Jamie Edmondson (CAS Master Teacher, Computing Leader and specialist Computing Teacher at Our Lady's RC Primary school in Manchester) will be presenting a workshop on the use of Scratch in primary at the 2017 CAS National Conference (Bham). Here he discusses why he believes Scratch is so effective at teaching programming with primary school pupils and shares some examples of the work he is doing with his pupils.
Scratch is probably the most effective and commonly used programming software used in Primary schools. If you haven’t come across Scratch, it is basically a visual programming language, used to easily create games, animations and simulations. The range of things that you can do with Scratch is truly amazing and provides an ideal stepping stone to the more advanced world of computer programming.
You can download various versions of the software or access Scratch 2.0 online, through a web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox.
If you have a Scratch account and are an educator, you can now request a Scratch Teacher Account. I would highly recommend doing this as it makes it really easy to create accounts for groups of students and enables you to manage your students’ projects and comments. More information about Scratch Teacher accounts can be found here.
If you have access to iPads, younger pupils should be given the opportunity to program using the iPad app version, Scratch Jnr. It is less intensive than the desktop version and it's simpler user interface, means that even pupils in EYFS should be able to create something with relative ease.
In Year 2, my pupils use Scratch Jnr to program an informative animation based on a current topic/theme. This tutorial video here, shows you the basics of using the Scratch Jnr iPad app. Animations could link to any current topic that pupil's are studying. For example, my Reception class created some fantastic animations to showcase what they learnt in their Space topic. Here is what one groups finished project looked like https://youtu.be/w_D_6xDbWPM. And even pupils in Nursery class were able to program a simple animation to show what they had learnt during their healthy eating topic https://youtu.be/TY5Z1Mg7J8c.
Scratch in upper KS1/Lower KS2
One of the statements from the KS2 Computing programme of study states that pupils should be taught to ‘use sequence, selection and repetition in programs; work with variables and various forms of input and output’. This activity provides a good introduction to pupils understanding the important CS concept of repetition.
Once pupils are ready to move on to the PC version of Scratch, a nice, simple activity for them to start off with, is to program 2 ‘sprites' (characters) to have a conversation. I originally came across this idea on Phil Bagge's excellent website www.code-it.co.uk. I find that using this 'two person conversation algorithm planner' by Gary Setchell really helps too. Also providing a clear cross curricular focus helps keep pupils engaged. In this example here, Year 3 were studying Ancient Egypt and had been learning about Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter (Lord Carnavon being the person who financed Carter's search for King Tutankhamun's body). The pupils loved programming the conversation that they imagined would have taken place when Howard Carter asked Lord Carnavon to continue financing the search!
As part of their Ancient Greece topic, pupils in Year 3 also programmed a conversation involving the two Ancient Greek characters, Icarus and Daedalus. This is a nice example here.
In Year 4, pupils really enjoyed applying what they had learnt in their French lessons. After importing a relevant stage and two sprites, they then programmed a conversation like this one here . To help them they used the Google translate tool when they weren't sure of any exact translations (Scratch also has a translation tool feature too)!
Pupils should them move on to incorporating some of the other blocks (e.g. 'motion' blocks) and perhaps experiment with using the ‘broadcast’ block as well (this will enable them to link together different scenes). This could be done through programming a simple animation such as this one.
You can see here that again pupils are learning the importance of repetition within programming and also sequencing.
Scratch in Upper KS2
Pupils can also use Scratch to program their own interactive quizzes and they love this activity. This is great for older pupils as it introduces them to the more complex programming concepts of selection and variables. However, I have even had Year 2 pupils make them with equal success too! Here is an example one made by a Year 5 pupil. Have a go!
The beauty of saving projects to pupils own online Scratch accounts is that they can then 'remix' other people's projects. If you have an account, why not log in and then press the 'remix' button on this project here. Can you identify the mistakes within the script and then fix it so that it runs correctly? Why not challenge your pupils to create their own, improved version of it!Read more from Jamie at his blog: https://jecomputing.blogspot.co.uk/ or you can follow him at @JEComputing