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Scratch 1 week summer class for middle schoolers

« Teaching with Scratch
4 replies [Last post]
Carol Hacherl

I'm a K-12 math tutor.  I've volunteered to lead a 1 week summer Scratch intro class in our small rural/high poverty district.  Students have had no programming experience.  (And struggle with math thinking!)  We'll have 2 adults and maybe a dozen students grades 5-8, a computer lab and an interactive whiteboard.  Our plan is to follow the first 5 lessons in Karen Brennan's draft curriculum guide.

Does anyone have any "definitely avoid!" or "must-do" suggestions??   Once we get through this, I'm sure we'll be better able to plan additional Scratch classes.   BUT,  I'd really like to avoid flat out novice disaster the first time through!    What could go wrong that I should be thinking about and planning for now?

The class is free, but students must sign up -- hopefully that will get us kids who are already interested.  We're allowing 90 minutes per session, followed by a free lunch.

Any thoughts on what % of kids who give Scratch a try find that they like it?  What about learning styles/types of students for whom Scratch works especially well, or doesn't seem to be a match?  


Thanks, Carol




Carol Hacherl

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your ideas, especially the point about making mistakes.  VERY important, but I hadn't thought about explicitly teaching that.  We will now!



Stephen Thomas



Couple of things that have worked for me.

1) there are certain kids who "get it" quicker than others and when they finish early these kid can be used to help/teach others. Also, it doesn't always have to the ones who "get it" quicker, its especially gratifying if you can find one child of low self-esteem and find a way that they can teach other kids something new.  It is great when you can have the kids be the teachers.   The guiding principle I try (and often fail) to use is let the kids be the teachers.  This has its limits and you can't expect kids to learn everything themselves, but there are opportunities for it to happen and ideally you can help orchestrate it happening.

2) During my classes many kids will be working independently on different parts of their project and I need a way to get their attention when one of them does something "cool" that I want to point out (and name the behavior idea) for the rest of the class.  I generally hate to yell to get their attention, so I developed a technique where I simply clap (in some short rhythm).  At firs tthe kids may look then ignore it, but I repeat (NOT saying a word) until all the kids look at me and start to repeat the clap. I will visually (and in some cases verbally with as few words as possible) encourage them to repeat my rhthym.  They usually get it and when they repat I tell them what a great thing <name the kid> did and tell them why it was great and name the powerful idea.

3) At the beginning of a set of "classes" I will encourage them to make mistakes.  I think the culture of the class plays a very important role in learning.  One of the first things I do when teaching (school or sports) a new group of kids is to encourage them to make mistakes and how to handle them.  A couple of phrases I use are:

  • If you aren't making mistakes, you aren't trying hard enough.
  • Congratulations you made a mistake, now what can we learn from it?
  • Learn from the mistakes of others, you don't have enough time to make them all yourself.
I also tend to model mistake making (sometimes intentionally :)
In dealing mistakes I use the bathroom analogy (stolen from PCA,  nytimes article here, on flushing mistakes and filling their emotional tanks, which is equally important).
4) I sometimes find kids doing something completly different from what I had intended.  In my bad moments I will try and correct them.  I had one kid who was laughing histically and doing something related to the task at hand, but far from the intended task.  At first I tried to "nudge" him back on task. This was a mistake, which I fortunately realized quickly and the kid fortunatly ignored me and did what was fun and motivating for him (and he was learning and doing cool new things which the other kids saw).


Carol Hacherl

Thanks, Amanda.  That is GOOD to hear!

Amanda Ford

Hi Carol


In my experience most of the children like Scratch - average of 80% were happy with the lessons with the rest finding them ok and only once did i get a child not liking a lesson - though that turned out to be more of a sharing computer issue than not actually liking Scratch.  I have worked with a good mix of academic abilites and cant say that there is any one particular type of student that Scratch works well - from children with behavioural problems to talented maths children there is always something to suit them in Scratch (ages 7-12). Yes there are differences in what they may have produced but for enjoyment and learning still the same.


The scratch cards are a definite to start off with as its the best introduction as to what Scratch can offer.


The only problems I ever had were technological ones, always handy to have Scratch on a usb drive just in case.