Five Tips in Building Resilience in Young Coders

Five Tips in Building Resilience in Young Coders
By Kelly Paredes

Learning how to script code can be challenging for new coders. Often times learners want to give up on the challenge, seek out the answer or allow themselves to become frustrated with the task.  Teaching coding can sometimes seem like a daunting task, especially for those who are new to the field of coding. But getting over one of the first roadblocks, the "I am not a coder." is one of the greatest breakthroughs, a teacher can help students make. How does a computer science teacher, help students build resilience and perseverance in students and them motivated in coding?  It takes more than a few high fives and fun lessons.

Here are 5 tips to help build resilience with your new student coders.

1.) Repetition, repetition, repetition.  My Physiology and Anatomy teacher use to tell me, " The only way to do well in his course, was by repetition, repetition, repetition! "  Doing something over and over again is an effective method to help students not only strengthen a connection but also help them, to build their confidence and master a skill. Although it may seem that you are repeating yourself over and over again, this repetitive aspect is beneficial to your student's learning.

However, there is a difference in just repeating your sentences and directions to a student versus teaching a new skill repetitively. Be prepared to go over a single concept. Practice saying it differently, in a funny way, in a new context, or with a new tool! Mastering the skill of mindful repetition is where students start to notice the similarities in what you are teaching, allowing more to engage in the classroom dialogue and helping them to make connections to the topics.

2) Find out the student's beliefs about their abilities. Get to know your students quickly. Get to know their names, listen to how they communicate their feelings and identify the strengths early on in the course. What are the words that the student repeats when frustration sets in? Is it a feeling of not being capable, or not "good enough" at coding compared to others? Is it a feeling of insecurity or neediness? "I can't do this?  Or simply not trying anymore? Are they perfectionist and afraid to make a mistake? Or is it just plain negativity?

If you can identify the core belief that is holding the student back from learning, you can help the student identify and acknowledge this feeling or belief.  One of the first steps in becoming more resilient is to know our strengths and weaknesses. Helping students to be more aware of their feelings and trigger point is one step closer to obtaining a positive learning environment in your classroom.

3) Circle time to share proud moments. About 5 weeks into teaching python to 7th graders, we hit an all-time low. The topics were getting harder and energy was getting lower.  The stress from other classes and learning a completely new programming language was starting to pile up. My students were unmotivated, whiny and at an important tipping point.  I could feel it. As the students walked into class, I saw it and immediately went into action. I called a circle time activity, told them to put down their computers, shut the books and their assignments were on hold. We all sat on the floor and our pep talk began.

I started the circle time and acknowledged the objectives that the students already mastered and then I told them a reason for why I was proud of their success. I then asked the students to think for a moment about a time in the past four weeks were they were proud of an accomplishment or felt good about a lesson. We sat and listened to all the students tell their proud moment and left class that day in a better mindset.

Afterward, expressions and feelings had changed and we were back at it, hacking the code!

4) Model solutions to challenging situations.  Jann Mayer from says, “Storytellers can navigate a room through a whole tide of emotions.” Storytelling gives students hope and optimism when the coding optimism gets low, so when emotions seem to be flailing, tell your story; just make sure it is a good one.

We were all learners at one point, think back about your first coding challenges. How did you overcome the obstacles? When did you feel like giving up? How did you turn yourself around and persevere?  We have all been there and struggled when learning. Why not share your experience with your students on the challenges you had when learning how to code. Don't be afraid to tell them about feelings of failure or frustration with a specific topic; they will appreciate you and your honesty.
Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash
5) Take time to play. It is okay to take a day or two to play with the cool toys of tech.  Let the students play with the tools without having to code them or produce a product. Allow students opportunities to experiment, get creative with block code, play a coding or Virtual Reality game or interact with a robot.  Give them time to remember why coded activities and devices are fun. The benefits of organized play and laughter can help students to work harder on the coding days, especially if they know soon it will be "Fun Friday" or "Why Not Wednesday".

So relax, be resilient and have fun coding!


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