As an educator with 30 years of experience in North Dakota’s public schools, I’ve witnessed students enter my classroom with varying degrees of readiness. In an effort to create more equitable instructional opportunities, I have started to integrate scaffolding into my regular classroom activities.
According to Pauline Gibbons (2015), a scaffold is a temporary support a teacher provides to a student that enables the student to perform a task he or she would not be able to perform alone.
The goal of scaffolding is to provide opportunities for accommodating students’ individual abilities and needs as they learn and grow. It is important to note that scaffolding is fundamental to all effective and equitable teaching, and that the edtech resources many educators currently have access to support the integration of scaffolding into instruction.
Here are four scaffolding techniques I use, and some of the resources that support them:
1. One technique I’ve used to design supportive instruction in the areas of vocabulary and reading is practice, repetition, paraphrasing, and modeling. If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times. Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times to enhance students’ vocabulary. When exposure is coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, vocabulary acquisition doubled.
To support practice and repetition, check out Boom Cards. Boom Cards are digital, self-checking, interactive activities created by teachers. These can be vocabulary practice, cloze activities, or content specific decks. Students are shown one question at a time and get instant feedback on their answers.
2. Teacher modeling is another great scaffolding technique. Model thought processes (think-alouds) and skills every time you teach new vocabulary or critical thinking. This includes reading aloud to your student picture books and novels (including texts above grade level), so you can model correct pronunciation of new words and reading with prosody.
I like to use Flipgrid when using paraphrasing with teacher modeling. With Flipgrid I can record myself instructing students and giving directions, as well as provide written instructions. Another nice feature of Flipgrid is that I can attach files, upload video from digital platforms, link from Google Classroom, Wakelet and more! Finally, I can group students as needed by topic or readiness and invite co-teachers to my grids and topics.
3. Integrating digital content into lessons is another learning scaffold that I use regularly. I use Discovery Education Experience regularly, and one of the best things about its high-quality digital content is that you know students are accessing safe digital assets that are multi-modal (audio, pod-cast, text, video and more). This provides students multiple ways to experience the content.
Even more exciting than the vast number of assets, is the convenient way they are organized in Channels curated by topic, asset type and more. Frequently-used channels in my planning for students include: English Language Arts, Audiobooks, and SOS Instructional Strategies. To model paraphrasing with students, I love to use the SOS Instructional Strategies Six Word Story and Tweet Tweet. Once we use these together several times, students can be gradually released to use them for repetition and paraphrasing of new learning, vocabulary, and to summarize text.
4. Also, I like to use augmented images and video to further scaffold instruction. One tool you may find helpful to support this is ThingLink. This tool makes it possible for teachers to share content by augmenting images and videos with information and links. ThingLink makes it easy to create audio-visual learning materials that are accessible in an integrated reading tool. All text descriptions in an image or video hotspots can be read in over 60 languages. Finally, it is an easy-to-use platform for students to show their learning and understanding as a creative productivity tool.
With all the diverse learners in our classrooms, there is a strong need for new scaffolding strategies and with the latest edtech resources, it really is easier than ever to do. But most importantly, at the end of a scaffolded lesson, the educator has created a product that promotes educational equity, delivers a higher quality lesson, and built a learning experience much more rewarding for all involved.