A Teacher’s Guide to Scratch: Lesson 3

June 30, 2015 by wendy

Scratch Music Project
Let’s make music by marshmallowcoding on Scratch

Unplugged activities are a great way to demonstrate new concepts. This week, we’re Getting Loopy with an unplugged activity by Code.org!

Lesson 3: Getting Loopy

Through dance, students are introduced to the concept of loops, or in other words, actions that repeat over and over again. Why are loops important in computer programming? How can we use loops to create animations and music?

Loops unplugged

Unplugged-Getting Loopy by Code.org on YouTube

First, play the Getting Loopy video from Code.org to introduce students to the concept of loops and the upcoming activity. The music, dancing, and light suits in the video will definitely get them excited!

Warm up

Review the definition of a loop. A loop is a set of actions that repeat over and over again. Before starting the dance, warm up with the Repeat After Me activity to demonstrate why loops are important in computer programming.


Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars by Mark Ronson on YouTube

Now that everyone is warmed up, let’s dance! Choose an upbeat song that your students will enjoy, like Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars. Project the dance routine, The Iteration, onto a screen so that everyone can follow along. Practice the routine once slowly without music. Then perform the routine at full speed with music!

Loops in Scratch

In Scratch, one way to make a loop is with the repeat block. Demonstrate different ways to create an animation or song using repeat blocks:

  • Drag the “move 10 steps” block into a repeat block
  • Drag one of the turn blocks into a repeat block
  • Drag the “change color effect by 25” block into a repeat block
  • Drag the “change size by 10” block into a repeat block
  • Drag the “play drum” or “play note” block into a repeat block
  • Snap two repeat blocks together
  • Place a repeat block inside another repeat block

Animation, music, or both

After some experimentation, challenge students to create an animation or music project using loops. They can remix an existing animation or music project, create their own, or attempt to combine the two! Once everyone is ready, have students walk around the classroom to see everyone’s creations.

A Teacher’s Guide to Scratch: Lesson 2

June 15, 2015 by wendy

Scratch Events Project
Where are my friends? by flyingcows79 on Scratch

Now that everyone has their Scratch accounts and has explored the interface, it’s time to dive in. A common question during the first lesson is, “How do I make my project run when I click the green flag?” Let’s investigate!

Lesson 2: Press A to Start

The goal of this lesson is to introduce the concept of events. An event is an action that causes something to happen. For example, if we can detect when the green flag is clicked, then we can cause our program to run. Before we introduce this concept, let’s review what we learned in Lesson 1.

Program the teacher

In the first lesson, we defined code as instructions that tell computers what to do. Let’s see if your students can program you to move to a spot in your classroom. Pretend that your classroom is a computer screen and decide which direction is right, left, up, and down. You’re a sprite on the screen and your students must program you using the following instructions:

  • Move 1 or more steps
  • Point in direction right
  • Point in direction left
  • Point in direction up
  • Point in direction down

Introduce events

Unplugged-The Big Event by Code.org on YouTube

To answer, “How do I make my project run when I click the green flag?” we need events. Play The Big Event video from Code.org to introduce the concept.

Events unplugged

Earlier, your students programmed you. Now, it’s your turn to program them! Try The Big Event activity with your students to see events in action.

Events in Scratch

Start with a project that has multiple sprites with some code blocks in each like our Events Starter Project. Make the project interactive by adding events blocks. Work together as a class or have students remix the project to work individually. Have students personalize the project by encouraging them to change the background, music, and sprites to make it their very own.

Share their projects

Create a Scratch studio for your students to share their projects. Be sure that all students have confirmed their email addresses with Scratch. Invite each student to curate the studio. Check that each student accepts your invitation, and demonstrate how to share and add projects.

A Teacher’s Guide to Scratch: Lesson 1

June 7, 2015 by wendy

I Love Scratch
I Love Scratch by Blackhawks215 on Scratch

To give teachers an in-depth view of our Coding for Kids program, we thought we’d share each of our lessons in a blog post. Our lessons are based on the Scratch Curriculum Guide with some modifications and additions from other curriculums. Here’s the first lesson in a series of 10 that will follow in the upcoming weeks.

Lesson 1: Exploring Scratch

The goal of the first lesson is to introduce students to computer science and to give them the opportunity to explore, experiment, and play with Scratch.

What is a computer?

It’s important to begin the first class with an understanding of what a computer is. A computer is an electronic device that receives and processes information to produce a result. Start a discussion in which students share examples of computers and what they do.

What is code?

