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Beginner's Guide to Coding with Scratch 3.0

Author: Kevin BriggsTime: 2024-01-28 01:00:03

Table of Contents

Introduction to Scratch 3.0 - A Kid-Friendly Coding Platform

Scratch is a free, beginner-friendly programming language and online community where kids can program interactive stories, games, animations, and more. The recently released Scratch 3.0 includes new features that make coding even easier and more expressive.

In this beginner Scratch tutorial, we'll learn the basics by creating a simple animated story. We'll add character sprites, backdrops, motion, sound effects, and basic programming logic to control the action.

What Is Scratch and Why Use It?

Originally created by the MIT Media Lab, Scratch aims to teach core programming concepts in a visual, block-based interface that's more approachable than traditional code. It's designed especially for kids ages 8-16, but people of any age can enjoy playing with Scratch. Using Scratch, you can bring characters to life by programming their movements, animations, speech, sound effects, and more. The key advantage of Scratch is that you can learn actual coding skills without having to worry about complex syntax. This makes it perfect for beginners. Scratch runs right in your web browser. After creating a free account on scratch.mit.edu, you'll have access to a library of sprites, backdrops, and sounds you can use for your projects. You can also easily share your finished animations and games with others in the Scratch community.

Creating a Scratch Account

To save your work and access the full features of Scratch, you'll need to create a free account at scratch.mit.edu. Accounts are totally free for everyone. The account signup process is simple. You can register using your email address or existing Google, Facebook, or Apple ID credentials. Parents will need to confirm kids under 13 via email. Once registered, you can start building projects right away. Scratch saves your work automatically as you build. You're also free to browse and remix projects that others have shared publicly on the Scratch website.

Building Your First Scratch Project - An Animated Story

Now let's jump in and build our first animated story in Scratch 3.0. We'll be taking an elephant character on a short adventure, customizing motion, sound effects, backdrops, and more along the way.

The Scratch interface is made up of colored code blocks that you snap together, kind of like Lego bricks. We'll use these visual blocks to program each step of the story.

Adding Character Sprites and Backdrop Scenes

We start with a blank project template containing a single cat sprite on a white backdrop. Let's customize this by swapping in an elephant sprite and castle backdrop more fitting for our story. Using the sprites and backdrops libraries, we can drag and drop new assets into our project instantly. Scratch comes packed with tons of great characters and scenes to choose from. After adding our elephant, we scale him to an appropriate size. With the castle backdrop set, we position our elephant at the top of a staircase using the motion blocks in the Scripts panel. By dragging and entering specific XY coordinates, we can place him exactly where we want. We'll have him start here, then walk down the stairs as the story begins.

Controlling Sprite Movement

We program the elephant to move down the stairs using special motion blocks that support various types of animation. The "glide" block makes for a more natural walking movement compared to standard "go to" teleportation. Adjusting the duration parameters on motion blocks allows us to fine tune the pacing. We can also add pauses using simple wait blocks to build anticipation and let events unfold more dramatically. By stacking multiple motions sequentially, we can easily script multi-step movement routines. Our elephant now glides down the stairs, pauses briefly, then continues his descent.

Adding Sound Effects

What's the story without sound? Let's amplify the drama by having our elephant encounter a sudden loud noise to scare him off. The Scratch audio library contains loads of great sound effects we can use. After importing a loud crash sound, we trigger playback with a "start sound" block placed right after our elephant finishes descending the stairs. Adding a brief pause beforehand builds more suspense. To voice custom speech responses, we can generate talk bubbles from our elephant sprite using the "say" blocks. With just a few block stacks, we've now got a basic script driving the story arc through sequenced motion, sound cues, and dialogue.

Animating Our Sprite

Scratch makes it easy to animate characters directly inside the editor using the built-in vector and bitmap drawing tools.

We can give our elephant some extra emotive charm by customizing his appearance when he gets scared. By duplicating his default costume with some colorful eye variations, we build a secondary outfit that swaps via coding when the loud sound effect plays.

Changing Sprite Costumes

Like backdrops, sprites in Scratch can have multiple alternate costumes. Switching between these applies visual changes that can bring characters to life with diverse actions and emotions. We customize our second elephant costume using the vector editor, stretching his ears and drawing wild eyes for a scared look. The bitmap editor provides freeform pixel painting capabilities too.

Creating a Dance Loop Animation

Loops allow actions to repeat automatically. By cycling between costumes on each loop iteration, we can produce frame-by-frame sprite animations easily. Our ballerina sprite already comes with dance costumes. By running a simple forever loop with the "next costume" block plugged in, she gracefully dances on her own with no other logic needed!

Switching Backdrop Scenes

In Scratch, backdrops function just like sprites. We can program backdrop changes to transport characters between different story worlds.

Using conditionals, we can make scene transitions depend on specific events. As our elephant escapes danger in the castle, we'll detect this in code to automatically activate the beach backdrop furthering the story arc.

Changing Stage Backdrops

Like costumes, our project can have multiple alternate backdrops. We first add a sunny beach scene from the library to set up where the next part of our story will unfold. A backdrop change block at the start switches the stage to the castle initially. Later, we insert another switch backdrop block to apply the beach scene right after our elephant flees the loud noise.

Detecting Backdrop Changes

With the beach set, we introduce a ballerina sprite who will meet up with our elephant and dance together. By default, sprites persist visibly across all backdrops. To hide the ballerina inside the castle, we set her invisible flag on start. Then with a conditional checking for the new beach backdrop, we trigger her visibility to coincide precisely with that scene change.


And with that, we've built a complete mini-story in Scratch 3.0 that ties together motion, sound, dialogue, sprites, animation, and backdrops!

This short example only hints at what's possible for beginners to create. Check out the next tutorial where we'll expand on these foundations to program a fully interactive game in Scratch. The simple building blocks interface makes it surpringly easy to build sophisticated projects.

So get ready to unleash your creativity with coding using Scratch! Check out all the additional functionality in the documentation as you get more advanced. And be sure to share your projects with the community to inspire others getting started on this rewarding journey.


Q: What programming language does Scratch use?
A: Scratch uses a visual programming language made up of blocks that snap together to control sprite behavior.

Q: Can I use Scratch on my phone or tablet?
A: Yes, there are Scratch apps available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.

Q: Is Scratch only for kids?
A: While Scratch is often used to teach kids coding, it can be a great tool for beginner coders of any age to learn core programming concepts.

Q: Can I share my Scratch projects?
A: Yes, you can easily share your finished Scratch projects by publishing them to the Scratch website community.

Q: Can I use Scratch offline?
A: Scratch 3.0 requires an internet connection, but Scratch 1.4 and 2.0 can be downloaded for offline use.

Q: What can I build with Scratch?
A: You can create games, animations, interactive stories, music, art and more with Scratch!

Q: Is Scratch free to use?
A: Yes, Scratch is completely free and open-source. There are no ads or fees.

Q: How do I add music to my Scratch project?
A: You can upload your own sound files or use music from the Scratch sound library. Drag the 'play sound' block to play sounds.

Q: Can I use Scratch on a Chromebook?
A: Yes, Scratch 3.0 runs directly in the Chrome browser on Chromebooks.

Q: What coding skills does Scratch teach?
A: Scratch teaches core coding concepts like loops, conditionals, variables, events and more in a fun, easy to learn environment.