Our team was excited to receive a set of the new Scratch Coding Cards from No Starch Press last month. The 75-card deck is organized into 10 themed-sets, each with its own title card and index, of sorts. The cards are beautifully made and are available as a free PDF on the Scratch website or as cards in a box, available for purchase on Amazon.
We wanted to learn more about how the cards might be used in the classroom. Lucky for us, the creator of the cards, Natalie Rusk, works just down the street at the MIT Media Lab, and she was glad to chat.
What are the cards for?
The Scratch Cards are designed to give learners a tangible way to get started creating projects with Scratch. The Scratch Team had received enthusiastic feedback from educators about the original set of 12 Scratch Starter Cards. These new sets of theme-based cards are designed to help learners see the different types of fun and meaningful projects they can make with Scratch. Natalie hopes the cards will help more young people become engaged in creative coding as they explore connections based on their interests in games, music, animals, stories, and more.
The front of each card shows what you can do and the back of the card shows how you can do it:
The themes for the cards were inspired, in part, by popular activities in the Scratch online community.
For each theme, there is a set of coding cards, plus an overview card. On the back of the overview card, you can see whether that set of cards was designed to be used in sequence (for example, when building a game) or whether those cards can be used in any order (cards with an asterisk in the image above).
The activities within each theme contain snippets of code that can be useful across themes. Natalie explained, “If you see the same script in multiple contexts, you start to get the idea of coding. You start to realize, ‘I can use these blocks to make a wide variety of projects.”
The cards are also designed to help stretch kids’ interests and conceptual understandings. For example, for students who are creating beautiful animation projects that aren’t interactive, creating a virtual pet can be a way to introduce more interactive coding, including broadcasting events and storing a random number in a variable. But the cards don’t use technical language, or even Scratch-specific language. In Natalie’s words: “The cards help young people learn computational and mathematical concepts by showing them how they can use the blocks, rather than trying to explain a concept abstractly.”
For each theme, there is an online tutorial for students in the Scratch Tips window as well as a brief workshop guide for leading a class or workshop on the theme.
How the cards might be used in the classroom
The cards were designed for diverse interests and applications, so there are many variations on how they might be used in classroom settings.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Provide choice. Spread out a couple piles of cards - activity-side-up - and invite learners to choose a set that appeals to them.
Build on interests. Use the cards as a tool for differentiation and choice, inviting students to grab a set of cards when they’re finished with an assignment, or have time to choose what they want to make.
Encourage collaboration. Invite students to work in pairs, taking turns as the “driver”.
Connect to the curriculum. Make connections to curricular areas. For example, remix Virtual Pet as an endangered species, turn Dress-Up Game into historical fashion, or use Animate Your Name as part of a book report, with each letter representing a word that describes character traits.
Arrange a project exchange. For example, start by following the steps for Virtual Pet, but then invite students to customize projects for one another, asking their peers what kind of pet they want, what it should eat, what it should say, etc.
Offer the cards as an optional resource. Make the cards available as an option in addition to the Scratch online tutorials, books, or other scaffolds.
Print cards to take home. Print out extra sets of cards, so kids can take them home.
Extend the possibilities. Mix and match cards, inviting learners to take two activities and mash them up.
What have you done with the Scratch Coding Cards?
Natalie, the Scratch team, and the ScratchEd team would love to hear from you in the comments below.
You can learn more about using Scratch Coding Cards to support creative learning in Natalie Rusk’s recent ISTE blog post.
To see examples of adapting Scratch Coding Card themes to make subject-area connections, check out this Scratch studio: https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/3714534/
To access all the Scratch Coding Cards and related resources online, visit: scratch.mit.edu/go