Scratch Jr is an introductory programming language that caters for young children, mainly within KS1, by using drag and drop blocks. Children snap together the graphical programming blocks to make characters, or ‘sprites’, move, jump, turn, walk, dance and sing. The programming language used is developmentally appropriate for younger children and the features are designed to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development (Scratch Jr website). Children can then move onto the Scratch app when they are ready. At a glance, the content and language used is much more suite dot KS1 than Scratch, however, being relatively new to the world of code, it still took me a while to get to grips with it.
Why Scratch Jr for KS1?
Scratch Jr was created to allow young children to enter the world of code. It enables them to create and express themselves through computing rather than just interacting with it. Whilst enjoying Scratch Jr, children are developing as computational thinkers, solving problems and develop sequencing skills paramount to future academic success. In addition, early numeracy and literacy skills are developed due to the language used and the meaningful and motivating context Scratch displays.
Setting up Scratch Jr:
Scratch Jr is available as a FREE app for both iPad and Android devices. Once loaded and opened, clicking on the house icon allows you to create a project or access saved projects – great for assessing children’s work after the lesson. The coding world is then at your fingertips!
My Experience of Scratch Jr:
I first noticed that there are more pictures than words, making it easily accessible for all young learners. The icons pr block palette, number 14 in the screenshot below, indicate how the ‘sprite’ will move or the basic programming options.
The functions are much simpler than Scratch and I easily managed to create a small walking safari scene using customised ‘sprites’. It is super easy to use as you drag the blocks you would like into the programming area.
For children, I do feel a teacher would have to explain the green flag and how to group parts together but once informed, they could be fully independent in no time. I enjoyed the challenge of debugging sprites and making sure things worked exactly as I planned out and I am positive KS1 children would feel the same and become immersed in the world of coding that this app has to offer.
The teacher could create a simple project and ask children to add on or edit specific aspects to check and assess their debugging skills. This would aid in their computational thinking skills and problem solving whilst allowing them to explore coding and algorithms. Additionally, the teacher could set challenges for the higher achieving students and could write a set of instructions for lower achieving students to follow.
There are also step by step guides available on the website for how to create more complex aspects of Scratch Jr such as Meet and Greet and Conversations.
What do people think of Scratch Jr:
This ScratchJr Book Gets Younger Minds Creating with Code – GeekDad. January 7, 2016
Top 10 Tech | 2016 – School Library Journal. December 6, 2016