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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
How to Home
How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Scaffolding
Sharon Longert

With the implementation of higher standards on all of the grade levels, we face the challenges of raising the instructional levels in our subject area classes. There is an ever-increasing amount of curricula to “cover” and a limited amount of time to cover it. There are also many students in our classes who have instructional support through inclusion models; children who have special needs and have Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s); and children who are English Language Learners. Our challenge then, is to address the diversity in learning needs and styles while also maintaining the integrity of the content so our students will attain high scores on standardized achievement tests.

General Education subject area teachers need to pay close attention to the functional use of language in their classroom discussions. There are many phrases and expressions that subject area teachers need to make explicit and integrate into the language of content instruction in subject area classes. Following a specific format or outline that shows clear organization of the information assists students in bringing meaning to each content area class. Teachers can use simplified words together with specific academic language to create content that enriches the academic language acquisition of students with special needs.

In a recent ASCD article, “Successful strategies for English Language Learners,” by Tracy Gray and Steve Fleischman, the authors review effective strategies for linguistically and culturally diverse students. They note that sound principles and practices of classroom organization and management work - with smaller instructional groups – for all students. Research supports the use of scaffolding strategies to help develop study skills, organize thoughts, and follow classroom procedures. In providing meaning for students with specific needs, scaffolding uses contextual supports – simplified language, teacher modeling, visual and graphic aids, cooperative and authentic (hands-on) learning. When content area teachers consistently use these supports while delivering instruction, achievement levels increase. The following scaffolding approaches are effective.

Keep the language simple.
Speak simply and clearly. Use short, complete sentences and avoid slang, idioms and figures of speech. (Except when using specific references to literature.)

Use actions and illustrations to reinforce oral statements. Appropriate facial expressions help to convey meaning. Pointing to the board while asking, “Please come up to complete the math problem,” is more effective than repeating commands or directions. Loud repetition does not increase understanding.

Ask for completion, not generation.
Ask students to choose answers from a list or to complete a partially completed outline or paragraph. Encourage students to use language as much as possible to gain confidence.

Model correct usage and judiciously correct errors.
Use corrections to provide positive reinforcement. Over-correction of language usage can lead to students ignoring the critical content.

Use visual aids.
Present classroom content and information in engaging ways by using graphic organizers, tables, charts and outlines. Encourage the use of these formats for classwork and homework projects.

Effective educators understand that student achievement is greater than standardized test achievement. Student social skills, self worth, behavior, responsibility, and involvement in school are components of achievement that cannot be ignored in the race for higher test scores. Students are the center of student achievement, not test scores. We need to provide the groundwork for learning skills that are scaffolded and predictable for our students. The content area teacher has the responsibility for building knowledge of the Critical Content and for teaching skills that lead students to be able to access the Critical Content. As we race to the day of the test we need to have led students to the skills that lead to successful learning experiences.

I hope you’ve found these basics helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

 

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