Think about the last time you learned something new. Did you jump right in and immediately understand the new concept? Probably not. More likely, you used a number of strategies to help you learn. You may have looked up new vocabulary, connected the new knowledge to a familiar idea, or laid your thoughts out visually to help you understand. You knew to use these strategies because they worked for you in the past. Our job as educators is to teach learners how to use these supports.
Scaffolding is an essential strategy to cultivate learning and promote self-efficacy. When learners receive the supports they need, they see success and begin to believe in their own learning capabilities. Creating a scaffolded learning environment that utilizes tools to aid learners is a central goal for most educational practitioners. These scaffolded learning environments see higher rates of learner self-efficacy and success.
For families who are English Language Learners (ELL), a scaffolded learning experience is essential. Using NCFL’s family learning model, the English Language Learners’ Project (ELLP) in Detroit highlighted the central importance of scaffolding for ELL families. In the centers, practitioners helped parents acquire essential literacy skills in the Adult Learning class using primary grade books. These texts included features that supported parents’ literacy development. The readability levels, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition patterns helped parents conquer their own reading anxieties. By meeting parents at their skill and comfort levels and providing the supports necessary to learn, practitioners were able to slowly introduce more complex texts, knowing the adult learners possessed self-efficacy that would enable them to continue growing. While most parents were still English learners at the end of the program, they reported increased learner self-efficacy as a result of this scaffolded learning.
Parents and Children Together® Time (PACT Time) offers educators an opportunity to scaffold two-generational learning. When practitioners model educational interactions for parents, those parents are able to then reproduce that model with their own children. For example, by modeling the use of reading strategies for parents, we target multiple generations of learning when those parents go on to model those same strategies in scaffolded learning for their children.
How can educators scaffold learning experiences? A few strategies include:
- Engage background knowledge. Successful educators know what their students know. By understanding what knowledge families bring with them, we better engage learners in acquiring new skills.
- Pre-teach vocabulary. By helping readers acquaint themselves with new vocabulary before they encounter it in a text, practitioners help learners access deeper comprehension.
- Talk, Talk, Talk. Allow students to learn socially. When learners are able to discuss concepts with their families or peers, they see ideas in a new way.
- Use Visual Aids. Pictures, charts, graphs, and graphic organizers provide comprehension and organization support to families.
- Question. Proficient practitioners ask first, second, and third level questions that invite students at every learning stage to participate. Encouraging families to question each other during PACT time is one way to encourage two-generation engagement with reading strategies.
- Review. Never pass up the chance to address misconceptions and reinforce learning. Reviewing what was learned before parting ways fosters retention.
How do you scaffold learning? Do you have any strategies to add? Let us know in the comments!