Scaffolding (Part 1)

There’s a poem I really like by Irish poet Seamus Heaney called Scaffolding. While it’s quite good and I suggest you read it, teachers aren’t talking about its themes when they say that you should scaffold lessons 🙂 So what is scaffolding? Well, just like when constructing a building you put up scaffolding to help you build it, when trying to teach a complex topic, you break it down into sections and provide a tool with each section to help the students understand it. Confused yet? Luckily, our ETA alumni are so good at it that I can use an example from our database to explain! The Recount Text lesson by Janika is a great example of scaffolding.

The overall objective of the lesson is “Students will know the structure of recount texts and will be able to create their own recount text,” but the lesson doesn’t begin by describing the structure of a recount text. Instead, it begins by reviewing some key grammar and vocabulary necessary to create a recount text- practicing conjugating past tense verbs and an explanation of transition words. These are the tools that the students will need to hit the final objective- creating their own recount text.

Now that the students have tools to help them create the text, Janika explains the structure of the text. In the slides below, notice how an overview is given, and then the structure is broken down even further. These are the building blocks that the students will need to achieve both parts of the objective- knowing the structure of the text and creating their own.

Since the students have a few tools and some building blocks, they can put together something. In other words, since the students now have a conceptual understanding of a recount text, it’s time to give them an activity to practice it. In this stage, they aren’t being asked to come up with one on their own yet- they’re just asked to put a scrambled recount text in order with other students. Again, the whole point of scaffolding is breaking down the concept so that the students only have to work on one manageable chunk at a time.

At this point, the teacher is able to do a formative assessment (meaning it’s to see how they’re doing so far, not if they’ve grasped the concept completely) and address any common misconceptions or problems the students are having. If the students are able to put together the text without any issues, that means they’ve probably hit the first part of the objective “Students will know the structure of recount texts” and they’re ready to move on to the next part, “and will be able to create their own recount text,” which I’ll tell you all about… in October’s post 😉

If you’re feeling confident that you know what scaffolding is, feel free to check out Janika’s lesson and comment with how she scaffolding the next part- maybe your answer can be featured in the next post!

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