Scaffolding Learning

How to Achieve Higher Levels of Learning

What does it mean?

Simply put, scaffolding is a form of support for the development and learning of children and young people. Modeling, breaking the task down into smaller, manageable parts, questioning, and prompting are instructional methods of scaffolding. In essence, scaffolding is what good teaching looks like.

Scaffolding Through Common Core Instruction

“In order to meet students where they are and appropriately scaffold a lesson, or differentiate instruction, you have to know the individual and collective zone of proximal development (ZPD) of your learners. (As education researcher Eileen Raymond states, "[T]he ZPD is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance.").”


The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them.


The CCSS provide goals and benchmarks to ensure students are achieving certain skills and knowledge by the end of each year.


Anchor standards are clear and evident in the curriculum. Each year, an element is added to the anchor standard to assure that students are able to take what they know from previous instruction and add to it.


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Leading Students Up the Ladder of Learning

Strategies for scaffolding learning:

1. Demonstrate for students (think alouds, fish bowl/socratic circles, model with a finished product).

* In seventh grade we do this so often within each lesson. We are using socratic seminars, model writing samples, and working together through questions to generate responses as practice.


2. Tap into prior knowledge (lead them to make connections).

*As a generation of Madeline Hunter students, most of us naturally foster connections to the learning in order to increase learning. Students who can attach the learning to something familiar are more likely to succeed. Those who do not have the prior knowledge depend on us to help build it. As Dewey said, the more meaningful the experience, the more learning that takes place.


3. Giving time to talk is crucial (think-pair-share, fish bowls/socratic circles, etc.).

*Kagan training in the district has helped to encourage teachers to use more group discussions in the classroom. Students participating in these active learning activities become more and more comfortable to share ideas and take risks when doing so.


4. Pre-teach vocabulary to assist understanding.


*We are currently testing new vocabulary instruction this year. The philosophy is to teach less words and ensure more learning. Just because words are underlined in the story doesn't mean they are the most beneficial words to take note of. Teaching students to analyze word choice and how it affects the overall meaning and tone is deeper, richer instruction that will pay off.


* Activities like introducing the words to kids in photos, and in context to things they know and are interested in, using analogies, metaphors and inviting students to create a symbol or drawing for each word and giving time for discussion of the words (small and whole groups) Not until they've done all this should the dictionaries come out. And the dictionaries will be used only to compare with those definitions they've already discovered on their own.


5. Use graphic organizers as aids in comprehension, but think of them as “training wheels” that are removed when the learning becomes more natural and independent.

*Students will need support (scaffolds) during the transition to the more complex tasks of the Common Core. Using graphic organizers is beneficial for learners of all styles. We all need to learn ways to organize thoughts in order to present information in a variety of ways. Students do need to see a variety of graphic organizers in order to give them a choice that suites their learning style.


6. Pause, ask questions, pause, and review. Pose open-ended questions for students and allow think time to process them and discuss, thus keeping them engaged.

*We need to make time for allowing students think time and discussion throughout a learning task. Processing time is crucial to thier learning and also allows for them to clarify and correct misunderstandings along the way.



Reaching Higher and Taking the Steps Together is How Students Will Achieve

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