Tag Archives: scaffolding

Thursday’s Tip: Scaffolding

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Most structures are built in a similar fashion. Foundations are established, frames are created, and more building material added to fill in the space where walls belong. Eventually, a finished and usable structure results. While cement hardens and nails are hammered, the structure needs scaffolding to pieces in place until they can stand on their own.

Facilitating learning often works in the same way. Students can build their knowledge with the proper scaffolding to help support their progress. The resulting knowledge is a free-standing structure that no longer needs the scaffolding. This is when students are able to act autonomously.

Below are four ways we can provide scaffolding for our students until they can use autonomous learning strategies of their own. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

  • Resources – Instead blindly sending students to the library or internet to search out resources for a project, gather and prepare resources for them to us. As far as internet resources, the best way to provide access is to set up a webpage with links. A social bookmarking tool such as Delicious or Diigo can do this efficiently.
  • A Compelling Task – A compelling task is one that is authentic, real world, and speaks to a student’s interests and experiences. A well-designed task can help a student connect content with their “real” lives. So, when we later ask them to apply what they have learned in school to real world situations, they can do this. Simulation, problem-based, and inquiry-based lessons can do this better than the traditional lecture or drill-and-skill activities.
  • Templates and Guides – Any form or graphic aid that helps students organize their thoughts is a form of scaffolding. Templates leave the content out for students to fill in while benefitting from a teacher’s organizational skills. The same can be said for graphic organizers. However, graphic organizers present information in a visual manner that make it easier for some students to grasp.
  • Guidance and Development of Cognitive and Social Skills – Just like we have to teach students to read and count, it’s important for us to teach them how to think and act. Thinking and acting appropriately in school doesn’t just happen because we tell students what to do. Teaching and facilitating learning has to take place. Modeling and guiding thought process help students meet your expectations. Then, there need to be opportunities to practice what they see or do with your guidance.

All good learning requires some scaffolding. Some students need more than others, but that’s a reality with which we have to contend. Even with our most capable students, scaffolding can help them be successful.

How do you provide the structure necessary for your students to be successful learners? What are some ways in which you have helped students organize their thinking? What are some other ways we provide scaffolding for student learning?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: A Little Guidance Goes a Long Way

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One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is finding ways to insure that all students are successful, not just those who are the most gifted. In our current system of “one-size-fits-all” curriculum, it is hard to figure out ways to help our struggling learners or those with learning disabilities to meet the same expectations as “regular education” students. There are expectations for all students to meet, but some aren’t as well-equipped as others to be successful.

One way to insure your neediest students get the support they require is to provide scaffolding to organize their learning. Many regular education students can also benefit from scaffolding, but they can also often be successful without these tools or can simply create their own scaffolding. Scaffolding could take the form of a graphic organizer or an outline. Sometimes, scaffolding can just be a strategy we give a student to help them with some difficult content.

A teacher with which I work shared a strategy he used in his current events class. Every day, students are required to bring in a summary of a news story to share with the class. One student in the class struggles to keep up with his peers. So, the teacher breaks down what should be included in his news summary. The student is asked to simply provide the who, what, when, why, and where (or the “Five W’s”) of every news story he chooses to share. The student has been successful with this task, something that was not expected. This allows the student to be successful and meet the same expectations as his classmates despite some learning deficiencies.

Scaffolding allows us to guide our students to success, particularly those who don’t have the same abilities as their peers. Using scaffolding strategies can help students reach their full learning capacities by helping them get past any deficits. Guide your students to success by providing them the scaffolding to learn and you may find that they can go further than you or they ever hoped.

What are some ways you use scaffolding to guide your students to greater heights? How has scaffolding helped your special education students succeed? What are some effective scaffolding strategies you have found in your teaching?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.