Online English lessons and coding with YL (Part Two)

/ A1, A2, Lesson tips, Pre-A1, Teachers, Young Learners

January 2021In my previous post, I suggested that teachers giving online lessons to YL try out some alternative tasks using the programming language Scratch. This coding program was customized for elementary school students to introduce them to the universe of algorithms, sequencing, variables and others. So the main aim of the Scratch project is to teach coding to pupils. However, Scratch could come in really handy when giving online English lessons to Young Learners. In Part One, you can read about how to practise numbers and prepositions of places with Scratch animations. In this post, I’d like to propose ways to practise giving directions and asking vs. answering questions – hidden in coding.



In one of the challenges in the Future Learn course ‘Teaching Programming in Primary Schools’, the participants need to code a bug to move in a maze towards four food items. The exercise originally uses simple: Forward/Left/Right, which are pre-coded in the My Blocks session (where we can create our own puzzle blocks). After changing the names of the code elements to Go straight and Turn right/left, it becomes more adequate for everyday language. The exercise is simple and feasible in pair-work: the students need to sequence the coding blocks in order to lead the bug from the starting point (left bottom corner) to the next item. The first sequence is given:

You can see the project also on the ELT-TUTOR Teaching English with Scratch studio and if you click on See inside, you can continue with the code.

Feel free to change the food items to animals or any other objects you find among the sprites (Mind: you can also upload your sprites to the library).

If you teach a smaller group, you can ask the students to give you the instructions and you take care of the code for them on shared screen.

Once you feel comfortable with this simple maze, you can create your own and use traffic lights and roundabouts instead of black squares. This way you can elicite how to give complex directions: ‘At the first roundabout, turn left.’

Under File (see at the top of the Scratch screen), you have the option to Save [the code] to your computer. If you are registered, you can also rename it. Once it lands in your Download folder, mind that it won’t open on your computer. Any time you go back to the Scratch website, you can click onto Load from your computer (under File) and open it there online.

Alternatively, you can also download the program onto your computer so that it opens the scratch (sb) files automatically.


The group I first used Scratch with was preparing for the Cambridge Movers exam and in our face-to-face lessons we used the course book from Cambridge University Press Fun for Movers. Still, using simply the book in a Zoom or Skype lesson became soon boring. Scratch helped us out: as a revision lesson, we set off on page 64, where the students were asked to answer a list of questions (typical questions at the Cambridge Movers speaking exam):

Fun for Movers page 64 - Questions

Instead of just asking them to write their answers done, they were asked to turn it into a Scratch animation. Here’s the result:

To help the slower students, I created a first version where all the questions were typed in and they only had to animate the second sprite, answering to the questions. The fast-finishers had to create their own project with a backdrop and two sprites to animate. Here’s the code of this previous animation:

First sprite with questions:

Second sprite with a set of answers:

You can also ask your students to interview each other and type their partner’s answers into the answer bubbles.

They can also work on questions. However, there is an even better way to work on questions with Scratch…

You might also like to read:

YL LESSON PLAN – Daily routines and question formation
– to practise question formations: SPEAKING: Asking for and Giving Personal Information


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