Exploring the possibilities of ScratchJr (Years 1-4)

A two part series exploring ScratchJr within Literacy and Maths and how this links back to both Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes Progress Outcome 1 and Computational Thinking Progress Outcome 2.

We will explore how ScratchJr can be used in your classroom to introduce concepts, and the vocabulary of computational thinking. Together we look at ways of introducing ScratchJr for distance learning and authentic contexts in Literacy and Maths.

Exploring ScratchJr

Sound of burning fire in the background.

Text on screen: Kia Takatū Kia Takatū Digital Readiness - ScratchJr Years 1 to 4

(Slideshow presentation begins on screen and is scrolled through by facilitator Nicki Tempero)

(Opening slide titled ScratchJr on screen)

Kia ora and welcome to ScratchJr overview from our webinars. I am Nicki Tempero, and I’m an accredited facilitator with CORE Education, and I'm one of the many facilitators on the Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko Digital Readiness project.

(Slide 2)

Through ScratchJr we're going to be exploring how to develop ‘Computational Thinking’ concepts and vocab. Also looking at how we can implement ScratchJr into literacy and maths.

(Slide 3)

As well as our series of webinars that we're creating we also have Pīkau that can support you with implementation. We suggest Pīkau 2 in particular ‘What is Computational Thinking for Digital Technologies?’ and also Pīkau 5 and 6 would be worthwhile with ‘First steps in programming’ and ‘Programming with Sequence and Output’. Through these you will have videos and information but also hear from teachers about what they have experienced and how they have implemented activities into their classrooms.

(Slide 4)

ScratchJr is an app and it is also now a web-based tool. There are links on the slide here for you to access those. In my opinion, ScratchJr is a great tool no matter whether your students are five years old or going through into years 7 and 8. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. You can just have the Sprite move across the page or you can be creating a quiz or you can be creating pick-a-path stories or just recreating stories that students have already written.

(Slide 5)

Looking at Progress Outcomes for Computational Thinking, Progress Outcome 1 comes nearer to the end of Level 1.

(Slide 6)

When we look at the Progress Outcome the main things that come out from here are:

  • an authentic context and taking in account the end users
  • looking at breaking down information
  • looking at step-by-step instructions
  • identifying errors
  • debugging the errors.

(Slide 7)

We’ve talked in other webinars about Kidbots, how we use collaborative groups and have a programmer, a tester and a robot and have the robot moving around a grid to selected objects. The progression from there is through to ScratchJr. You can create a new program, you can add backgrounds, characters and then have the characters moving around. We suggest that you work collaboratively again, having someone creating a code whether it's on the computer or on paper and then the others manipulating and testing what has been created.

(Slide 8)

Vocabulary in Computational Thinking is really important, we suggest that with students you create a list of the vocab and what it means. This is just one example but it's really important for transition through to other Progress Outcomes that you use the big words like ‘Abstraction’ and ‘Decomposition’ and ‘Programming’. Kids love the vocab and honestly it really doesn't take them long to pick it up then remember it.

(Slide 9)

As well as creating on ScratchJr it's really important for the students to have a play and then start sort of more sequential activities. You can scaffold the activities up and along with deliberate acts of teaching you're giving the students plenty of opportunity to play and create. Alongside that taking into account your authentic context.

  • Are you retelling a story?
  • Are you explaining a maths concept?
  • Are you publishing a story?
  • Are you retelling part of your enquiry through ScratchJr as well?
  • Who is the end user? Who is the person that is going to see this? Who are we sharing it with?
  • What do we know about them already?
  • What we need to know?

For example if we're creating a story for preschoolers about a concept then having the Sprite with text coming up on the screen is not necessarily going to be useful. Transferring that into an audio would be more useful. Also planning through:

  • Who are your characters?
  • What is the background going to look like?
  • And also looking at patterns and sequence.

Once the students are on the computer or the iPad they've got all that planning and all the thought processes first so the limited time on the iPad or Chromebook is going to be quite focused.

(Slide 10)

ScratchJr on the website, there are block descriptions, there are printable activity cards and there are also the printable block images. These are all quite useful and I do suggest you have a look at them and maybe print some off.

I'm just going to go into ScratchJr now on my laptop so you can see what it looks like.

(Nicki opens ScratchJr on the screen and navigates around the program.)

I'm going into the ‘home button’ and the ‘plus’ sign takes you into ScratchJr. This is Tic and I know that I'm going to be coding him because he is highlighted there.

(Nicki points to the top left hand side of the screen where there is a box and it says ‘Tic’.)

The movement blocks (white arrow in a blue box) here I can just drag and drop down below. To get him to move we have an ‘events button’ (green flag) and we can put the flag there. It's also important that the students can read what they’ve dropped down. It’s very easy to just drag and drop and something moves but we also want the students to be able to read this and to predict what is going to happen.

A really quick tour around the page. The picture at the top (Nicki clicks on the picture and Suburbs page opens up) gives you possible backgrounds. (Nicki selects one by clicking on the ‘tick’ at the top). You can also create your own. On the left hand side of the page the ‘plus button’ is where you can find other characters that you can import. There is also the possibility of creating your own and importing as well.

Once the ‘flag’ is pushed the little Sprite will move along.

It’s also quite a good time to reinforce that although this 1 x forward, 1 x forward, 1 x forward just having the one block and changing the number to ‘3’ is exactly the same as the three blocks.

Lots of things that you can create through here. There is the opportunity to add text and increase the size of the character or reduce it and make it invisible. Recording your voice, adding loops, pause buttons and then your end button. And one that will take you onto a second page if necessary.

This was a really quick overview of how to use ScratchJr.

Back into the presentation.

(Slide 11)

There are a few different workflows that we've mentioned here.

(Slide 12)

How to create some different activities that you can go to from the web page.

(Nicki scrolls through slides 13 to 17)

And lots of tips and tricks for you and a couple of examples.

(Slide 18)

Our challenge for you is to jump in and have a play!

(Slide 19)

Have a look at what is possible with ScratchJr and let your students have a play before they start some scaffolded activities.

We also have Ngā Kiriahi as our professional community in Kia Takatū. There is more information about ScratchJr in there and other websites to go and look at and other activities. Please if you are creating anything we would love to see what you or your students have created. Please feel free to ask any questions that come up in Ngā Kiriahi as well.

Thank you for listening and enjoy your play with ScratchJr.

(Sound of burning fire in the background.)

Text on screen: Kia Takatu a-Matihiko Digital Readiness

How to use this resource

To use this resource effectively, you should have access to the following resources:

  • a device
  • ScratchJr app or webtool.

Ngā Kiriahi

Once you’ve watched the video and explored the resource, adapt it for your own learning context. Let us know what ideas you’ve come up with over on Ngā Kiriahi and find out from others how they’re teaching.