Younger students at St. Andrews love creating things with the Scratch Junior app. It is a free app available on most mobile platforms including iPad and Android devices. You can find the links to install this app on the Scratch Junior home page:
If you do not have a tablet available for your student then there is a desktop version for Mac and Windows 10. I have only tested the Mac version and it seems to work pretty well, but I haven’t used it extensively. Because it is not an official version of Scratch there are a few minor differences.
For both Windows and Mac there are some extra steps to override built in security that is designed to protect systems from software that is not from a known software publisher. This program is part of an open source project which means people volunteer to create it and publish it for free. The link below contains information about how to do this override on Windows 10. A similar process is required for Apple computers – read about it here.
You can download the Windows and Mac version from this web page:
Once you have installed the app you are ready to create. There’s no logins, class codes or passwords – just tap the icon and let’s get started.
You may be prompted to allow Scratch Jnr to access to the camera and microphone. I would allow both – this gives you extra features to take photos with the devices camera and also record audio. The kids love this feature! I’ve added sections to this page to describe how to use both.
To delete a character you tap and hold it for a few seconds until the red cross appears. You then let go and tap the cross to delete it. I’d prefer students to create their own characters rather than modify an existing one.
To create a brand new character tap the blank rectangle then tap the paintbrush.
Remind students about the ‘undo’ button in the top left corner. Mistakes can be quickly erased with ‘undo’. Also remind them that it does NOT have to be perfect.
The code blocks are organised into 6 categories indicated by the 6 colour buttons under the character list. The green flag block has a yellow background and is therefore under the yellow button. All of the blue background movement blocks have a number to indicate the distance. The red block on the end is an endless loop which means the code will continue repeating.
To start the code you click the green flat at the top right part of the screen. The stop button stops the code. You can learn more on the scratch junior website, but I’d encourage students to explore and experiment.
Using the camera tool
The camera tool is a fun way for kids to add pictures of themselves or things around them into their Scratch Junior projects. There are several characters in Scratch that have a blank face so students can add their own picture.
Select a character with a blank face then tap the paint brush icon at the top right side of the screen.
The camera tool is selected on the right side of the screen above the paint bucket. If you don’t see this button or it is not enabled you will have to go to Settings->Privacy->Camera and make sure that ScratchJr is allowed to access the camera on your iPad.
The camera tool works by tapping a shape in the image and replacing that shape with a photo.
Adding multiple pages
Just like you can add multiple characters – you can also add multiple pages. Each page has a new set of characters and code for each. To add a page you tap the blue cross on the right side of the screen.
Deleting a page is similar to deleting a character.
Now you can animate multiple characters on multiple pages and jump to any page using code. Here are some examples:
Adjusting the size of characters
You can use code blocks to make characters grow and shrink, but sometimes you want the characters to always be a certain size. The way to do this isn’t very intuitive. In the example below the default size of the car is way too big for my street background. To adjust it I dragged the shrink block into my workspace, tapped it a few times and then dragged it back to the purple area to delete it. You can use a similar technique with the disappear block if you wanted a character to be invisible at the start of the page and appear later.
Recording sounds with the microphone
This is a very fun feature to play with on Scratch Junior. Similar to the camera you have to allow Scratch Junior to have access to the microphone in order for this feature to be available.
If you don’t see this microphone block or it is not enabled you will have to go to Settings->Privacy->Microphone and make sure that ScratchJr is allowed to access the mic on your iPad. On Windows and Mac computers you will probably be prompted to allow access the first time you use the feature.
You can record voice, music, special effects – anything using this feature. You can preview the sound by clicking the play button and don’t forget to click the tick button in the top-right corner once you are done. This will add the recording into your available code blocks. You can do many recordings – I’m not sure what the limit is.