You and I are in very similar situations. I teach computational thinking and robotics at an independent school. I meet with children in grades JK to 5 for 45 minutes once every 8 day rotation. I have been using Scratch since its inception, but now I only use it with grades 3 to 5. (Grades JK to 2 use unplugged activities and ScratchJr). Over the years I have refined the way I present it and how I want the children to use it. I, too, have developed a blended approach for 4th and 5th grades. Last year I participated in the Early Childhood Certificate program at Tufts and this changed my thinking about the goals for the class - I have come to see that the potential for social-emotional skills is huge.
I struggle with grading as well. There are “set” skills on the report card which involve listening and following directions, making an effort, and understanding and applying skills and concepts. I can make this assessment for every student - it is evidenced in their behavior and their projects, regardless of where they are in the process. But because the 4th and 5th grade are self-paced, I wonder about how to grade them. I am comfortable with everyone being at a different “place” in their work. They are all doing their own personal best. But I have had some conversations with other teachers say that the ones who are progressing more quickly should be given better grades. I disagree. If the children who are working more slowly are on-task and have a thorough understanding of the content, then I believe they are doing well. Am I missing something?
This year there is an expectation that every classroom teacher will collaborate with me to integrate “computer programming” into at least one project that focuses on classroom content. This has added a new challenge not only in what and how I teach, but also in planning and scheduling. Teaching is always a challenge, isn’t it? Flexibility is the key.