Review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014

Scratch

Jump-start future programmers with adaptive sandbox tool

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (96 Reviews)

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1 video | 5 images

Pros: Adapts to students' level of content knowledge, logic, and math readiness.

Cons: Interface may feel too young for older kids, and games uploaded to the Scratch website can be hard to embed elsewhere.

Bottom Line: With plenty of time and support, Scratch can help kids of all ages learn essential programming concepts.

Printable Scratch Cards on the site's support page help remind kids of coding basics using cute characters, while outside texts can help you support students interested in tackling more complex coding tasks. The user community can also help teachers and students connect Scratch to peripherals such as MaKey MaKey boards to control programs. The site also features project galleries and forums that support student work, and a teacher portal, ScratchEd, supports teachers using the application in the classroom. Anyone can view user-generated games uploaded to the website, but a free account is needed to upload games and to download code from other games (which is useful for finding out how other people have solved programming challenges).

If you're interested in kicking off coding in your classroom, you should check out our Teaching Strategies module Get Started with Coding in the Classroom.

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Scratch is a project from MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten Group that teaches math, programming, and creative expression through technology. Most of the learning is tacit and supported by classroom teachers helping kids learn to code. Students can create animations, games, and models that communicate artistry and learning. The application is split into three columns. At left, kids can see available drag-and-drop programming blocks. In the middle column, kids can program and edit the appearance of specific sprites (characters, buttons, and the like). The rightmost column is split between the game or program (top) and a display of all the assets used in it (bottom). Kids with free accounts can upload programs to the website from the application.

Scratch also hosts community features including a project gallery, support page, and forums. Scratch teacher accounts include the ability to create student accounts, organize projects, and monitor student comments. The Getting Started page has activities that include tutorials, activity cards, and educator guides.

 

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Scratch is great for bringing together related pieces of student learning into a multimedia product. For example, students can create narrated vocabulary animations to show what words mean, mathematical models, or multi-stage games. As with any sandbox tool, students and teachers need to establish clear goals and purposes drawn from classroom learning or personal interests. Kids who are used to saying things like "I can't do this" can, indeed, use Scratch well, but they'll need help coming up with ideas and goals that they can quickly execute and turn into multiple, early successes.

While the interface feels a bit young, kids of all ages can edit graphics and audio to look and sound like anything they want. Once older students understand what they can do with Scratch, they'll quickly look past its cute but juvenile appearance.

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Overall Rating

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

The interface could be more attractive. Students who experience success meeting small programming goals will love progressing along the learning curve, but students who struggle will need help setting and reaching reasonable goals.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
Coding can accommodate the creative expression of any content kids bring to it. Bonus: It embeds tacit math learning. Some kids will need help persevering as they follow the many steps.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
While there's a supportive online community behind Scratch, it'll take patience, purpose, and persistence to help kids accomplish their programming goals.

Common Sense Reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 96 reviews) (96 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Shantanu S. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Baccalaureate School of Global Education
Astoria, NY
Great way to learn coding for elementary and middle school students

Scratch is a great tool to introduce coding concepts into a classroom while teaching the students about other things. Nowadays many of my students come to me already conversant in Scratch, while others are new to the tool. I use the opportunity to teach elements of literacy to all of my students, while bringing those new to Scratch (or coding in general) up to speed.

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