To ensure that your child will be capable of filling the coming waves of technological jobs, it’s critical that they learn how to think computationally, and the best way to do this is to teach them to code. And the best way to learn to code is to learn Scratch. Coding in Scratch is something that even young kids can begin to learn, and the process of writing code helps develop critical thinking skills.
But how to start? When to start? How to keep your student interested? We are going to answer all of those questions. We are going to focus on Scratch for Kids because learning Scratch will get your student to where they need to be. So here is the rundown:
Scratch is the world’s largest coding community for children. Scratch is designed, developed, and moderated by the Scratch Foundation, a nonprofit organization but was created by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media lab. As of today, Scratch ranks as the 19th most popular computer programming language in the world! Scratch is always free and is available in more than 70 languages, which is amazing when you think about it.
Scratch’s visual interface is representative of all “block-based” programming languages for kids.
The world’s major coding languages are “text-based,” meaning that code is written by typing words and symbols with your keyboard. To code in a text-based language like Python, Java, and C++, you string together multiple lines of code in an editor or IDE. While this method of programming is efficient and powerful, it is difficult to learn— just like picking up a foreign language. Scratch is a visual programming language where commands take the form of colorful blocks. Users can create programs by snapping blocks together, much like virtual LEGO. You can see the benefit of blocks for early learners.
Scratch is available for download at http://scratch.mit.edu. Once Scratch is downloaded to a computer, you do not need Internet access to create a project. Scratch is typically recommended for children over the age of 8. As we mention later, it is dependent on a student’s reading level and not age. We recommend a 2nd-grade reading level to get the most out of Scratch.
According to MIT “Scratch promotes computational thinking and problem-solving skills; creative teaching and learning; self-expression and collaboration; and equity in computing.” In reality, it does none of that. Scratch is a tool and how you use a tool determines the outcome. Scratch is a very good tool, but simply playing with Scratch is not going to turn your kid into a proficient coder. More on this later, Let’s first jump a bit deeper into Scratch and questions parents have.
Parents ask us when should my kid start? Well, today’s kids are digital natives. They’re surrounded by technology and grow up using computers, tablets, and cell phones from a very young age.
Yes, the earlier you begin teaching kids to code, the better you will be as children’s brains are primed to learn languages. While new research indicates that this rapid language acquisition ability is retained through a child’s teenage years, the general consensus says that true fluency is most easily attained prior to the age of thirteen.
So, start early. If your student can read at a second-grade reading level, please start them off with Scratch. If they are not reading at that level, then practice reading or send them outside to play.
Why learn to code in Scratch? Well, the benefits of learning to code and think computationally show up in our students’ lives in a number of ways.
So, in summary coding in Scratch teaches kids to think methodically.
With covid and the explosion in online learning, there are a lot of people and companies that have begun to teach Scratch Coding to Kids. Many of these are people who know how to program, but not how to teach. Others know how to teach, but not how to program. There are relatively few great resources. We will outline them later. There are a lot very ordinary providers and a few you should avoid. So how to choose? What do you look for? Here are some critical features:
Scratch is a tool for training kids to think. A piano is a tool for making music. It is about how you use the “tool”, not the tool itself. So, how do we build competency using the tool? Well, you have to have a plan and in education, that plan is called a “curriculum”.
The shortcoming of Scratch is that while there are lots of projects on YouTube or the web there is not a lot of good curricula. If you want to write clean code, it is important that you build a strong understanding of the core computer science concepts. They are like chords in music and to play well you must understand the chord progressions.
Look for curricula or courses that introduce the following: Operators, Variables, Data Types, Strings, Functions, Arrays, Comparisons and If/Else statements, Elif statements, While Loops, For Loops, Nested Loops. These are the same core concepts used in any advanced programming language; Java, Ruby, React, and JSS. Yes, they are expressed differently and often have subtle differences in how you use them, but they all share a common conceptual foundation. Look for a curriculum focused on teaching these concepts.
In the next section, we share some instructional videos with you that you can use to introduce the basics to your student. In the last section of this article, we tell you how to find more great instructional materials for FREE, including videos, quizzes, projects, and coding exercises.
Do you want to start your child learning to code, but have not been sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’re here to help.. Today, we’re going to walk you through the basics of beginning Scratch coding including how to set up your account. We’ll also share what the different types of blocks are, and then start coding together.
We have recently made all our curricula available online to parents and educators. You just need to create an account on www.ucode.com. You will find our LMS there with instructional videos, coding exercises, project steps and quizzes. It is very cool. If you need instructional support, we have a pay-as-you-go plan where you pay by the minute for what you need or we have traditional classes and 1:1 instruction. We currently have a range of courses for all ages including Scratch.
If you have not heard of UCode, we have been teaching kids to code since 2009 – actively teaching kids to code in schools, camps, labs and online. Our curriculum is nationally recognized and now it is yours for FREE at www.ucode.com
And if you have any questions, reach out by email to [email protected] and we would love to speak with you.