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How to Scaffold Instruction for ELLs
Scaffolding for Learning
So you have English learners who need to access grade-level content?
As you may already know, scaffolds are incredibly helpful. Let's take a look at:
- The definition of a scaffold
- The different kinds of scaffolds
- How to use scaffolds
- Download some free graphic organizers
The Definition of a Scaffold
A scaffold, as the metaphor suggests, helps lift a student up to a level they might otherwise be unable to reach.
For our purposes...
...we'll be focusing on English language learners. For a student with an English proficiency level below that of a native speaker, a scaffold is basically anything that helps that student better understand and interact with grade-level content.
Different Kinds of Scaffolds
There are many different kinds of scaffolds. Here is a list of some of the most common types:
How to Use Scaffolds
Scaffolds are wonderful, but they shouldn't be permanent. Students who receive too much support may end up coming to rely too much on the scaffolding and not enough on their own ability to think critically.
Tonya Ward Singer in her book EL Excellence Every Day talks about how we should observe students attempting a task without any scaffolding in order to make an informal assessment of where students are struggling.
Afterward, we can decide how much, or how little, scaffolding to provide them.
If we are trying to identify the main idea and supporting details of a text, for instance, you could ask your students to attempt the goal without any scaffolds at all.
After observing your students, you could decide to hand out partially filled graphic organizers to students who are completely stuck, blank graphic organizers to students who simply need help organizing information and word banks to students who only need help with the vocabulary words needed.
Another way to decide what scaffolds to provide is to reference assessment results.
If you have WIDA Access test results, you may already have a good idea of what proficiency level your English learners are at. You can make decisions about, not only what scaffolds to provide, but what you should be able to expect from students at different English proficiency levels.
Resources for Scaffolding
The Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum
If you need more, the ESL Curriculum Membership provides teachers with tons of scaffolding resources:
- vocabulary visuals
- leveled texts
- multiple-choice graphic organizers
- PWIM writing sheets
- tiered sentence starters
- group activity ideas
- student tracking pages
- and more
...all to help you scaffold instruction and make sure students are on track to English fluency.
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