The Scratch Day

Scratch Cat
Image via Wikipedia

A while back I wrote a post (http://malbell.wordpress.com/?s=scratch ) about an opportunity that I had been given by the Deputy Head of a Primary (Elementary) school that I work in to take a group of Year 6 (Grade 5) children for a day and do anything I liked with I.T. and the continuous use of the school’s ICT Suite.

I decided that I would try and introduce them to Scratch the wonderful program developed developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab by a team led by Mitchel Resnick

I think the term “Lifelong Kindergarten” really defined my approach to the day. I was going to take this group of children and allow them to act for just one day with the freedom that they would once have enjoyed as Kindergarten children.

I started the day off with giving the children a choice as to whether they worked singularly, in pairs or as a group. They were given a copy of the Scratch introductory text http://info.scratch.mit.edu/sites/infoscratch.media.mit.edu/files/file/ScratchGettingStartedv14.pdf This is a really good text in that it gives a step by step introduction to the program.

I let the children explore the steps themselves and they went much faster than I had thought. Charlie, an able boy, had already found a car to put Scratch The cat into and was working on a background by the time we had been looking at the guide for about ten minutes!

The children loved the movement that they could create and were fascinated by the effects such as drum sounds and changing colours.

After this initial period to get to know the program they were able to develop their own presentations. I had two Teaching Assistants with me and they threw themselves into the programming.. in fact they seemed to be enjoying it as much as the children.

The real success of the day were in the so called “Special Needs” children. Three of them sat in a group and proceeded to show themselves, me and the Teaching Assistants that they had a brilliant imagination, a fantastic eye for colour and were able to start creating a good  story effectively. A boy who has big problems in settling down in class and has had to be removed on a number of occasions absolutely loved it all. The T.A.’s were amazed at the way he worked and the fact that he had communicated more in a few hours than he had in almost a month!

At the end of a long and busy day the children were able to show each other what they had produced. Afterwards they were taken back to their classroom to write a diary entry about it all. Many of them said it had been “fun” and “enjoyable” and that they had really enjoyed watching the presentations of their peers.

The children insisted that I give them the URL for Scratch as they were going to go home and download it. They had become the “experts” on the program today and were more then willing to show other children in the school how to use it.

I started the day by saying to the children that I was not teaching them anything today…we were all a learning community and we could all get something out of the day. I learnt about changing backgrounds into sprites and Ryan showed me how to create a maze game. It was a very worthwhile experience and added to my learning and skills.

We would all like to say… “Thank you Scratch!”

By the way if this post has got you interested in using Scratch then please be aware that Scratch has a library of uploaded programs (now running into thousands) that the children can download and then play around with (today’s children opened a number of these that come with the program download). Every year there is a Scratch Day where schools from all over the world celebrate and collaborate on Scratch Projects. This year the date of Scratch day is May 22nd for more information see http://day.scratch.mit.edu/

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