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Coding Games in Scratch Guide & Workbook

Coding_Games_in_ScratchCodinginScratch_Games_Workbook

LET’S GET KIDS CODING IN SCRATCH

Coding Games in Scratch:
A Step-by-Step Visual Guide
to Building Your Own Computer Games 

by Dr. Jon Woodcock
(DK; $19.99, Ages 9-12)

Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook 
by Dr. Jon Woodcock
(DK Workbooks; $5.99, Ages 9-12)

 

“I was so excited to review Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games and the handy workbook, Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook, both by Dr. Jon Woodcock,” says GRWR’s math maven, Lucy Ravitch!

My kids have been tinkering around with Scratch since they were about 6-years-old. For those unfamiliar with Scratch, it’s a free visual programming language that comes from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). You can find out more about it at www.scratch.mit.edu. Anyone can create stories, games, and animations and share them. Plus, you can download it onto your computer or play connected to the Internet.

I decided to start with Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook first. Reading through it, I became more familiar with how the games are supposed to work. There are handy arrows to all the parts you see on your screen as well as detailed instructions. This is really helpful for kids or adults who are not apt to explore all the buttons. In a way, I think both the Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook and Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games are also terrific or adults to read so they know what their kids are doing when they play and how they can assist if needed.

 

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Interior image from Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Dr. Jon Woodcock, DK Books ©2015.

 

I had never played with Scratch before, but as I used both the book and workbook to make the suggested games, I learned a lot! The great thing about these books as well as Scratch is that readers see how it applies so many math concepts with the simple coding!

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has said, “Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident,” and I agree. After following the directions and learning how to make a sample game, I wish I’d had more time to tinker around with it and make my own creative game or animation. You might think that making a computer game is not a good use of time (I know I’ve been guilty of this), but after seeing all the math and logical thinking that goes into making a complete game in Scratch, I can tell you it is an educational and helpful exercise. I found it interesting that many of the big names in the computer industry – Jobs, Wozniak, and Zuckerberg – all made computer games as children.

In the book, Chapter One covers computer games: the various types of games, what makes a good game, and how coding works. Chapter Two talks about getting Scratch, either onto your computer or playing online, along with a tour of what the basic screen and controls look like. Chapters Three through Ten are directions for games that you can make. Chapter Eleven explains what can be next for you and your programming child, followed by a Glossary and Index.

 

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Interior image from Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Dr. Jon Woodcock, DK Books ©2015.

 

I went ahead and made the first game in Chapter Three and just in that first game alone I learned how to:
– assign sound effects
– put the code directions for the sprites (characters) using if-then blocks and repeating blocks
– pick a background
– make sprites, name them, and move them in different directions (using degrees of rotation)
– add chance (assign it to pick a random number between 1 and 6)
– use the coordinate system along the x and y axis (including negative numbers)
– create variables for sprites, and
– run the complete project and check for bugs (mistakes in the program)

I noticed that as the chapters progressed the games got a bit more complex, even though they’re all actually simple games. If you use this book, it can expedite the learning curve for making your own games. You’ll also discover all the intricacies that Scratch games have to offer. My 10-year-old and I started to do another chapter and it was a fun activity to do with him. It’s amazing to see how fast children learn how to use the program.

After reviewing the Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games and Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook, I’d easily recommend getting both. Though the publisher’s recommended age for these books is ages 9-12, in my opinion even younger children would enjoy it. The book is extremely helpful to accelerate the learning of what fun, creative games you can make in Scratch, and the workbook makes sure you know the terminology and applications of the components of Scratch. I hope your children enjoy coding and that you can join them in discovering how fun and educational it is to create computer games!

Read more here about why kids should code.

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch
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Celebrate National Love Your Pet Day by Supporting Operation ResCUTE

It’s National Love Your Pet Day

Operation-ResCUTE.jpgWe’re celebrating. Are you? Did you know that today, February 20th, is National Love Your Pet Day? Why not share the love you have for your pet with others? It’s a great opportunity to encourage rescuing shelter animals and to see just how wonderful it feels.

A 501-C nonprofit organization, Operation ResCUTE, offers limited-edition educational book and stuffed animal sets. Buy a set today and save a dog’s life because 100 percent of profits from their sets goes to animal shelters in support of their adoption efforts! The book’s story aims to teach children empathy and about the benefits of adopting, and how to make a difference in the world. The collectible set shown here comes with an illustrated book, stuffed animal dog from the story and an Operation ResCUTE Club Membership Sticker for $29. Available by clicking here.

To give back, consider buying one or more of their sets to donate to your local school or place of worship. The sets also makes a great birthday gift. Your purchase will be helping to share the invaluable lessons that come from rescuing an animal in need.

