Video 6: Provide options for language and symbols

Our students have a range of strengths and challenges when it comes to both linguistic and nonlinguistic representations of information. For example, the language we use to help some students understand new CS content may be quite challenging for another student. It is critical for us to present essential CS vocabulary, symbols, or syntax in different ways so all learners can access these.  For example, in coding, the use of the if then condition structure needs to be understood before a learner can be expected to add additional levels of complexity such as an if then else construct. Thus, presenting this conditional statement in multiple ways is required. Below are strategies that we can use to increase access to language and symbols in CS education.

Strategies for providing options for language and symbols:

  • Clarify CS vocabulary to make sure learners understand their meaning. Information that relies on cultural or background understanding may create barriers to understanding and should be avoided.
  • Use language appropriate for the learner’s reading level. Vocabulary should also be student-friendly. For instance, you might explain that the same words may have different meanings in different contexts such as the term variable is different in computer science than what it does in mathematics.
  • Present information both linguistically and non-linguistically.  For example, sprites in Scratch are usually described as moving along a coordinate plane. For students to understand this concept, it may be necessary to explain the idea linguistically, graphically, and through gestures.
  • Use multiple media to present concepts such as using videos, text, and graphic novels. An example would be, when demonstrating variables, you could use images of code that create variables, model using worked examples, and provide self-guided tutorials.

Being able to express oneself is necessary for adequately expressing computational thinking concepts.

Resources related to this guideline include:

Note: We use CAST’s (2018) Version 2.2 of the Guidelines. The CAST link is similarly numbered. UDL for Teachers uses a previous version of the guidelines, so numbering and terms may vary.