How I Use It
I use SCRATCH for a programming project in my 6th grade classroom. In this project, students are introduced to the concept of programming and then we jump into programming to create a unique product (such as a game or music video). While this product is kid friendly, it does require the teacher to instruct students about the various blocks available, how the stage is created from a grid, and where to find backgrounds, sprites, and sounds. I have found, though, that once I showed the students the basics, they jumped in and began creating and finding their own techniques and ways to accomplish their goals. If you decide to use SCRATCH in your classroom, it is important to set specific goals for what you want your students to create. The more involved the product, the more time consuming.
SCRATCH is an involved program with many features, but there are user guides and teaching suggestions available online to help the teacher and students. I suggest reviewing the product guide and completing some of the tasks in the guide before using this program in the classroom for the first time. This can be time consuming!
Overall, I really like using SCRATCH in my classroom. All of my students have experienced some level of success and accomplishment, regardless of their academic history, when using SCRATCH. I have had students who struggle with reading or writing excel in their work with SCRATCH.
There are many ways to arrive at similar results with SCRATCH, essentially there is no 'right' answer. This has created a community in my classroom where students are always sharing new techniques with their peers.
Many of my students went home and created many games and videos after we completed the SCRATCH lessons because they were so excited by creating their own unique products. Students can also share their work with other SCRATCH users, allowing them to participate in a global community. I do have parents sign their children up, so they can monitor sharing on the site.
While many of my students found this program to be fun, there was some frustration along the way. Once students begin building their code with the blocks, it can become daunting for students and they have trouble going back into their code to fix errors. Another issue was students forgot their passwords to this site many times, so I suggest keeping their passwords on index cards and keep them handy in the classroom. Students should also be reminded to save their work periodically so they do not lose their work.