Using Scratch in the Primary Classroom

Scratch 3.0 is due for release on the 2nd of January 2019. There are many teachers who are looking forward to this significant update to a great Coding resource that is very popular in Irish Primary schools. Scratch 3.0 will certainly become even more popular as this release addresses a serious problem with Scratch 2.0 and the even earlier Scratch 1.4, the fact that these two versions could not be used on Tablet devices.
Presenting and moderating Continued Professional Development (CPD) courses, a combination of both Face_2_Face and Online Scratch courses, to Primary and Post Post Primary teachers in recent years has given me a very good understanding of many of the issues that hamper a greater adoption of Scratch as an ICT resource in the classroom. One common issue that keeps cropping up during these courses is the issue of time! The same question is asked, “Where will I find the time?”
My stock answer has remained the same across all of these Scratch courses especially whenever I engaged with Primary Teachers; include Scratch in your Station Teaching / Team Teaching methodology. What I have suggested to Primary Teachers is that Scratch should not be introduced as a stand alone activity or coding class. I have urged them to use Scratch as an additional teaching resource including it wherever possible in tandem with a particular curriculum topic that they are teaching.
Station Teaching works best when a number of teachers from the SET team (Special Education Teachers) are available to work with the mainstream classroom teacher. Each teacher works with a small group of children who rotate among various stations to complete the different tasks related to the lesson. All of the children get the opportunity to experience the instructional activity that has been set out at each Station. Introducing Scratch as an activity at a station is an efficient and effective use of time especially if Stations are already part of the normal classroom routine. If this suggestion is implemented then an already over burdened teaching timetable does not need to be adjusted in order to “find time” to introduce Scratch to pupils.
The following example of a Station Teaching lesson might go some way to illustrate this idea.
I would always recommend that a teacher’s desk should be located away from the Smartboard, Interactive White Board (IWB) wherever possible so that the IWB can be easily included as a Station. This lesson assumes that there are laptops / Chromebooks or Tablet devices available to the class teacher; 8 – 10 devices would be ideal allowing one per pupil across two stations. The paperwork planning for this lesson can be facilitated by visiting the NCCA Curriculum planning website and utilising the curriculum planning tool.
I used this tool to outline Content Objectives and Learning Outcomes for the lesson which is based on 3rd class 2-D shapes.

Station 1 Activity: Identification of 2-D shapes (Square, Rhombus, Trapezoid, Hexagon, Triangle, Rectangle, Pentagon) Label, List main attributes, Identify real work examples where these shapes can be found.
Station 2 Activity: Pupils at this station would use a pack of worksheets similar to this “theshapespack.”
Station 3 Activity: The activities at this station would focus on Tangrams using materials such as these.
tangramchallenge1  tangramchallenge2  tangramsblanktemplate
Station 4 Activity: 
At this station pupils would examine 3-D shapes to find 2-D elements that together make up the 3-D shape. They would also work on tracing 2-D shapes.

Station 5 Activity: Pupils would use the IWB in the classroom to work online with a resource from an Educational Publisher. In this example pupils needs to classify polygons into regular and irregular categories. There are several Educational Publishers that have added extensive online resources to accompany their text books.
Stations 6 Activity: Here pupils would access Scratch online using Laptops, Chromebooks or Tablet Devices and explore 2-D shapes through the medium of Scratch. They would focus on the Motion and Pen code blocks to draw simple 2-D shapes.
Normally teachers use a timer to control the movement between stations; this timer would help pupils to focus their attention on the nature of the Scratch task and encourage them to get the coding work done as quickly as possible. Pupils could also work in pairs at these stations if required where a lesser skilled pupil might need a “Buddy”.
Station 7 Activity: At this, the final station, pupils would record and report on their work from the previous stations. They could take a photo of any of their paper reports, reflections and observations and manage them using Seesaw to add to their e-portfolios.
The majority of Maths topics in the curriculum can be enriched by pupils using Scratch to enhance their understanding of work that they are doing during class time. Scratch can also be included in Language stations and used to support the development of Language skills in so many different ways, predicting, reporting and so on.
Including Scratch as a resource during Station Teaching is a simple and effective way to increase pupil access to coding without having to borrow or steal time away from other curriculum subjects on the class timetable.

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