Administrator Magazine
Scholastic Administrator is a must-read resource for 240,000 of today's results-driven school leaders. Every issue features leadership for education executives, insight and analysis into what's next in education, and reporting on cutting-edge technologies in real life applications.

Kids Become Coders

By Pamela H. Derringer | August 2007
  <br />

Teach programming to encourage technology and media literacy.

Instead of playing sports or texting their buddies, two dozen students at the Jonas Clarke Middle School, in Lexington, Massachusetts, spend Friday afternoons programming animated stories and computer games.

 Computer programming for kids? Sounds like a stretch, but researchers at the MIT Media Lab created Scratch, a Legos-type graphical language that enables kids to plug together blocks to create characters that speak and move.

 “Traditional programming requires a lot of syntax and punctuation, which makes it inaccessible for kids,” says Chris Garrity, a parent volunteer who launched the class last fall and will lead it again next year. Scratch, in contrast, is visual and interactive, says Garrity, who works as a software engineer at MIT.

 Garrity started the kids off with basic examples, such as showing them how to create a character that makes a sound at a mouse click. Next, she introduced other features to a few students at a time, before stepping back and simply observing the students share what they learned with each other.

 One of Garrity’s students created an animation about the immune system for a science project. The cartoon series shows a stick figure that falls down and gets a bloody knee. Dirt gets in the wound, but red and white blood cells come to the rescue and attack the germs, giving the story a happy ending.

 For Nancy Chomitz and Christine Leung, both 12, the class was simply a fun activity. But they enjoyed it enough to sign up for another year next fall.

 “I like the freedom to make what I want,” says Chomitz, whose favorite project was a multicolored ball that spun to music. “I thought it would be hard to make pictures move on the computer, but it turned out to be really easy,” adds Leung.

 Some teachers have incorporated Scratch into their classes using a more formal and structured progression of instruction than Garrity uses in her elective club. Either way, she says, there’s no question the students are actually learning the principles of programming while they drag and drop the blocks together. They learn about loops, conditions, and event-driven programming, all standard concepts, say Garrity.

 The kids treat it like regular programming too. One proud father, who said Scratch would be a great foundation for programming, was corrected by his son. “This is programming, Dad,” he said. @




About the Author

Pamela Derringer is a contributing writer for Scholastic Adminstr@tor magazine.

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    5-Minute Fractions & Decimals Practice

    5-Minute Fractions & Decimals Practice

    by Jill Safro

    View Sample Pages

    These fun, super-quick daily math exercises for the interactive whiteboard help students strengthen the skills they need to succeed in class and on standardized tests. Using the ready-to-go ActivInspire (Promethean) files, students practice key math skills, including simplifying fractions, working with improper and mixed fractions, ordering decimals, calculating fraction and decimal equivalents, and much more. Perfect for engaging even the most reluctant learners! 64 pages CD.

    You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader® software, version 4.0 or higher, to view and print the sample page above. Get Adobe Reader® for FREE.

    $12.74 You save: 25%
    Professional Book | Grades 4-8
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    5-Minute Fractions & Decimals Practice
    Grades 4-8 $12.74
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    What If We Lived on Another Planet?

    What If We Lived on Another Planet?

    by Olive MacDonald

    Another great title from Scholastic. Detailed description coming soon.

    $5.21 You save: 25%
    Paperback Book | Grades 7-8
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    What If We Lived on Another Planet?
    Grades 7-8 $5.21
    Add To Cart
Help | Privacy Policy




(Separate multiple email addresses with commas)

Check this box to send yourself a copy of the email.


Scholastic respects your privacy. We do not retain or distribute lists of email addresses.