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Aug 29

Scratch-ing the Programming Surface

Back-to-school means I’m back to one of my favorite volunteer jobs of all time – teaching computer lab for the K-8 students at St. John’s Lutheran School.  I’m in the lab 3 hours each week working with the various grades on typing and computer literacy skills as well as special projects using some of my favorite Web 2.0 tools.

One thing that gets them “uber” excited is creating their own computer programs using the Scratch programming language.  Scratch is a great introduction to computer programming appropriate for students from 3rd grade on up. I even know a few adults who enjoy programming with Scratch.

If you aren’t familiar with Scratch, it’s a free downloadable programming language, created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Here’s a description of the program from the Scratch web site:

“Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.

As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”

And here’s a brief introductory video to give you a feel for the program:

There are loads of resources on the web to get you started using Scratch and to help teachers use Scratch in the classroom (here’s a page of links I’ve put together), but the main reason for this post is to share a homegrown video tutorial series that walks students through the skills needed to create their first Scratch game.  This video tutorials series, called Scratch Basics, was recorded by my son, Stanley (your “Online Virtual Teacher”), and covers …

  • Where Everything is in Scratch
  • Making Code
  • The Basics of Movement
  • Drawing
  • Sounds
  • and more!

Here’s the “Where Everything is in Scratch” video to give you an idea of what to expect:

I’ve used this series with my 3rd -8th grade students, and they all successfully created programs with the goal of moving an object using the keyboard arrow keys and as it touches other objects the player scores points and hears a sound. Check out the Flying Hippos and Laptops program by one of the students as an example.

Once they have this introduction to Scratch basics, I just have to get out of the way and let them create.  The sky is the limit and the programming spark is burning in them!

This post is the last of the Summer 2011 WELS Hacker series on the WELSTech Podcast.


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1 comment

1 ping

  1. Perry Lund

    Another good product which is free and works on all 3 main platforms (Java based) is Alice – now at version 2.2 and beta 3.0. I have seen some work with this at the college level even. Don’t let it scare you, it would be fine for 5th grade on up too.

    http://www.alice.org/index.php?page=what_is_alice/what_is_alice
    Alice is a project out of Carnegie Mellon University

    20-25 years ago in entry level college computer courses we used Logo some alongside BASIC… which did some similar things.

    Alice helps because it teaches concepts to older kids about object oriented thinking and thus programming. Things like inheritance of object properties and methods. All good stuff as kids grow in development in middle school and high school.

    There are days I wish I was teaching again…

  1. WELSTech » Blog Archive » 199 – WELS Hacker: Scratch & Polish

    […] Scratch-ing the Programming Surface […]

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