Code tells the computer what to do. As computer programmers, we write instructions for computers to follow. After defining what code is, ask students for examples of instructions that they follow in real life. What are the steps?

Introduce Scratch

Scratch Overview by ScratchEd on Vimeo

Scratch is a programming language that we can use to give instructions to computers. Show students the Scratch Overview video and/or sample projects that they’ll find interesting and inspiring. Explain that they’ll be creating their own Scratch projects!

Make an account

Show students how to navigate to the Scratch website and click on “Join Scratch”. Discuss what makes a good username and password. Make sure each student has an email address to create an account.

Create a project

After demonstrating how to create an account, show students how to create a new Scratch project by clicking on “Create”. Give a brief overview of the interface and give them examples of how they can experiment on their own:

  • Drag a block into the scripts area.
  • Click on it to see what it does.
  • Snap blocks together and click on them.
  • Click on the “?” icon then click on a block.
  • Click on “Tips” then click on a tutorial.

Encourage your class to explore, experiment, and share! Challenge them to add a sound, change the background, or add another sprite. Remind them to ask their neighbours for help and to share what they learn with others.

Let them play!

Give students time to register for their Scratch accounts, update their profiles, and play with the Scratch interface. Make sure to record their usernames and passwords in a safe place.

Tips for teaching technology to Kindergarten students

May 31, 2015 by wendy

Kindergarten Student
Kindergarten scout by Mats Eriksson is licensed under CC by 2.0

Yesterday, I tuned in to a webinar called “How to introduce technology to the kindergarten classroom” hosted by KinderLab Robotics. The webinar outlined 4 strategies for teaching technology, as well as science, engineering, and mathematics, or in other words, STEM, to young children.

1. Integrate STEM into existing curricula

When STEM is integrated into existing subjects and not taught as a separate topic, students develop different perspectives and new understandings on those subjects. They also see how STEM can be useful in other areas.

2. Support open-ended and imaginative play

Children as young as 4 years old can begin to understand logic and programming concepts, such as sequencing, and cause and effect. However, they learn best when they’re moving, experimenting, and playing. So it’s important to provide an environment that allows for movement and supports their imagination.

3. Create opportunities for group work

Social interaction is key to a young child’s learning process. Collaboration also gives each child the opportunity to contribute in his or her own way, and it shows that by working together, they can build something completely different.

4. Make it fun

Making STEM education fun encourages students to continue exploring and experimenting, and it’s important for teachers to have fun too!

About KinderLab Robotics

KinderLab Robotics specializes in creating new technologies for young children. KIBO, their robotics kit, is designed for children aged 4 to 7, and it allows them to build, program, and decorate a robot without using a tablet or computer. Mitch Rosenberg, CEO at KinderLab Robotics, and Marina Umaschi Bers, chief scientist at KinderLab Robotics and professor at Tufts University, created KIBO based on over a decade of research on learning technologies and youth development.

How to teach coding without a computer

May 25, 2015 by wendy

Board game
Dragon on the River by David Goehring is licensed under CC by 2.0

Teaching coding away from the computer is a fun and easy way to introduce computer science concepts to children. It also supports new perspectives and understandings, and it encourages social interaction, which helps with their learning process.

Children learn how to think logically, how to sequence instructions, and how to recognize patterns and cause-and-effect relationships. These strategies are important for everyone!

Here are a few resources that teachers can incorporate into their classrooms and parents can use at home.

Code Monkey Island

Code Monkey Island is a board game, in which players must guide their monkeys into the banana grove. It teaches children how to think strategically and how to adapt to different situations, and at the same time, it teaches computer science fundamentals including sequencing, loops, and conditionals. Visit codemonkeyplanet.com for details.

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Cost: $34.99 USD


Code.org has a collection of free unplugged activities that teach computer science concepts, such as binary numbers, sequencing, and conditionals. Students learn by encoding their initials in binary, programming each other to stack cups, and designing and playing card games. Visit code.org/learn for more information.

  • Ages: All
  • Cost: Free!

CS Unplugged

CS Unplugged has numerous free activities that teach various concepts ranging from binary numbers to interface design. Their activities engage students through games and puzzles, and teachers and parents are encouraged to modify and share their own versions. Visit csunplugged.org/activities to check them out.

  • Ages: 5 to 12
  • Cost: Free!

Robot Turtles

Robot Turtles is a board game in which players work together to move their turtles to their matching coloured jewels. Dan Shapiro, a software entrepreneur, invented the game so that he could play with his children and teach them basic programming concepts at the same time. Visit robotturtles.com to learn more.

  • Ages: 3 to 8
  • Cost: $27.99