Monday, 06 Jan 2014


Hypertext Story: Link and Animate Text with Scratch

The Scratch hypertext project asks you to work in small teams. On your own, watch this tutorial (the full tutorial is four parts; there are two videos — one with parts I and II, the other with parts III and IV. You’ll learn how to create lexias, links, and animations in Scratch.

If you’d like to see higher-resolution screen grabs of the code, or read the text of the video tutorial, here a link to my script. Feel free to add comments to the Hypertext Story With Scratch script, or post comments in the YouTube videos. (I’m not requiring you to write about this video on your blog, but if you have something to say, feel free!)

The Scratch hypertext project asks you to work in small teams (check your email for a message from Canvas around 11pm Jan 2, or  look for the “Assignment Notifications” in Canvas… you can also look for all your groups in Canvas). You are asked to create at least five new lexias, ten new links, and two animations.  You are free to remix the text I’ve provided, or to start over and tell your own story.

Full Assignment Description (with a bit more hypertext theory)

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.32.31 PM

I’ve never taught this course before, so to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what to expect. You’ve sampled digital stories. You know what you found appealing, and what you didn’t. I’m asking you to show me your understanding of hypertext storytelling, by telling me a hypertext story.

What I’m asking for in the group Scratch project is the following:

1) On your own, watch the introductory Scratch videos (about the “Breakout” game and the photo storybook). You do NOT need to follow along and actually create the game or the storybook. Just watch those videos.

2) On your own, follow along with the Scratch Hypertext tutorial video. When you finish, you should have three lexias (chunks of text), five hyperlinks (connecing the lexias), and a handful of special effects.

Clarification: You do NOT need to use the exact words I provide — you are free to make up your own words, or if it’s easier to concentrate on learning the technical skills without doing creative writing, you are welcome to use my  words.

Submit: When you submit Participation Portfolio 2, I will ask you for a link to the Scratch project that you created on your own. For now, “Sharing” on the Scratch website is enough.

Each individual should complete the tutorial and “share” their result on the Scratch website. (You are welcome to get help from each other.)

3) Each group should publish a Scratch project with a total of at least

  • five new lexias (pages of text)
  • ten new links
  • two special effects (loosely defined… any interaction that does something different from a hyperinks will count)

Teams are free to “remix” the story and effects I provide in the tutorial (see below) or to provide their own original story.


4) Collaborate. The point of team work is to work as a team.

I don’t want to produce students who simply follow my instructions; the thing you produce after following my step-by-step instructions is a means to an end. I want you to strike out on your own, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and cover new ground.

I realize that group work is not everyone’s favorite thing to do, but the truth is we have 23 students in the class, and as much as I would enjoy spending an hour with each of you every day, or even a half hour, there’s no way I can do that.

If you get stuck, being part of a group will give you someone to help you figure out how to get unstuck. It’s been my experience that 90% of the time, groups do manage to figure out most of the problems they face. I will have more time to troubleshoot the 10% of major problems if you and your group members manage to work out the 90%.

Ways to collaborate on this project.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for more than one person to work on the same Scratch project at the same time.

Scratch does have a feature that lets people “remix” each other’s projects. See the Scratch “Guide to Remixing.”

  • If Sally starts working on the project, “Shares” it (that is, clicking the “share” button and publishing it on the internet), and then sends the URL of the shared project to Gus, then Gus can click the “See Inside” button to look at all of Sally’s scripts, backgrounds, and sprites. He can make changes, and click the “remix” button to share his altered copy. (Sally’s original is unchanged.)

  • Sally can then “view the remix tree” of her project, in order to find Gus’s altered version of her project. Below is the remix tree icon, in the lower right corner of the screen from the “project page” view of your project.

  • Sally can then continue developing the version that Gus posted, publishing her own remix of his remix (and so forth).

Team members might also meet via Google Hangout. It’s a fairly straightfoward process for team member Gus to display his or her computer screen so that all team members can see it. See “Share your screen with others during a video call.”

Another way to collaborate:

It is also possible, within Scratch, to “Download to your computer,” and email the resulting project file to your partner. You can then upload the project file to your own Scratch account.

More about Hypertext

Recall that I’ve mentioned the difference between making meaningful choices as a hypertext reader, and meaningliess/unengaging/random choices. If the text you show your reader gives too much away, then reading what happens on that branch will be boring. (In other words, if your options are “Try to dunk the ball, but miss and watch your rival win a scholarship to your dream school” vs “Pass the ball, watch your rival score the winning point, but win the admiration of your coach who writes you a scholarship-winning letter about how you put the team ahead of your individual glory,” then I already know what happens when I click.

 Let’s imagine your story features a princess who’s being wooed by two different princes, and your reader has to choose between encouraging the intelligent prince with the statesman skills who can unite neighboring kingdoms against an evil warlock, or encouraging the heroic prince with the leadership skills to lead his troops into battle against the evil warlock, or canceling your debutante ball and apprenticing yourself to the local enchantress.

Wouldn’t that be much more engaging than meaningful set of choices than “Do you go through the red door or the green door?”

Of course.. but now we face a different problem. Such a garden forking of paths would take forever to write. If you start with a single page, and give your player two choices, each of which leads to a different page with two more choices, that doesn’t seem so bad.

But if each of those two pages offers two choices, and each of those pages offers two choices…

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 3.12.06 AM

…then after the third choice, you’d find yourself writing eight different lexias to advance the story.

