Tag Archives: coding

Coding Apps for Kids and Scratch Jr

Are you interested in coding apps for kids? Scratch Jr is a free app designed to introduce programming to children in Grades 1-3. It can be used to teach basic computer science concepts. Primary and elementary students will have fun building animations, interactive collages, stories, and games. If you are searching for Scratch Jr lessons you may want to take a look at the TechnoWhiz technology project. It is jam-packed full of fun coding activities.

Coding Apps for Kids – Top 10 Reasons to Use Scratch Jr

There are many coding apps for kids. However, Scratch Jr has many features that make it ideal for beginners. ScratchJr is a collaboration between the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Playful Invention Company. Discover 10 reasons it might be the perfect fit for your students.

1. Only One Block is Needed to Become a Programmer

Scratch Jr instantly transforms students into programmers. With virtually no effort they can create animations. This is because coding blocks can be used as action buttons. By dragging only ONE coding block into the programming area and then clicking on it, students can control the movement of a character. This immediately empowers students and makes them feel good about programming as they can watch their character walk, hop, or dance.

2. Simple Interface

The layout of the Scratch Jr window is easy to navigate. In the center of the window is the stage. It is used to arrange the characters, text, and backgrounds in a project. Below the stage, is a programming area used to build scripts. Above the stage are six tools that allow the user to set viewing options, insert objects, or play a program. To the left side of the stage are the characters in a project. To the right of the stage are the pages in a project. The uncluttered design makes it simple to identify where to complete a task.

Coding apps for kids. The Scratch Jr interface is easy for children to use.

The Scratch Jr interface is easy for children to use.

3. Color-Coded Blocks Help Beginners Locate Commands

In Scratch Jr, scripts are made by joining blocks together in the programming area. To help children locate the different commands, the blocks are sorted into six color-coded categories:

  • A Triggering block is yellow.
  • A Motion block is blue.
  • A Looks block is pink.
  • A Sounds block is green.
  • A Control block is orange.
  • An End block is red.
triggering block Triggering Blocks Pick how to start a program.
motion block Motion Blocks Move a character.
looks block Looks Blocks Change the size or hide a character.
sound block Sounds Blocks Play a pop sound or record your own.
control block Control Blocks Set the timing of an action.
end block End Blocks Pick what happens at the end of a script.

4. Coding Blocks are Designed for Early Readers

Many coding apps for kids are text-based, which requires strong reading skills. In contrast Scratch Jr is graphic-based, making it ideal for emergent readers. The coding blocks have symbols that illustrate the function. For example, the Move Left command is an arrow; the Shrink command is a tiny person, and the Wait command is a stop watch. This allows primary and elementary students with limited reading skills to identify the block they need to complete an action.

move right Move Right
shrink Shrink
wait block Wait

5. Scripts are Horizontal

Children learn how to read sentences by reading each word from left to right. This literacy concept is transferred to Scratch Jr. The coding blocks are joined together to form a horizontal line. The sequence of the actions happens from left to right. The similarity to reading words in a sentence makes it easier for young coders to understand how to build and edit scripts. Some coding apps for kids stack coding blocks from top to bottom, whereas Scratch Jr recognizes the importance of creating horizontal scripts.

Scratch jr script

Scripts are read from left to right.

6. Coding Block Turns a Different Color to Help with Debugging

Scratch Jr provides visual cues to help students debug a script. Debugging is finding and correcting programming errors. When students are testing their program, they can see both the stage and the programming area. The action that is currently happening on the stage is highlighted by darkening the active coding block in the script. This helps to identify the location of a scripting error.

active coding block

The active coding block darkens when a script is running.

7. Visual Cues Identify Active Character

A Scratch Jr project can have many characters, which can be a source of confusion. To avoid editing the script of the wrong one, visual cues communicate which character is selected. In the window, the active character appears on an orange background. In addition, the programming area displays a grayscale illustration of the character. These hints remind young coders about which script they are building or editing. When reviewing coding apps for kids, the use of visual cues is an important factor.

scratch jr multiple characters

Visual cues help students identify the active character.

8. Grid Helps Students Intentionally Move a Character

In Scratch Jr, the value of each Motion block can be set to control the number of steps a character moves. To determine the correct amount, a grid can be shown. It contains a vertical and horizontal number line. The location of the character is identified on the number line using blue circles. On some devices, squares are overlaid on the stage, which makes it easy to count the number of steps.

count and code

A grid helps to set the value of Motion blocks to direct movement.