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Operation ResCUTE founder, Laurie Brown-Negin, with Jingles.

Founded in 2014 by Laurie Brown-Nagin, Operation ResCUTE is on a mission. Its profits (all 100 percent of them!) go directly towards helping shelter dogs get adopted. A life-long animal activist, Laurie has always been passionate about the protection and safety of animals. Inspired by the younger generations, Laurie set out to shift the conversation away from store bought animals and empower young children to understand the benefits of adopting and how each and every one of them can have a positive impact on the life of a shelter animal.

Each limited-edition Operation ResCUTE gift set is packaged in a cage-like gift box and is carefully designed for the children to feel involved and part of the dog adoption process. How rewarding to be able to educate and enlighten children about adopting shelter dogs in need of loving homes.

The first book in the series, The Story of Jingles, is the true story of Laurie’s rescue of Jingles after she found the dog battered and alone in New York City. A new set will launch this spring. Laurie resides in Connecticut with her husband and has two grown daughters and two four-legged “girls.”

Find Operation ResCUTE on social media sites here:

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
INSTAGRAM
LINKEDIN

 

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A Vacation Journal Giveaway for Kids

The Perfect Giveaway for This Summer’s Getaway!

The Victoria Chart Company and Good Reads With Ronna want your children to have a wonderful summer vacation and what better way to do that than with a giveaway?! 

We’ve got My Vacation Journal  ($6.99, ages 4 and up) to send to one lucky winner. Here’s a chance for your child to record all those special, once-in-a-lifetime moments in print and maybe start a new family tradition. 

Just send us an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com with your name and address, then write a comment below about what your child loves about taking vacations to complete your entry. Be sure to write Vacation Journal Giveaway in the email subject line. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more entries to the giveaway. Contest ends at midnight on Monday, July 30th. Contest rules can be found by clicking here. Good luck!

If you’re not familiar with The Victoria Chart Company, a leading UK developer of children’s reward charts and other products for positive child development (and available here in the U.S.), you really should be. The products are as affordable as they are practical. The My Vacation Journal prize in particular, billed as “A fun activity book for your time away from school!” can credit its creation to company founder Victoria Ballard. “As a child I would often write daily accounts of my family vacations” says the Company’s Founder, Victoria Ballard, “and it is wonderful that I can now share them with my children. I want other families to benefit from these wonderful keepsakes that hold such memories.”

Head over to Facebook and like this company at www.fb.com/victoriachartcompany to be eligible for a 15% product discount and other offers, freebies and news.  They’ve also got a neat app, “Go Rewards” suitable for iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad and Android.

I wish I had had this 7 day journal as a kid whose parents frequently took my brother and I on mini-jaunts now long forgotten. I tended to write down impressions on napkins, postcards, place mats and other scraps that got lost, tossed or ruined by spilled water. There would be so much more meaning if I could see a receipt, a drawing or ticket stub to understand what I was feeling at the time, who I was with and what made the trip so terrific. Now these connections are at your child’s fingertips. Another plus, there’s an opening page with tips for parents on how to best utilize the journal and make the most of vacation time.

Children are also encouraged to take their Vacation Journal to school to show teachers and friends. What a great way to relive all the summer fun!  

www.VictoriaChartCompany.com

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Read! Build! Learn! With LEGO and Libraries

LEGO and Libraries – A Good Fit

I have never known a child who did not love to play with LEGO building bricks, but I have met many a reluctant reader.  Now like a little foot in its first shoe, LEGO is partnering with libraries all over the country and offering a one-of-a-kind experience that’s a good fit, too: Read! Build! Play! And just how lucky are we? Los Angeles is the first stop! That’s a super step forward to encourage reading we can all build on. If you cannot make it to the library event, (on Tuesday, June 26th from 11a.m. noon at the LA Public Central Library 630 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071 – Cost is free. Participation is first come, first serve) be sure to visit this new website that provides families tips, suggestions and ideas on how to keep playtime fresh, energetic and educational –  readBUILDplay.com.

Everyone knows that, from birth, reading and play are critical to a child’s growth – so why not combine the two? Designed for children under five, the Read, Build, Play experience brings together reading and building in a fun, educational way. As story tellers read, children will be encouraged to build, sing, play and explore through original games and creative activities.

Support libraries across the country and encourage children’s play and learning development. 

The experience also celebrates the hard work of librarians in their quest to help grow our youth.  In June, the Association of Library Service to Children kicked off a national program with LEGO DUPLO in which parents can support their local library by nominating them to receive special recognition for all their hard work.

Beat boredom this summer with the program’s website, readBUILDplay.com. Check it out for suggestions and ideas on how to keep playtime energetic and educational. Download unique activity kits to involve you and your kids in a variety of ways to play and read. At this site, anyone will also be able to find ways to support their local libraries, including online nominations for recognition in the Read! Build! Play! program. 

