Review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2012

Scratch

Jump-start future programmers with adaptive sandbox tool

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Teachers say (95 Reviews)
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Grades
K-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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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 and Microsoft Kinect to control programs. The site also features project galleries and forums that support student work, and a new teacher portal, ScratchEd, supports teachers using the application in the classroom.

If you're interested in kicking off coding in your classroom, you should check out our Teaching Strategies module, Get Started With Coding in Your 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, a 21st-century skill that's quickly gaining importance. Students can create animations, games, and models that communicate artistry and learning. Kids or teachers download Scratch to their computer, which takes about 5 minutes over Wi-Fi. The website also hosts community features including a project gallery, support page, and forums.

The application is split into three columns. At left, kids can see available drag-and-drop programming "pieces." 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 accounts can upload programs to the website from the application.

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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, mathematic 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
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

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

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4
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?
3
While there's a supportive online community behind Scratch, it'll take patience, purpose, and perseverance to help kids accomplish their programming goals.

Common Sense Reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

5
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Featured review by
Lauren J. , Student
Student
La Sierra University
Riverside, CA
5
I found this to be a very fun and imaginative way to learn basic coding. It is simple with cute characters for the lower level learners, but it can be built upon and get more complex for the higher level learners. This is an exciting app for all learners!

I liked this product as a teaching tool. It is captivating, creative, and educational.

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