Earlier this year, I led a coding workshop for a group of children from various different primary schools. I started by asked who had heard of Scratch. “Miss, we’ve done Scratch already,” volunteered one girl proudly, implying that they’d completed all there was to know.
In October, I ran a coding stand at a Maker Faire and two 11-year-old boys came up to look at a game. They saw it was coded in Scratch and their faces fell – “Oh we’ve done Scratch, we’re bored of that.”
Primary school children have a topic-based mentality and their achievements can often read like a thematic shopping list.
- Greeks …. done that
- Rainforests …done that
- Michael Morpurgo … done that
- Bus top division method … done that
- Scratch … done that
Scratch is such an important tool for helping children learn to code in primary education. The fact that it’s freely available means that stretched budgets can relax a little at the sight of a cost-effective way of delivering the requirements of the Computing curriculum … and other subjects too!
However, there is a real danger that children can be taught the basics of Scratch – how to move a sprite around the screen, how to change a background, how to play a sound or change a costume – and assume that’s all there is to coding. The risk is clear: they think they’ve “done Scratch” and can move onto something else.
Whatever scheme of work used, there needs to be progression through to the end of Key Stage 2 in Scratch. Children can use variables in their code, broadcast messages from one object to another, create a list to store and reference an array of values and simulate real-life systems. More than these programming concepts though, children also need to be able to design their own programme, code it, debug it and end up with a completed piece of work which they have created themselves.
It it sounds challenging – but help is at hand in the form of the Scratch website which contains an amazing community of coders publishing their projects, and the ScratchEd website where resources are shared and ideas are exchanged.
The boundaries of Scratch are our own limits of imagination. I am still learning so many different things that you can “do” in Scratch that I know I will never have “done Scratch”. There is always something new to create – let’s keep stretching and challenging our pupils’ understanding of this.