Mad(lib) for Maker

Kelsey Krieger

Mad(lib) for Maker

Here is this lesson according to the TPACK model

Mad(lib) for the Introduction

Why is grammar instruction so dry?

What if we combined technology, like coding, and grammar or literacy instruction?

How do we have students learn the parts of speech by coding?

The goal for this lesson is for students to learn how to correctly apply the parts of speech through a coding exploration and their own inquiry. 

They will be creating MadLibs using the Scratch program.

They will learn the parts of speech through this activity because it allows them to explore the context of specific kinds of words within a sentence. They have to understand what part of the sentence the types of speech are. They have to understand the characteristics of them in order to place them in the correct place in a sequence for the sentence to make sense. 

Refer to the below figure to understand how this lesson refers to TPACK. In the sweet spot, you’ll see technology supporting the inquiry of parts of speech.

This audience can be broad depending on what students need as far as parts of speech. Students could have a learning objective of any type of speech found in a mad lib. For the focus of the prototype, I have students intending to learn nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Some other examples of objectives could be plural and singular nouns, verbs versus adverbs, adverbs versus adjectives, people, places or things, prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions and interjections, and many more! Students will learn characteristics of parts of speech in a more purposeful way than underlining and labeling them in a sentence on the board. This is an engaging way for them to learn about literacy! It includes the added bonus of working with coding as well since students will also need to be literate in this in the future. 

Students are constructing a MadLib, but instead of focusing on just completing the mad lib, they will be focusing on getting the parts to make sense. This is the difference in this project between constructionism and constructivism. The focus isn’t on just finishing the code (constructionism) but instead ensuring the elements are correct along the way (constructivism). 

This instruction of this reflects TPACK because the goal isn’t just to teach the technology piece, yet it includes it as a big part to support the content. It uses the pedagogical approach of inquiry and partner work to support students in the technology as well as the content. Finally, the content works well with the Scratch technology tool because it’s engaging and another example of literacy as coding. Also, the students are getting a real life application of parts of speech through this inquiry process. In real life, things don’t make sense if they’re not used in the correct context – just like these MadLibs! 

Tips:

  • Students will need some experience on Scratch before this lesson in order to focus on grammar instruction instead of troubleshooting the code.
  • It helps if students can base this mad lib from something already written. They could even go through beforehand and underline the words they want to replace with blanks in their mad lib.
  • If you don’t want or can’t have students working with partners: It may be beneficial to have examples of the parts of speech you’re intending for them to learn available while they’re working through their product. For example, have a bucket of pieces of paper with nouns on them and they have to pick a noun when it says to supply a noun. That way, they won’t just fill in whatever word they think makes sense in the story and it follows the part of speech’s rules. Disclaimer: this version doesn’t allow kids to be as creative!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LPHPWjRmMKzslAnthK3WKVV0LLL5kz0EXikPJ0yECdg/edit?usp=sharing

Mad(lib) for Reflecting

We should see evidence in your post that you are applying course concepts, including TPACK and concepts from How People Learn and other readings. It should also be clear that you engaged in the Design Thinking Process, and incorporated the ideas of remixing and repurposing.

My plan has evolved a lot since the blueprints. I began this process with little to no coding experience or knowledge of what students have done with coding in other classes. I began by simply Googling and happened upon programs like Python, intended for programming. With feedback, I was able to reign it in and remember that the focus of my lesson was for fourth graders, not necessarily computer programmers (yet!). Next I had to spend some time associating myself with the Scratch program. It looks simple on the outside, but took a lot of tinkering to get the hang of. It was helpful to look at other examples and synthesize ideas until I came upon something I liked for the MadLib. It came to my mind that I thought about students using this same process, analyzing different examples of others before creating their own. However, if students are somewhat experienced with the Slack program beforehand, this won’t be necessary. I came to this realization because, after looking at so many, I found myself using the copies as a crutch. I wasn’t able to feel as innovative when I was basing my findings off another work. When I started from scratch (Ha!) I felt more empowered in my work and able to feel like I was the creator here. 

You could change this lesson to adapt to any type of speech, or even writing concept! Some helpful adaptations are found in my lesson plan link (also below):

Tips:

  • Students will need some experience on Scratch before this lesson in order to focus on grammar instruction instead of troubleshooting the code.
  • It helps if students can base this mad lib from something already written. They could even go through beforehand and underline the words they want to replace with blanks in their mad lib.
  • If you don’t want or can’t have students working with partners: It may be beneficial to have examples of the parts of speech you’re intending for them to learn available while they’re working through their product. For example, have a bucket of pieces of paper with nouns on them and they have to pick a noun when it says to supply a noun. That way, they won’t just fill in whatever word they think makes sense in the story and it follows the part of speech’s rules. Disclaimer: this version doesn’t allow kids to be as creative!

Next, students could push themselves to write a more complex story and incorporate more parts of speech. I may change this in the future depending on how I see my students interpreting it. If I find they spend too much time only focusing on troubleshooting the program, I would scaffold more steps here before the inquiry portion. 

How People Learn – This related to the text How People Learn because it discusses how students should be exposed to innovative tasks at early ages. They’re expected to think innovatively as adults, so they should start learning as soon as possible. Coding is one of those skills where it does nothing but benefit the student if they learn it as early as possible. 

According to the Design Thinking Process, one should empathize and define the task first. In this, I thought about what I wanted students to learn while they were creating something. Then the process moves to ideate. I contemplated what I could do, as a teacher, to support students in their learning of grammar content with a technology tool. Next in the process is design. I designed a task where students would be combining learning the content, using the tool, with my support through inquiry. Prototype and test are the last two steps. In these steps, I tested and failed and tested again, just as my students will, to practice the content in order to make something.

Remixing – Well, with Everything is a Remix (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJPERZDfyWc) in mind, this project was a remix of a remix of a remix. MadLibs have been around, coding has been around, and parts of speech have always been taught. Even using these three together has been done before. However, the stories students make will be original to them. They’re remixes for the purpose of learning!

Repurposing – Coding is used so widely. I’m going to talk about Scratch specifically. Even Scratch is so widely used. Block coding can be used to move a cat around a screen, but it can also be used to power a micro-computer. I like this tool because of this. It’s a low floor-high ceiling situation. Yes, it can be frustrating to some kids at first and that’s important to embrace. However, exposing students and supporting them with this program can allow them to get super creative! I anticipate students going above and beyond and putting their personal twist on all aspects of this usage. 

References:

The National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853

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