Starting from Scratch (with Scratch)

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the Scratch Saturday session held by CESI today so whilst watching the X-Factor, I decided to try and teach myself how to use this language.  I had had a little bit of experience trying it out at the Tipperary Institute conference earlier this year but got so absorbed during the talk that I missed most of what the tutor had to say!  So was I up to scratch? (sorry).

As a former programmer in university, the first thing we’re always taught is how to write a program that displays: “Hello World” on the screen.  In this spirit I decided that this was what I should do too.

If you haven’t seen Scratch before reading this article, you should probably download it immediately and play.  Anyway, when you load up Scratch, you are greeted with a friendly looking cat who is anxious to be programmed.  I decided that I didn’t want him to be part of my Hello World experiment and deleted him.  To delete any object (called a sprite in Scratch) simply right-click and select delete.  I was definitely going to start from scratch the beginning. 🙂

I chose a background of stars and downloaded a transparent image of planet earth.  The plan was when you started the program, the Earth would start as a tiny image and spin around the screen getting bigger and bigger until one could see it.  Then the text, “Hello World” would appear.  It took all of 2 minutes.  Scratch is a lovely programming interface.  You can see my effort on: http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/anseo/695806.

As I got more adventurous, I started trying to get sprites to interact with each other.  For example, I created a program that allowed me to click on one of two sprites, both pieces of text.  The first said: “walk” and the other said “fly”.  When I clicked on “walk”, the main sprite would walk across the screen.  When I clicked on “fly”, the main sprite would begin to raise up the screen at a 30 degree angle.  It used a fair bit of the drag and drop programming and things did go wrong sometimes, but once I had tightened up potential problems, I had an easy but interactive program running.  It was cool using loops, conditions and other programming structures in such a simple way.

I intend to let the children in my class begin using this software fairly soon as we’re going to be starting storytelling and I can see this software working really well with it.  The intention is for my class to create a decent story with characters moving about the screen speaking to each other using the “say” function.  It should be interesting to see the results with some of the more simple functions of Scratch and see where they want to take them.

I can’t resist leaving this post with one more awful pun.  Obviously, this article can only scratch the surface of the power of this programming language. Good? No?

Last Update: August 8, 2017  

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1 thought on “Starting from Scratch (with Scratch)”

  1. Hello there!
    I’m toying with the idea of using Scratch myself, and also in a classroom setting, and am wondering how you got on…. I notice you’ve only uploaded the one project to scratch.mit.edu – any further experiences you could share?

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