Coding for children is a wonderful way to give wings to their imagination. ScratchJr is a simple programming language, with which children of year 5-7 can programme art, interactive stories and games.
It has sprites (characters or objects) and colourful blocks that can be snapped together to command the characters to move, run, sing, and more. This promotes creativity and logical thinking among children. The command blocks used for animation are as simple as start, move forward and backward, turn left or right, jump, grow, and shrink.
Using these blocks, children can create a party of dancing animals or a game of tag. It gives your little ones an opportunity to express themselves creatively.
Look at this simple Gif created by my 8-year old nephew created with ScratchJr in 10 minutes:
The characters and objects can be modified with the help of the paint editor in the APP. Children can add their pictures and voice to the project, too. This simple programming language is a derivation from scratch.mit.edu, and uses the same principles as any other professional coding language in the world, but it is coding for kids! The only difference from professional coding languages is that ScratchJr is proudly child’s play.
Benefits of ScratchJr for children are that it:
Promotes cognitive, personal, emotional and social development
Helps children organise their thoughts
Lets them express themselves
Helps them learn sequencing skills
Helps them learn to solve problems
Helps them develop numeracy and literacy skills
ScratchJr resources for students
On the ScratchJr website, their are various resources
APPs: Scratch junior android and iOS apps are absolutely free, and available for download on tablets
Guides: One can download ScratchJr interface guide, Paint editor guide, Block descriptions for easy understanding of the App
Tips and Hints: On the website, various Scratch junior tutorials are available regarding renaming and deleting projects, character animation, using multiple character, trigger blocks, character list scrolling, copying character, copying scripts from one character to another, and moving backwards
Sharing platform: One can also share scratch junior projects and explore sample projects on the platform
ScratchJr resources for teachers
There is an elaborate guide for teachers on ScratchJr website, that let them conduct effective workshops and events.
Activities: In the teacher’s section, there is a set of 9 activities in PDF format, with step-by-step instructions to undertake the activities with the students
Curricula: In this section, there are:
Printable block descriptions for reference
Animated Genres Curriculum: It has three modules—Making a Scratch Jr collage, story and game —that are covered in eight lessons, and various projects for children
Playground games curriculum: It has eight lessons with discussions, mechanics, block scripts for projects
Literacy and Math Curriculum: It has two Upper and Lower Case modules and one Counting and Carnality module
Assessments: This section has two kinds of assessments:
Scratch Jr solve-its
Reverse engineering assessments
Teachers can find various useful ScratchJr material on PBS Kids website, too.
How to conduct a Scratch Day for younger children
Anyone can organise a Scratch Day, anywhere. Learning to code is fun, and facilitating children to learn to code enables them to express themselves creatively. You can organise a small or a big event, and invite children and/or parents to collaborate and learn to create fun interactive stories, games and art with ScratchJr.
You may consider the following steps to conduct such an event:
1. Think of the kind of Scratch Day you would like to conduct—whether you want to teach people how to use ScratchJr, give them pre-defined activities, let children create their own projects, make it a small event, or conduct it on a large scale.
2. Decide a time and place for the event, and invite participants and their parents, and remind them to bring their Android and iOS devices (preferably tablets), and to download Scratch junior app on the devices in advance.
3. Depending upon the number of participants expected to attend the event, select a space that will allow them to comfortably create and collaborate.
4. Make arrangements for the ICT required for the event, e.g. projector, extra tablets, and wifi. Also use a printerto print block guides, ScratchJr activities (from the Teach section of ScratchJr website and PBS KIDS ScratchJr cards).
5. The timeline of the event will look something like this: Welcome ceremony, ice-breaking activities, introduction to ScratchJr app (in case students are new to the app), creation of a Scratch project, mid-time activities (snacks, games, etc.), sharing of projects, wrap up.
6. To introduce children to the Scratch App, you can show them an introductory video and some scratch tutorials from the Teach page of the ScratchJr website.
7. The scratch projects can be based on pre-decided activities that you can download from ScratchJr and PBS KIDS ScratchJr websites, or you can encourage parents and students to create something from their own imaginations.
8. Remember to facilitate children by asking them questions, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking, connecting like-minded kids, empathising with them, and encouraging them to touch the screen on their own.
9. During project-making, you can walk around, guiding children, encouraging the kids and parents, and telling them about interesting tricks like making a character disappear or adding their own pictures in the project. Encourage them to explore and create a story or game of their liking.
10. Sharing of projects, once everyone has made theirs, is fun, as every kid gets to express oneself and share their ideas and work. Appreciation from others encourages kids to be expressive. Ask children about what they liked and learned.
11. Consider giving participation certificates to the participants to motivate them. Conclude the event by encourage both kids and parents to continue using the tool at home to create art, stories and games they like.
Here is a checklist of things-to-do to plan a Scratch Day.
So, fellow EdTech lovers, download the app and required resources, and get to planning a Scratch Day of your own to encourage coding for children. Do not forget to list your Scratch Day event on the Scratch Day website for others to explore.