9. Character Library Provides Creative Opportunities

The Scratch Jr Character library offers a range of choices, without being overwhelming. There are many cartoon creatures, animals, people, objects, buildings, and vehicles. This variety makes it possible to create unique animations or games. Another benefit is that some of the characters have blank faces. These can be edited to include a webcam photo of the student.

The Character library offers many choices.

10. Background Library Provides Curriculum Ties

The Scratch Jr Background library has many images that can be used as scenery. For example, there are farm, city, home, underwater, school, and space themed backdrops. Aside from illustrating the setting, the backgrounds can also be used to teach concepts such as animal habitats or seasons. As well, many of the backgrounds can be used to practice mapping skills. Students can select a point in the picture and code a character to move to that location.

background library

The Background library provides images with curriculum ties.

TechnoWhiz Coding Lessons for Kids

If you want to use Scratch Jr but are not sure how to get started, take a look at TechnoWhiz. It is a technology project published by TechnoKids Inc., with Scratch Jr coding lessons. It introduces students to programming fundamentals in a way that is easy to understand. The whiz kids create silly animated scenes, design a pet monster game, and build a magical land. Have fun developing computational thinking and spark an interest in computer science concepts.

scratch jr lessons

TechnoWhiz has Scratch Jr lessons for kids.

Teaching Ideas for Programming with TechnoCode

coding with Scratch

TechnoKids’ newest release is TechnoCode, a technology project that introduces coding with Scratch to elementary and middle school students. It is an ideal project for Grades 4 and up. Jam-packed with programming activities, TechnoCode sparks an interest in computer science. Step by step instructions explain how to build animations, stories, games, art, music, and simulations.

Empower students with real-world skills they can use in the workplace. The instructional materials in TechnoCode encourage students to think like programmers. Resources include sample videos to inspire imaginations, planning sheets with guiding questions to help design scripts, assessment tools to evaluate student work, and coding journal logs to reflect upon learning.

Ideas for Implementation

The TechnoCode project has students create animated scenes, construct mazes, broadcast stories, engineer games, design artwork, compose music, build a diorama, and more! The activities are suitable for any teaching situation. Select the option that works best for you and your students:

  • Coding Unit with Elementary Students: Assignments in Sessions 1-3 in TechnoCode are ideal for students new to Scratch. The activities are perfect for Grades 4 and up. Students design animations, create art, develop games, and compose music. The emphasis is on coding basics including how to build scripts, sequence commands, control action with if then conditions, and create simple loops. The activities focus upon directing movement, synchronizing sound, and understanding x and y coordinates.
  • Coding Unit with Middle School Students: Once students understand the fundamentals of coding in Sessions 1-3, they extend their learning in Sessions 4-6. The activities are ideal for students that understand the fundamentals and are ready for a challenge. The critical and computational thinking required is ideal for students in Grades 6-8. They produce a story, engineer a game, develop a treasure hunt, build a diorama, and remix a project. The emphasis is on having students manipulate the appearance of sprites, direct the timing of events with broadcasting, and create original artifacts using conditions, variables, and operators.
  • Scratch activities for kids.

    Build games using Scratch. Learn how to use variables to track the score.

  • Computer Science Course: TechnoCode has 25 assignments designed to ignite an interest in computer science. The focus is on thinking like a programmer. Each coding activity is divided into four parts – exploration, practice, freestyle, and reflection. Using a question and answer format, students discover the function of command blocks. Next, they follow guided instructions to build scripts. Afterwards, they apply their skills to complete open-ended challenges. Once a Scratch project is finished, students write a coding journal entry to reflect upon the experience.
  • Hour of Code: If you only have one class to teach coding there are many assignments in TechnoCode that can be used for this purpose. If your students are beginners, they can develop simple animations. Assignment 5 targets how to build a script, Assignment 6 explores directing movement, and Assignment 14 focuses upon changing the appearance of a sprite. If your students have existing knowledge of Scratch, the skill reviews in Sessions 2-5 are excellent challenges.
  • Coding Workshop Series: If you are running a workshop series as part of an after-school program or community event, then you will need to select assignments that fit the number of classes offered. As well, consider the age range and coding abilities of students.

Coding with Scratch is highly addictive and fun! Your students will develop a host of essential technology skills as they create unique games, interactive stories, animations, and more!

New! HTML Coding for Chromebook Users

teach STEM skills

Teach HTML coding using Chromebooks

TechnoHTML5 has always been a favorite top seller for educators. With the current focus on STEM education, teaching HTML coding is more relevant than ever. Now that Chromebooks are prevalent in the classroom, TechnoKids has modified this popular project specifically for Chromebook users. Using a web-based text editor that integrates with Google Drive makes HTML coding a breeze. Now when you order TechnoHTML5 you will receive two versions: one for desktop HTML text editors such as Notepad or Code Writer and a version for Chromebook users that uses a free app such as HTML Editey.

