What do we mean when we talk about the coding mindset – and why it is relevant to language teaching? The coding mindset sounds like a confusing concept, but in fact, it’s quite straightforward. A computer programmer uses codes to solve a problem using a computer. To do this, they need perseverance, organisation and resilience, which are all skills that can assist an English language learner on their learning journey.
Similar to coding, learning a language doesn’t have a formula. And it’s a lifelong process – even once learners have reached an advanced level, they will inevitably come across unfamiliar expressions, colloquialisms or different accents. So, developing a coding mindset will help learners be prepared for these challenges and equipped to overcome them.
Some coding concepts in the classroom
Sequencing and properties are two coding concepts that we can use in the English language classroom. Let’s take a look at two classroom activities which use these concepts to develop language skills:
A sequence is a basic algorithm, which means a set of instructions in a certain order. The activity below from English Code (Level 1, page 18) is an example of sequencing. In this activity, learners have to identify the next picture in the sequence and draw it. The activity aims to practice phonetic awareness (/p/ and /b/). Most educators working with young learners will already be familiar with this kind of activity, so you might already have helped your students develop a coding mindset without even realising it.
The following activity is from English Code Level 4. It has been designed for young learners. Learners have to label organisms according to their type. This is based on the coding concept of properties. A property determines what the user sees (the output). A similar activity for older learners could be labelling expressions according to they can be used for, for example agreeing, disagreeing or making a suggestion.
If you know how to code, this knowledge can help you to identify the concepts behind activities that develop a coding mindset, but you can still work on a coding mindset with your learners even if words like algorithm or functions don’t mean anything to you. Teachers aren’t expected to teach learners computer programming, but simply help them develop transferable skills that will assist them in their language learning and beyond.
Do I need to use technology?
Coding means giving instructions to a computer to tell it to do something. But developing a coding mindset means helping students think like a computer programmer, not actually become one. So, you can develop a coding mindset without having access to computers. Some activities can even be materials-free.
Varying restrictions in schools and classrooms can make it difficult to work successfully on different teaching approaches. Not all classrooms have space to move around it or have desks that can be arranged for pair and group work. But the good news is that coding mindset activities can be done individually or in pairs or groups, with the same outcome.
Is a coding mindset only for young learners?
The most important component of a coding mindset is a willingness to experiment – and this can come more easily to young learners. Adult learners can be less comfortable communicating in English. They might feel “blocked”, unconfident or overly reliant on their first language.
But developing a coding mindset can help learners of all ages feel more confident taking risks when speaking a new language. It’s important to understand that mistakes are inevitable, but these mistakes don’t define them. It just means they need to try again in another way. This helps them become more confident and resilient learners.
A coding mindset encompasses transferable skills such as perseverance, collaboration and problem-solving. These 21st-century skills are useful for teenage and adult students in their academic and professional lives. So, a coding mindset can help your students become flexible learners and attractive potential candidates for employers.
About English Code
English Code is a 7-level course for students aged 7 to 12 years. Available in both American English and British English, the course offers 5 hours or more of language study per week. It promotes creative learning and encourages learners to investigate and experiment with a series of fun, hands-on projects.
English Code helps children to develop a coding mindset and enhances their problem-solving and collaboration skills. The course syllabus incorporates STEAM learning and prioritises core, functional language so that students have the vocabulary and tools to become confident English speakers in the classroom and beyond.