 The reader would only be experiencing a tiny fraction of what you had written.

What sometimes happens here is the author chooses one path that’s obviously the preferred story, and punishes the reader who deviates from that path (by ending the story abruptly).

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 3.12.13 AM

If this is the case, then you might be better off telling that story as a traditional narrative, because that’s not really hypertext. Even if you tease your readers by letting them progress a few steps before they die, if you are privileging a particular storyline that you favor, at the expense of alternate branches, you might alienate readers who prefer one of the paths you prematurely ended.

A good balance is to combine the occasional dead end with the occasional splice/loop/sidestep. Here’s what I mean.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 3.12.20 AM

Notice that in this version, the first lexia includes links to to two different lexias, which is kind of standard; but one of the choices in the second level jumps ahead, re-using a lexia on a different path. That leaves just three choices at the third level, instead of four. One of those three choices is a dead end.  Instead of eight branches at the fourth level, this map keeps it down to a manageable four.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 3.12.27 AM

While there were a lot of dead ends at the third level, the fourth level introduces options that loop back, and one lexia even has three options (one of which points to a dead end).

My point is simply that mechanically givng your reader two choices at every lexia can lead to chaos, and giving your reader too few choices defeats the purpose of hypertext.

But remember — even though I’m showing you a diagram of a theoretical example of a hypertext story with sixteen or so lexias, the group project only asks you to collaborate on five lexias (with ten links and two special effects).

Submission Instructions

  • By 10am Jan 6, “share” your finished team project on Scratch.
  • One group member should post a link on this page, with all group members’ names.


  • Format/Completion
    • Has the Scratch project been submitted by a link on this page, by 10am Jan 6?
    • Does the “Project Page,” the project itself, or the link on this page include the names of all team members who contributed to it?
    • Does the project implement at least five new lexias?
    • Does the project implement at least 10 new links?
    • Does the project implement at least two special effects (animations, interactivity, etc.?)
  • Accuracy
    • Are the lexias free from surface-level errors (typos, spacing problems, etc.)?
    • Do the hyperlinks appear to work as intended?
    • Do the effects appear to work as intended?
  • Organization
    • Have all the game’s sprites and backdrops been given meaningful names?
    • Do the lexias and the links between them relate to each other in a meaningful way?
    • Does the story cohere? (Or does it look like separate chunks from group members who didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to join their creative forces?)
  • Craft
    • Does the submission demonstrate a knowledge of the conventions of creative writing? (Understanding showing vs telling, crisis vs conflict, expressing the writer’s feelings vs generating feelings in the reader, how to punctuate quoted speech, etc.)
    • Does the submission demonstrate a familiarity with the creative use of hyperlinks and animations/textual special effects?
  • Ideas
    • Does your project show a creative, thoughtful application of the skills you learned via the tutorial?
    • On the story front: If you were going for funny, is it funny? If you were going for a remixed fairy tale, or a spy thriller, or horror, how well does the final product achieve those goals? If you are spoofing Harry Potter, is your satire clever and effective (rather than just “Hey, guys, click this link and Harry and Hermione will snog!”)?
    • Overall, how well does the project succeed? Did you collaborate to use lexias, hyperlinks, and special effects to demonstrate your ability to create (or at least begin) an engaging digital story?


  1. tylercarter says:

    Are the teams for the Scratch Project posted?

    • Julie says:

      Tyler, have you found anything yet or have they still not been posted? I have been looking everywhere!

      • Check your email for an announcement from Canvas. I sent it out 11pm Jan 2, and got a confirmation within the hour from a student who received the message and said the groups were visible in Canvas.

        You can also find the same announcement in “Assignment Notifications” in Canvas.

        Likewise, the Interactive Fiction groups have been announced the same way.

  2. ckotyuha says:

    Do we need to post our individual scratch project (3 lexias, 5 links, etc.) here?

    • Thanks for asking. I plan to ask you to post links to all your prep and project work as part of Participation Portfolio 2, so posting here is not required. You are welcome to do so, though, if you have something you really want to share with your classmates.

  3. jon3292 says:

    A scratch on my window, a scratch on my thumb, a scratch on the computer program we’ve done!

    Group Project:
    “The Painting”

    Individual Practice Pieces:

    Alissa –



  4. Sara Tantlinger says:

    A Princess Story by Abbey Fleckenstein and Sara Tantlinger

    I wasn’t sure if we were suppose to post our individual scratch tutorials here as well, but if so here is mine:

  5. ckotyuha says:

    My individual Scratch tutorial story…

  6. amybarnes says:

    The adventures of Zach and JJ

  7. ericaalcibiade says:


    This group project was completed by: Erica, Regina, and Kaylynn.

    Individual Trial Projects: (Regina) (Kay) (Erica)

  8. cam1925 says:

    The Dare

    Bethany, Shanice, Willa

  9. ckotyuha says:

    Moving Time and Choices

    Julie Rucker
    Carissa Kotyuha
    Tyler Carter.

  10. willablack says:

    Okay here’s my solo project!

  11. zacharysheffler says:


    Katherine Catanzarite
    Zachary Sheffler
    Abigail Shaughness

    Inidividual Projects




  12. […] of the actions could be, and that the younger generation could create a game too. The other video, Hypertext Story, was helpful as well. Since I learn best when I see something or something is shown to me first, it […]

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