Parents – you can link to the website to vote for your local library and download the activity guide while reading. And if you do attend the event be on the lookout for a 6-foot X 6-foot book stack model made entirely of vibrant DUPLO bricks.  

Order some copies of the new Read and Build sets from LEGO DUPLO. Just this month, a series of sets were released that are meant to inspire young children to read and build along with the story line. 3 sets of books and bricks like Grow Caterpillar Grow! and Busy Farm blend reading with construction play for a new, fun way to encourage directed and free play, and hands-on exploration while reading. 

 

 

   

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Make Art a Part of Your Every Day Life

Debbie Glade reviews a creative and resourceful book about how to bring art into your child’s life.

Art is Every Day: Activities for the Home, Park, Museum, and City ($16.95, Zephyr Press, Adults) by Eileen S. Prince is your go-to guide for helping your child experience art in every day places. This meaty paperback outlines 65 unique projects for parents, grandparents and teachers to share with the children in their lives.

One of the projects in the book is creating a Photo Design Quilt. Essentially children take photos of patterns they see around the house, print them out on paper and create a quilt-like pattern. A few of the many other ideas include making vegetable prints by cutting veggies and using them like stamps, drawing noises and smells, drawing using only Primary colors and color rubbing leaves you find in a park.

The author writes a nice narrative for every project, explaining what skills that project will teach the child, as well as concepts to discuss with the child. I like the fact that the author suggests ways you might wish to modify the projects. This encourages creative thinking in the child and may inspire them to come up with their very own art projects.

Art is Every Day truly inspires kids to think like an artist no matter where they are. And with a book like this, readers quickly learn that creating art is simple, fun and affordable. After reading it, I felt like weaving paper with the stack of old magazines and catalogs I have.

The only suggestion I have that could make this book better would be adding more color photos.

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Learn Chinese With Disney

I love learning languages. I speak French and German, but those are probably ranked a 4 on a scale of 1-10 where Chinese might be a 9, so when I heard from an old friend, Melinda Thompson, that she had helped create a way to teach Chinese to English speakers, I was intrigued.  Could an over 40-year-old still learn with relative ease even as all those brain cell connections were diminishing daily? I made tracks to iTunes where I tried out Disney Publishing Worldwide’s clever new iPad app geared for children that teaches Chinese to English speakers and English to Chinese speakers through Toy Story 3. It makes total sense that working with a familiar story helps children easily pick up some basics of a new language while having fun at the same time. Thompson, Senior Producer, Book & Print at Disney English, sat down with me so I could learn the ins and outs of this exciting new learning tool for kids and parents that is available from iTunes in their educational section for only $4.99 in the U.S. 

Not only is the LEARN AND READ CHINESE app colorful and cool to look at, but it’s so easy to use that even I, a 21st century technology dinosaur, could navigate it after clicking on the tutorial tab. In a nutshell the app works like this: in the most basic setting level , a reader would find all of the story’s words in English which is essentially 100% English. The next level introduces a child to a quarter of the words in Chinese. Level three has half the words in Chinese and next they move on at level 4 to three quarters of the words or 75% in Chinese. Before they know it, they’ve reached the last level where the entire story is in 100% Chinese. 

Trying my hand at the app, I boldy went to the second level where a quarter of the words were in Chinese and noticed I’d forgotten the meaning of one of the Chinese words. First, to hear the word pronounced I just had to touch it.  Then all I had to do was use my finger to flick the word down to the translation box for the meaning. You can imagine I did a lot of flicking so to my delight I learned that rather than a blinking red light warning me to start on some Gingko Biloba, I actually got a little award for the amount of flicking I had done! 

In case you did not know this, the Learn and Read Chinese app uses an approach called Diglot Weave. Thompson explained that Diglot Weave teaches language by making a story based on the similarities of the different languages. In this case English and Chinese.  As I made my way through the different levels she said, “you’ve probably noticed the writing is filled with repetitive words and the sentences are written in a very specific way. And that’s because we only want to use words that are easy to translate.”

I was clearly hooked by this intelligent teaching method. “We don’t want anything that’s going to be too different from English and Chinese.” She explained the nuances of sentence structure, too. “Because you are moving onto 100% Chinese eventually, the sentence structure is important so we want to minimize those instances where English and Chinese are grammatically different. For that reason we have to take grammar and the way things are pronounced into account. The way that a child goes through this is to start with 100% English and gradually go to the next level. The names of the characters are most often the easiest to recognize in Chinese.”  I also learned that in written form using the English language, the Chinese used in the app is called Pinyin (created in the 1950s) because traditional Chinese, such as Mandarin, uses characters in written form.  The voice on the app is speaking in a Beijing, mainland China accent.

