Review by David Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014
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ScratchJr

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Drag-and-drop programming is an effective intro for budding coders

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-2
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: Well-designed professional interface and powerful tools provide a fun and effective intro to programming.

Cons: The app can be hard for new users to learn without some teacher guidance.

Bottom Line: With a little adult help, this is a great platform for getting kids into programming.

ScratchJr will work best when kids have lots of guided practice through structured exercises and hands-on support. Although the interface is designed to appeal to younger kids, the program still features a lot of things to click and drag around. So confusion is likely, and getting stuck is easy. But with carefully prepared lessons that walk students step by step through the activities, in an hour or two, they should be able to modify stock programs and even start building their own interactive scenes.

If you're interested in bringing coding to your classroom, you might be interested in our Teaching Strategies module, Get Started with Coding in the Classroom.

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By dragging and dropping graphic sprites across the screen, little programmers can bring simple -- and lightly interactive -- scenes to life. The Lego-like, snap-together commands make the basic programs easy to create. For example, drag a cartoon cat onto a beach scene, and drag a small icon into the programming window to add a movement command. Then just add a "start when touched" command and snap a repeat element onto the move icon, and a tap on the cat sends the cartoon skittering across the screen.

Taking advantage of your device's tactile interface, everything in the program is a tap or swipe away. The entire interface is well-designed to look like toys and art supplies carefully arranged on a desk, so it's easy to engage the title's 5- to 7-year-old target age range. And, although kids left alone can easily get lost in the various options, with a little guidance, they can design, build, and enjoy their very own presentations.

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Computer programming can be hard to learn. For younger kids, the idea of writing code is far too much to imagine when they're just beginning to learn to read and write. So this icon-driven interface is a good fit when the goal is introducing kids to programming concepts without all the complex programming. The multiple trays, editors, and input screens take some getting used to, so it's not as simple as handing the program to a classroom of kids. But include a little teacher guidance, and ScratchJr offers a rich and challenging environment for very young programmers. At its best, ScratchJr may be most important for teaching a love of digital creation. 

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Hand a device to a younger learner and you have their interest. Show them how simply dragging and dropping colorful icons can create on-screen action and you have their attention. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Based on the popular Scratch visual programming platform, ScratchJr borrows the snap-together programming block and real-time building model that made the original a great learning tool.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

This program offers few -- but quite promising -- activities, lessons, and assessments to support teachers in the classroom. 


Common Sense Reviewer
David Thomas Director of academic technology

Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Michelle M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Creative Way to Teach Coding to Primary Students

The ingenious jigsaw puzzle style application gives primary students the opportunity to learn the basics of coding in a creative, friendly learning environment. With a limited text interface, it gives the youngest of learners the opportunity to successfully build interactive programming stories by clicking coding blocks to express their creativity. This application can also be successfully navigated for those students who have limited typing skills. Overall this app provides an excellent learning experience where the focus is not on the product itself, but rather the process generated by critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. I think the only limitation is that is not as powerful as the original Scratch program where the variety of programming blocks is limited in comparison. Advanced students would have a more meaningful experience in the original Scratch.

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