STEM Activities to Learn Life Skills

I wrote in a previous blog about the reasons to teach programming. Of course, not many students will choose careers as computer scientists or program developers, but that’s not the main rationale for coding lessons. Strong communication skills and personality traits that lead to success in life and the workplace are critical goals for students. Learning to code does just that. As they learn to plan, organize, write, edit, and troubleshoot, students build invaluable life skills. Perseverance, problem solving, analytical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are enhanced by learning programming. These crucial personal habits will benefit students for life.

Everything Educators Need to Teach HTML

TechnoHTML5 for Chromebooks is an introductory HTML project for middle and high school grades. Students build a web page using HTML and CSS. They style text, graphics, and hyperlinks. Optional challenges have them format lists, add a background image, create a class, add animated gifs, and more! Step-by-step instructions with checklists in the Student Workbook build organizational skills. The Teacher Guide includes assessment tools such as a summary of skills and customizable marking sheet to evaluate the completed web page projects. Digital resources include sample files, reference sheets, review questions, and skill reviews for practice.

Coding for Chromebook

Students design a web page on the topic of their choice using TechnoHTML5.

Chromebooks Make HTML Coding Easy

HTML Coding is fun and easy using a Chromebook and Google Drive. coding for ChromebookOn a desktop, I found it cumbersome to always save my work in the text editor then toggle to a browser and refresh to see a preview. But using a free text editor for Chromebooks such as HTML Editey provides instant feedback. Two panes allow the user to write code and see immediate results.

There are many other great features to HTML Editey that we’ll write about in an upcoming post.

Add the A to STEM Education

Educators agree that STEM education is essential to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century workforce. The skills they learn in science, technology, engineering, and math subject areas also develop vital skills necessary for success: critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. Although there’s quite a debate about whether the A for the arts needs to be added to STEM to make STEAM or if it’s already there inherently, it’s evident that fine arts, language, and music play a key component in a curriculum to prepare young people to face the complex challenges of the future.

steam career readiness

The Arts are a vital part of STEM education

Education Models for the Future

Traditional school curriculum segregates studies into separate subject areas. However, project-based learning is an instructional approach that blends subjects. Students are faced with an authentic, meaningful, real world challenge. And these are non-Googleable questions! Students investigate a problem and propose viable solutions in an interdisciplinary study. Technology is commonly used as a tool. Whatever skills are required to solve the problem – math, science, language arts – must be learned and mastered. Students need to be able to think innovatively, plan, create, and communicate the resulting project. Usually STEM subject areas are needed, and students build valuable job skills such as computational thinking, initiative, perseverance, and communication.

Where Do the Arts Appear?

To answer these ‘big’ project-based challenges, students need to integrate the arts. Creative thinking and design are a central part of innovation. Being able to imagine an outcome, visualize a product, or communicate an abstract idea requires artistic skills integrated with multiple STEM skills.

Here are a couple of examples of the arts integrated with STEM in the real world:

STEM Education requires the Arts

  • Product Design
    Designing an innovative product may require engineering, mathematical, and scientific problem solving. But it also needs an attractive appearance to make an emotional connection to consumers. These are artistic decisions.
  • Advertising
    When a new product is brought to the market, communication skills are essential. Advertisers excel in persuasive writing. In addition, the creation of new logos requires a knowledge of graphic design. The success of a venture often depends on artistic choices.
Arts and STEM education

Infuse the arts into STEM education.

The Arts in Computer Science

We’ve been working with Scratch recently to develop a STEM project, TechnoCode, that teaches coding skills. The students will learn programming skills as they make animations, games, or interactive stories.

Coding design decisions should be engaging so that the user who interacts with the finished product is intrigued and captivated. Also, artistic choices affect if the project is user friendly and fun to play. Some of the stylistic choices students need to make when programming include:

  • Drawing custom characters
  • Designing backgrounds
  • Adding sensory cues – motion, sound, visual – to build interest, express an idea, and hook the user
  • Creating “Game over” messages that encourage and entice the user to try again
  • Making scoring and timing decisions using aesthetic choices that appeal to players

The brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision making involved in programming demand innovation and ingenuity in design choices. To foster the trailblazers of tomorrow, STEM education needs to acknowledge and incorporate the arts.