The largest image above shows the intro page with the icons at the bottom indicating: Tutorial (how-to), Achievement Stickers, Table of Contents, My Words (glossary), and Pinyin Tonal Marks, and Information (educational explanation and credits).

Q. Toy Story 3 was selected because the app plays off the fact that it’s a story we’re all very familiar with and that also helps us learn the words, right?

A. Yes, that along with the sound effects, that helps the reader and clues them into words.

Q. I thought the images would move, but this is much more like a picture book and it’s beautiful.  Everything is stationary.  Are these cells taken right from film?

A. The artwork in this app was done by our publishing division when the film came out. When they turn a film into a book they always make artwork to go with the book because screen shots from film will not work.

Q. Will my prononciation be corrected if I say a word wrong or if it’s unintelligible with my strong New York accent?

A. Voice recognition is not quite there yet for this app, but there’s no doubt it will happen one day.

Q. Is there something good about getting the award, do you get a certificate?  I liked the alert when I had received one.

A. You collect your awards on the Achievement page which is like a sticker book for each category you’ve completed.

Q. Is there a page that shows a Chinese learner some of the words written in character form?

A. Yes, there’s a Glossary where you can see first English, then Pinyin Chinese and then the Characters. There are around 64 words in glossary for main words used in story.

 QDoes Chinese have the same vowels as in English, a, e, i, o, and u?

A. Chinese is a character based. Pinyin was created to help people who know a phonetic based language like English understand Chinese.

NOTE: One other thing Thompson mentioned is that Chinese is based on tones and on this app there is a way to hear the tones, some easy some more subtle.  Believe it or not there are five tones for the two letters MA, for example there’s a rising tone, a falling tone, and a short tone  All the vowels in Chinese have different tones, too.

To sum things up, in order to use this app effectively, a child should first focus on learning to listen and speak Chinese. Next, once they’ve grasped that, they can start learning characters. This Learn and Read Chinese app from Disney mimics the way that most speakers of English and non-character based languages most frequently learn Chinese. So the key to learning is to move at a comfortable pace as there is no time limit involved. There are more than 100 Chinese words in the book so readers can learn this gradually when taking their time and going through the different levels. Thompson suggests that a child go at least five times through each different level and probably many more times than that.


Zàijiàn- Goodbye and  zhù nǐ xìngyùn – Good luck!

CREDITS:

Educational Advisor: Yuhua Ji, PhD Chair, Professor, and PhD Program Advisor,
Department of English Language and Literature, Xiamen University, P.R. China

 App Developer: MegatonMedia

 App Art and Design: Kurt Hartman, Art and Design

 Bilingual Narrator: Elsi Eng

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New Ways We Can Learn on Wednesday

We’re back with our (almost) weekly educational products review. We’re all over these great games, toys, books, DVDs and CDs that NAPPA(National Parenting Publications Awards) has shared with us. If you’d like to learn more about NAPPA, visit their website, like their Facebook page and keep stopping by here on Wednesdays for more interesting new products for your children and the entire family. Today’s product reviews comes courtesy of Julie Kertes, NAPPA General Manager.

Spell It! Spell to Win!; $29.99; Ages 8+; www.blueorangegames.com

This clever game is perfect for competitive wordsmith families. A felt-lined tin box is the arena for rolling lettered dice, shouting out words in specific categories that contain the letters rolled, and scoring chips. Themed plays inspire quick thinking; i.e., “Things in a Home” using letters M – I – A – F- Y?  Family. A NAPPA honors award winner, Spell It! Spell to Win! is all-inclusive and fluid, and rises to the linguistic levels of the players.

Click here now to order your very own Spell It game.

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New Ways We Can Learn on Wednesday

GETTING IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER VAN GOGH

Today Good Reads With Ronna is excited to introduce a new weekly educational products review. We’re all over these great games, toys, books, DVDs and CDs that NAPPA(National Parenting Publications Awards) has agreed for us to use.  If you’d like to learn more about NAPPA, visit their website, like their Facebook page and keep stopping by here on Wednesdays for more interesting new products for your children and the entire family. Today’s product reviews comes courtesy of Julie Kertes, NAPPA General Manager.

Master Kitz®; $29; Ages 4 to 12; www.kidzaw.com

Give your children an early appreciation of art with Master Kitz® by Kidzaw. These kits include everything needed to re-create masterpieces such as Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night or Sunflowers, Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life, Monet’s Water Lilies and Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagwa.  The re-usable art toolbox contains paints, a specially designed roller, re-usable stencil, art paper, educational materials and easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. Children will learn about each painting and its history and be encouraged to create their own interpretation of each masterpiece.

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