Friday, August 19, 2011

Scaffolding for Learning: A Supportive Framework for Early Learning

"One way in which writing can be nurtured is through scaffolding. Scaffolding essentially means doing some of the work for the student who isn't quite ready to accomplish a task independently. Like the supports that construction workers use on buildings, scaffolding is intended to be temporary. It is there to aid the completion of a task and it is eventually removed."
Clare et al (1994)
Scaffolding is the support mechanism that is put into place to support learning before learners can work independently.In writing this is many of the elements that go into the writing process, from grammar and punctuation to style and structure. The structure itself of a piece of writing can be broken down and scaffolded as individual elements.
"How teachers interact with students as they complete a task is important to the students' ability to perform the activity. Scaffolding is an instructional technique whereby the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task, then gradually shifts responsibility to the students."
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

Vytgosky and the Zone of Proximal Development
"Inherent in scaffolded instruction is Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) idea of the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky suggests that there are two parts of a learner’s developmental level: the “actual developmental level” and the “potential developmental level”. The zone of proximal development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978). The zone of proximal development (ZPD) can also be described as the area between what a learner can do by himself and that which can be attained with the help of a ‘more knowledgeable other’ adult or peer. The ‘more knowledgeable other’, or MKO, shares knowledge with the student to bridge the gap between what is known and what is not known. Once the student has expanded his knowledge, the actual developmental level has been expanded and the ZPD has shifted. The ZPD is always changing as the student expands and gains knowledge, so scaffolded instruction must constantly be individualized to address the changing ZPD of each student."

Cooking Up Writing

 The different elements needed for a piece of writing.

We can see quite clearly that writing has an amazing number of elements or skills that need to be combined to create a successful piece of writing. Scaffolding means making children familiar with all of these, so that they can be included in their own writing. Unfortunately as soon as we ask children to produce an original narrative, their technical writing skills are forgotten. I advocate starting out writing by using the already familiar. This means using fairy tales and traditional tales. And using them again and again.

Children in Year 1/Grade 2 can start reproducing the fairytale and therefore allowing them to concentrate on the technical side of writing, i.e. writing in sentences and spelling common words correctly. 

Children in Year 2 and 3/Grade 3 and 4 now familiar with a number of fairy tales can start to replace one or more of the structure elements as they move towards original stories. E.g. Changing the characters but keeping the setting and story line the same.

Children from Year 4/Grade 5 onwards could change a number of elements or even all of them (characters, setting, story ending) but keep the basic structure of the narrative the same.

See later posts that will take this structure and run through it with specific stories. It will also have scaffolding resources that you can access and use in your own classroom.

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