For schools worldwide, Scratch coding for kids has brought to life the art of writing instructions to tell computers what to do (coding). There are thousands of programming languages but this version is simplified for those just beginning their coding journey, it’s a fantastic introduction to programming. It’s so useful, that over 40 million people across the globe, mainly schools, now choose to use it.
In this guide, we’ll offer some information on what Scratch is and what it’s origins are, plus the benefits, potential applications, and plenty of links to resources and further reading.
Scratch is a programming language which has been created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. The idea was conceived by creator Mitchel Resnick, after seeing children in need of a simple, adaptable way to get into coding; Resnik and his MIT lab developed the free program to improve the technological learning experience for youngsters. In 2002, the first iteration of Scratch was born, and it has been going strong ever since.
It’s primarily aimed at children aged 8-16 and is a great tool for helping children get to grips with the programming. It’s accessibility and ability to unlock creativity is the reason why Scratch is often used in schools to develop coding skills. In this guide, we’ll offer more reasoning as why Scratch is such a popular coding language in schools.
Simplicity and accessibility
Scratch’s blocks-based approach is at the heart of its simplicity, making it ideal for learning to code in younger ages. Here are just a few things ensure it’s accessible to all:
- It’s extremely visual, all commands are on screen and children don’t need to remember text commands or specific code to start with
- It has a drag-and-drop interface which children have experience in many other education apps
- Commands in the program lock together, this means there are fewer error messages. This leads children to stick to trying for longer periods
- All commands have visual hints on how each should work together with others, making creating chains of code easier
- Colour-coding and categorising of commands again helps to solidify visual learning
- Common activities with Scratch programs have their own consistent buttons, for ease of language
Logic and problem-solving
Scratch is designed to give children a helping hand when they begin to code and importantly, it deals in positivity and success via trial and error. With Scratch, there are no strict rules or text commands as there are with other “senior” programming languages.
It’s these skills that they will be required to lean on more and more as their programming proficiency increases. Following logical thinking and problem-solving with coding are the foundations of a strong programmer, and they are concepts that are introduced in Scratch. They will also benefit from such skills in other subjects like maths and science.
Scratch gives teachers and children the opportunity to dream up new projects and challenges for the intended learning outcomes in line with the curriculum, in an immediately engaging environment for the entire class. Designing, building and sharing those projects with others is part of the fun.
Some of the applications of Scratch (which you can see below) are specifically designed to boost creativity and artistic expression.
All of this early learning can lead children to find a true interest in computer science, a career which today, is extremely important, rewarding, well-respected and lucrative.
Collaboration with popular floor and programming robots too, which brings another aspect to coding – seeing a tangible object move from the instruction within code on the screen. This certainly helps children to visualise potential careers in engineering and robotics.
Ask each child to write out their name in Scratch and then have a little fun with it. Using animation, Scratch can help you to do all sorts of fancy things with just your name. Change its colour or size, play a sound or even programme it to dance to the beat of some music. It can all be done with the use of coding animation.
A great idea for incorporating some English into the world of coding here. Scratch can allow pupils to pick a character and scene and build a story with dialogue and movement between scenes.
Each pupil could create their own story, or you could:
- Retell and existing story
- Make a class story. Give each pupil 5 minutes to build on the previous pupil’s story and see where your characters end up.
Make a class band without all the years of practicing with real instruments. With Scratch you can play sounds from instruments, create melodies and beats, and bring it all together to make your own programmed song.
Thankfully for teachers or parents who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching coding, there is a thriving Scratch community that you can lean on.
Here are a few links for further reading, project ideas and general knowledge about how scratch works and what it can do for your child or pupils in the classroom:
- Scratch website: Ideas and inspiration aplenty can be found on Scratch website. Not only will it give you some helpful background on the software and how it works, but you can also find a handy collection of activity guides that will help you put it to good use in the classroom.
- What is Scratch programming? A video: There are plenty of excellent visual explainers out there for a quick intro, but we found this one from Juni Learning especially helpful. You can also dive into their written guide on the subject.
- Stem Learning: For a list of downloadable teaching assets, like a teacher’s guide, lesson presentations and plans and Scratch quiz questions and answers, take a look at Stem Learning’s Scratch Beginners page.