Freeware App #5 – Scratch

Scratch logo

Freeware versions available for both Mac and Windows.

Scratch is a relatively new piece of software developed by MIT. It’s designed to introduce younger children to some of the fundamentals of computer programming and control using graphical commands that you can drag around.

The interface is somewhat reminiscent of Alice, for those that have tried it. Pupils simply drag in a command (handily organised into subcategories of Motion, Sound, Control [for loops, conditional statements, etc.] and so on) and double click to see what it does. There’s a great PDF on the site to get you started and I printed, cut out and laminated a load of Scratch Cards with quick instructions for different techniques for my Year 7s – who really seemed to love it.

For those who fancy a more cross-curricular bent it’s relatively straightforward for pupils to put together an animation to show a heart pumping, a river creating deeper S bends, an electric circuit switching on and off, etc…

There’s a comprehenisve gallery of existing projects on the website, so have a look and see what you think.


3 thoughts on “Freeware App #5 – Scratch

  1. jfranklin says:

    That really is a nice bit of software for use in control or an after-school club.

    In your experience, what age do you think it would go up to? I’m thinking of KS3 ICT club and possibly a replacement control unit in year 9. My choice for the year 9 unit will be this or Flash, this seems a touch too easy/limited; Flash a touch to hard for the less able (on the actionscript side).

  2. Well, so far I’ve only run it with Y7, and only for one lesson as an introduction. While I think there is scope to get into some programming I also think it owuld be too simplistic for Year 9.

    You could always start with this and use something like Lego’s Robolab – that’s what we’re planning to do. In fact my HoD spent the Easter break reverse-engineering and building a working model of the Sim:Bot (

    We’re planning to use that and one of the many Lego CAD packages to replace 9.1 next year. Should make for a good diversion from Flowol (which generally seems to result in either 25 identical flowcharts or worryingly little of anything).

  3. I’d be really interested in how you get on with scratch next year.

    I have thought about doing a year 9 control unit with Flash (and actionscript), but slightly fear real programming with the less able. (I’m quite comfortable doing it myself though! That said, for some reason Scratch looks too simple for year 9 – even though I think that it probably has more capability and challenge than Flowol.

    We do have one lego NXT set, but I doubt I can persuade my HOD to free up enough money for a whole class!

    It certainly sounds like you’re doing some interesting stuff though. Keep posting with how you get on.

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