This week, we started introducing KS1 children to Scratch Jr, a new simplified version of Scratch designed for younger children from age 5 through to 7. Scratch Jr is an ipad coding app in which children snap together graphical blocks of instructions to make characters move, interact, speak and transform on the screen.
First of all we introduced the children to the interface, by playing the introductory video on the Scratch Jr site. Then we let the children get creative!
Within thirty minutes they had:
- Developed their own characters
- Created simple animations
- Made their own games
- Recorded their own voices and used these in a game
- Made interactive stories
We shared the children's creations as they went along, by mirroring the ipads to the interactive whiteboard and getting the children to explain how they had created a particular feature. We were amazed at the progress that the children (some as young as 5) had made in this short time and how many of the KS1 Computing objectives that they had ticked off too:
- Understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions.
- Create and debug simple programs.
- Use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs.
This is 50% of the UK KS1 computing curriculum!
During this short session, we saw the children learning to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer. These skills are not just computing skills, they are life skills that will serve their critical thinking and problem solving abilities beyond the lifetime of this particular piece of classroom technology.
The plan for next week is to start working through the Scratch Jr curriculum, created by the Scratch Jr team. There are three schemes of work here:
- The animated genres curriculum which provides students with the opportunity to learn all of the concepts in ScratchJr and apply these concepts in their own personal creations.
- The playground games curriculum where children learn how to use ScratchJr as they re-create familiar playground games.
- The common core standards curriculum which describe ScratchJr projects that reinforce the Common Core Standards.
Or we might just let the children get creative and see what they produce :)
The ScratchJr site also has assessment material available to determine the depth of students' understanding of the concepts that they have learned along with lots of child friendly videos that explain a lot of the concepts to the children too. There are help videos available on the ipad app too if the children get stuck. Oh, and at the time of writing, the app is ipad only but the plan is to release an Android version later this month and a web based version later in the year. I can't wait for the Android version of Scratch Jr so that I can play on it at home :)