I have reintroduced SourceForge.net: XLogo into our 8th grade IT curriculum and am very pleased with the result. Beginning with XLogo is a great way to emphasize the importance of sequencing and logic in the writing of code. Code elegance arises naturally from the need to troubleshoot code (If you can’t read it, you can’t fix it!) and the importance of correct naming and saving (file management) are also easily reinforced through the many small projects that we create and upload to our Moodle course.
When I arrived at my current school, there was no written curriculum and very little left by my colleagues as a framework for my lessons. There were, however, high school classes that my students would be offered at the end of 8th grade and I decided to focus on preparation for the programming courses. I needed a piece of lightweight, easy to use software that could illustrate basic concepts such as sequencing, conditional statements, and (most importantly) debugging.
XLogo is a terrific tool (for Apple OSX only, however) and fits the bill nicely. Students can create and save simple programs (drawing a square, for example) very easily, making XLogo very easy to introduce. More complex programs (drawing a donut) are saved just as easily, making it possible for students to focus on their programming skills rather than the software itself.
I used XLogo extensively in the 7th grade that first year, but when I passed that curriculum on to a colleague, it was dropped from the 7th grade program. This year I am focusing on 8th grade (where we already work with Scratch), and I am planning to reintroduce XLogo as an introduction to Scratch. Can’t wait to see how that goes!