What is Scaffolding Instruction and How Does It BOOST Mastery?
What is scaffolding instruction? These are the kind of questions people ask me…and they say educators aren’t interesting!!!! Well, I got to thinking about it and here’s what went through my head…
I remember when I first started teaching, when I would go to staff meetings or professional development trainings, there would be so many terms and acronyms that folks would throw around as if EVERYONE knew what they meant.
Kind of like “DUH! You don’t know what YPJENSOF stands for? Everyone’s doing it!” (By the way, it doesn’t stand for anything, but didn’t you just wonder what it was…just for a second?)
I had a seasoned teacher friend that would translate for me during breaks and after the meetings so that I had some semblance of understanding of what we were supposed to do next! Thank goodness for friends who have a clue!
But what I’ve really come to figure out is that sometimes we KNOW what some teaching or education terms MEAN and we often nod our heads like, “Oh yeah, I do that every day…” but when it comes down to it, we use the term without really knowing what it means. The problem with that is, if we don’t know how to DO or USE it, then the teaching skill isn’t translating into the classroom for the kids’ benefit. I know I’ve been guilty of it!
The term “scaffolding” is one of those terms.
I mean really – I bet you can explain it, but if I were to come into your classroom and ask you where, when and why you’re going to scaffold today, would you be able to be super specific with me? The key is super specific…
So, let’s clean this up ONCE AND FOR ALL – and get started using scaffolding instruction to benefit your kids right NOW!
Scaffolding is the process of GRADUALLY RELEASING RESPONSIBILITY and GRADUALLY DECREASING SUPPORT during a lesson or series of lessons so that kids are fully supported throughout the explicit teaching model.
It is built on the idea that as the teacher releases responsibility, the students take more control. So when you see scaffolded instruction work beautifully, there is a PLANNED and SEAMLESS transition from the teacher doing most of the work (through direct explanation and modeling) to guided practice (the teacher and the students are doing the work with the teacher giving a TON OF FEEDBACK) to eventually the students working to apply, apply, apply correctly their skill with the least amount of teacher support.
Here’s the cool thing: even if you’re using a scripted reading program or intervention program, you can still have fidelity to the program AND scaffold at the same time. In fact, that’s what good teachers do!
They organize the instruction around what their students know how to do and what they’re still learning how to do and what they’re brand new at doing. They don’t skip parts of the lessons that students have mastered or spend forever and a day working to mastery and avoiding other content.
Excellent teachers that get great results have this kind of script going through their minds:
“Hmm…when I think of teaching this skill, even though the program tells me to assign this book to my students for a second read, I know they’re not quite ready for that because they made lots of errors in yesterday’s reading.
So, what I need to do is a bit of hand holding and scaffolding here – I’ll start off reading the text WITH them and then, depending on how well they’re taking over the reading of the text and the number of errors they’re reading while they discuss the response questions, I’ll give them bigger and bigger chunks of the text to read on their own.”
It’s really that simple – BUT YOU MUST PLAN AHEAD. Successful scaffolding is planned, not incidental!
So, where do you start?
- Look at the lesson ahead of time
- Ask yourself if the students are mastered, getting mastered or totally un-mastered at the skills
- Based upon your thoughts about the above questions, you’ll know where to start with scaffolding
- If the students are mastered at the skill, you know that you can assign longer, more difficult tasks with fewer interruptions
- If the students are getting mastered, you know that you need to structure the lesson with lots of student engagement and tons of opportunities for you to give big, academic based feedback before you have students work in small groups or independently for application of the skill
- If the students are un-mastered or the skill is brand new, you know that you will be doing lots of super tight hand-holding and not throwing the kids to guided or independent practice because you know they don’t have a clue what that would look like! In fact, this stage of scaffolding is a lot about YOU!
Here’s what I do: I look at my lesson and highlight in green where I am doing lots of observing as they’re doing the work – student control, less teacher control. Then I’m highlighting in my lesson plan in yellow where I’m going to need to do some hand-holding but gradually move them to serious guided practice. Finally in pink I’m doing the model, model, model kind of work – lots of teacher control and super major hand-holding.
Question for you: Would you come over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting) and post WHERE your students will benefit most from your scaffolding? I’ll see ya there!