My Favorite Collaborative Lesson: Story Problems with Scratch Jr.

I find that collaboration between homeroom teachers and the school librarian can happen naturally in subjects like language arts and social studies, but other subjects like math can be a bit tricky to fit together. However, every once in a while a very creative teacher will come to me with an idea that mixes together the goals of the library with other subject areas. Below is a project that mixes information literacy skills with math concepts. 

Grade Level: First Grade


This project was completed at the end of the school year when all of the curriculum objectives had been met. The teacher was looking for a fun way to end the class while still having students review some of the skills they had learned throughout the year. She was hoping to allow students to be creative while practicing their problem-solving skills. 

To start, students were asked to choose either addition or subtraction. Then they created a story problem using that operation. A few students chose to mix the two operations in a multi-step problem as well. From there they had to solve their own problem. This helped them to make sure their numbers were reasonable and that they had not missed any information. After they created their problem they shared it with others by making a program using Scratch Jr. Their classmates had an opportunity to solve each other’s story problems too. 

This was a week-long project, with 30-50 minutes given each day to work based on students’ needs and other classwork. The teacher and I planned the project together. We co-taught the introduction lesson as well. The classroom teacher managed the remainder of the lessons and work time. I would have loved to have been able to support the students during all five days of the project but scheduling would not allow for it (maybe in the future)! I was available to answer questions and stopped in for updates as they completed their work. 

Lesson 1: Create Your Problem and Start Your Program

AASL Standards:

  • Explore/Create V.B.1 – Problem-solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection. 
  • Inquire/Think I.A.1 – Recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning.
  • Inquire/Grow I.D.3 – Enacting new understanding through real-world connections. 


  • Paper for students to write their story problem
  • A device with the Scratch Jr. app


This lesson was broken down into two parts. The first part took about 20 minutes and the second part about 35 minutes. This could have easily been split into two separate lessons as some of the students needed a bit more time to create their story problems.  

  • Part 1:
    • 5 min: Review what the words addition and subtraction mean. Create a chart on the board and have students share some of the words or phrases in story problems that indicate which operation to use. For example, under addition, the word sum or all together would be written. This chart helped students to create their story problems.  
    • 15 min: Students identified what operation they would like to use and then created their story problem. They had to underline the question they were asking people to solve. Then they had to show the solution to their problem. They shared their work with a teacher to make sure it could be used for the next part of the project. 
  • Part 2
    • 5 min: Explain that students will create three pages in Scratch Jr. The first page would include the information for their problem. The second page would be their question. This is what they underlined. Then the final page would be the solution. The program would allow pages one and two to transition automatically but would stop before going to the third page. This would allow students to solve the problem before being given the solution. Then we showed them an example of what a final project might look like. 
    • 5 min: Show students how to choose their background and character. Note: A few students had to change their story problem character or setting after looking at the items available in the app. This was a minor change that did not impact the actual problem or solution they had created.  
    • 5 min: Give students time to create all three pages. Have them add their background and character to each page. Note: By setting up all three pages at the start of the project it was easier to add in the program and correct transitions later. 
    • 10 min: Come back together and review with students how to create their code. Make sure they understand how to start and end their algorithm. We also reviewed the basic movement blocks and special effect blocks that they would need. We made sure to discuss how to create a loop since many of the story problems had their character repeating an action.   
    • 10 min: Give students time to begin to program their story problems.


  • Completed story problem for them to create their program,

Tips & Tricks: 

  • Take your time! We tried to fit too much into the first lesson and needed to pull back a bit. Instead, the focus needed to be on each child having a solid story problem before using Scratch Jr. In the future, we would probably break this into two lessons. 
  • If we were to do this lesson again, we would definitely have a graphic organizer or form for students to write their story problems on. This might look something like this. We had talked about this before starting the project but decided to have them try it using plain writing paper. We found for some that it was not enough structure. Using this form would have also prevented students from having to make changes to their story problems as they start their program. 
  • We were fortunate that our students had exposure to Scratch Jr. before starting this lesson. They already had a basic understanding of how the app worked and how to build their program. Reviewing the blocks was quick and easy! If this was the first time students had used the app we would have needed to spend more time introducing it.  

Lessons 2-4: Provide Time to Create their Program

AASL Standards:

  • Inquire/Create I.B.3 – Generating products that illustrate learning.
  • Explore/Create V.B.2 – Persisting through self-directed pursuits by tinkering and making.


  • A device with the Scratch Jr. app (This would need to be the same device for each student from Day 1)
  • Story problems that students created


  • 30 min: Set a goal for students to complete each day. For example, by the end of class today you will need to have completed page 1. Then give them time to work on their program. Pull students into small groups to help those who need additional support.


  • Completed program in Scratch Jr. that share their story problem

Tips & Tricks:

  • Coding is fun! For some students, they became more focused on playing with their code and not on finishing their project. So giving students a goal was helpful so they were able to complete the project in the time allotted. 
  • Conferencing with students during each session helped to track who needed more assistance. 
  • As teachers, we needed to remember that this was about the process and not the product. We had to remind ourselves not to jump in and fix the child’s story problem or program. If given the time the child found their errors as they worked through the project.

Lesson 5: Share Their Work

AASL Standards:

  • Engage/Grow IV.D.1 – Personalizing their use of information and information technologies.
  • Inquire/Share I.C.1 – Interacting with content presented by others.
  • Inquire/Share I.C.4 – Sharing products with an authentic audience.


  • Each student will need their completed project on their iPad
  • Projector or screen to share student’s projects
  • Whiteboard and markers or paper and pencils to solve problems with


  • 5 min: Model how students will share their projects. Displaying the project made sharing much easier. Show them how they will share their program. Before sharing the solution, have each student try to solve it. This can be done as a class or individually.  
  • 40 min: Have each student share their project and have the students try to solve them. 


  • Students will share a completed project and have their classmates solve their problems. 

Tips & Tricks: 

  • Depending on the number of students in the class this could take longer than the 45 minutes that were available for this lesson.  
  • Given the age of the students, having them share with the whole group was easier than trying to partner up to share. This allowed the presenter to answer any questions that the group might have and all students to participate in each problem. With older students, sharing in small groups or with a partner might help speed up the process. 

What were your favorite collaborative projects from the past school year? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Work Cited:

AASL. 2018. AASL Standards Framework for Learners.


Author: Kelly Hincks

I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, STEM/STEAM, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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