How I Use It
I used Scratch in several sections of 8th grade Spanish. Students were reading a novella written entirely in Spanish, with 1-2 page chapters. Students were required to recreate a chapter or scene from the novella using the tools in Scratch. Some students had prior experience with Scratch in math class completing the Hour of Code activities, but others had no experience. I began the lesson by making sure everyone had an account through their school email address, then gave an overview of the program including basic blocks that would be helpful for this particular assignment. Then students had time to begin their scene and I helped as needed.
In the past, this assignment was completed using the programming software Alice. The students preferred Scratch - there seemed to be less of a learning curve and students found the interface more simply and visually appealing. One drawback of Scratch is that it is difficult to move individual body parts (to wave, shake hands, jump up and down, etc.) without a great deal of coding or costuming involved. Also, the characters in the Scratch library were quite limited and many students brought in outside images, which they then had to edit within the program to look right.
Overall, I think Scratch is a great tool for teaching the basic skills needed for coding. Students are introduced to problem solving and logical thinking through block-based programming. The interface is visually appealing and the tool is simple to use. Being a web-based program is helpful in that students can access their accounts from any device, whether at home or at school. I would recommend Scratch for elementary and middle school students, although with the right context it could be used at any age.