence?
Challenge the group to finish the project. The design handouts can be used to help kids think about and plan their projects before they begin designing and coding. Take stock of the time, and your knowledge of your students to gauge how much time to spend plannign versus actually creating/coding.
Using the programming blocks, have everyone finish the two alternate endings.
- What happens if Becky goes to Violet’s party?
- What happens if she goes to stop Two Brains?
Encourage everyone to use all of the blocks that they know about to help bring the story to life.
Make It Simpler
If creating both endings is too much work, have children pick their favorite choice and focus on completing the ending for that choice only.
Have everyone swap tablets with a partner and explore by tapping through each other’s projects. Ask the children to pay attention to which blocks their partner used and how their endings are different and similar. Also encourage the partners to discuss which choice they would make if they were a superhero and faced with a similar dilemma. It can be helpful for children to speak and answer questions about their work. It can help build confidence and verbalizing thinking is a great way to reinforce and understand what kids know about the tool and how to use it.
After a few minutes, ask for volunteers to share something awesome about their partner’s project!
If you have extra time give children the chance to work on whatever they would like. If they received useful feedback, were inspired by other projects, or want to attempt one of the extensions below, this is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Or they can start a whole new project and can create whatever they would like.
- Challenge children to create a third choice for Becky. Have them add their new choice to the first page and add a fourth page where they can create programs that bring that choice to life.
- This activity involves exploring Becky’s choices. Children will use the Trigger blocks and Go to Page block to convey two possible outcomes. When introducing the choices and cause and effect relationships that make up this project, encourage children to think of if/then “message sentences” that they want to program. For example:
- “If Becky chooses to go to Violet’s party, then she eat lots of cake while Two Brains takes over the world.”
- "If Becky chooses to stop Two Brains, then she will save the world but upset her best friend.”
- These simple logic sentences are useful for programming, and also for building complex sentences. Alternatively, to involve more writing practice into your activity, consider adding a journaling component where children write and/or draw about a time when they faced a tough dilemma. What did they have to choose between and how did they make their choice? What were the consequences of their choice?