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Apr 11, 2019 |

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!


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota Family Learning Program

Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University