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What is 'scaffolding' in Literacy?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by gsm1380, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. I've heard this phrase banded about but don't actually know what it means. Maybe I use it in my lessons, maybe I don't.
    Does anyone have any idea? Would love to find out what it actually means!

    I have a feeling it's something to do with building on ideas in writing/storytelling but I really don't know!
  2. just my view here, so may not be what others think of scaffolding, but I take it to mean what you put in place to ensure all children can access an activity at their level, or the support given to ensure all children can access, understand and progress. I think of scaffolding when I provide partially completed writing frames with a word bank for my less able, whilst others might be working straight into their books, for example. That is how the SMT use the term in my school. Our focus at the moment is to scaffold the learning so all children can have the opportunity to work independently, rather than doing the same work but with an adult to support which has been more common in my school.
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    If you think of what a scaffold is and does - provide a support (structure) and consists of some 'bare-bones', that's exactly what 'scaffolding' is - children given some support/ bare bones around which to structure their own ideas.
    So yes singup 'partially completed writing frames with a word bank' count and 'scaffolding learning' such as 'modelling how to'', visual prompts etc. all help children to develop independant learning.
  4. Bruner was attributed with coining this term. In a historic period when teachers seemed to have a stark choice of "discovery" learning or "didactic" teaching, scaffolding was a way of helping without being didactic. Here is a link:

  5. I was introduced by some OU courses to one strategy to differentiate verbal scaffolding to instructions and questions, and it became a part of my regular planning late 80s. If telling a child exactly what to do (requiring no independent thought) is represented by a filled rectangle, and giving very little information is represented by an empty rectangle, between these two extremes are differing levels of support. The aim being to hand over as much of the thinking as possible to the child, so for a SEN child really stuck you might ask questions or tell information which largely gives the answer away (filled rectangle) but for a G&T child, or child with a good grasp, the questions or statements might still leave much more to the child's thinking. Putting these rectangles on planning sheets of anticipated instructions or intervening or prompting questions as well as the resources used, really got you thinking about verbal scaffolding, and handing over as much thinking as possible to the child, without throwing them out of their depth in the deep end of a problem. I sometimes planned 4 questions I could ask if a child needed support, 4 rectangles of differing fills, and drew on which questions I felt would help that child in that moment without telling them too much.
  6. In current times, by contrast, I think the expectation that every child achieves the objective within every lesson presses teachers into much more directed support or much smaller challenges. EG by the scaffolding analogy used in post above, the displayed list of connectives or "wow" words require little independent thought on behalf of the child, whilst not displaying these lists and expecting children to regularly consult a dictionary or thesaurus would rely on and encourage more independent work, the former arrangement a filled rectangle, the latter an empty rectangle, teacher's prompting questions about employing words something inbetween.
  7. On reflection, the child whose vocabulary is already extensive and doesn't require any reference support, an open rectangle, a child who consults a thesaurus or dictionary a partly filled rectangle depending on how much use required., a child who works from a prompt sheet of words a highly filled rectangle, teacher telling a child which word to use, a completely filled rectangle, to describe how much independent thought is going into choosing vocabulary.

    I think there is a difference between scaffolding which achieves outcome of produced work, and scaffolding which achieves independence of thinking or long lasting learning. I think modern day presses teachers to lean to the former, but the original Bruner concept was more to the latter.
  8. An allied term is "zone of proximal development" from Vygotsky:


    When OFSTED are looking for every child to be making progress in a lesson, I'm not sure if they are assessing whether every child is making the maximum progress that could be made at this point in time
  9. I think all OFSTED inspectors should read this. Working in early years I have found a huge emphasis on using open and higher level questioning to get children to use more language in response, and to encourage them to think things through. That is all great and very good for developing the skills of more able children, who already have a good vocabulary and the habit of expressing themselves clearly and thinking in language. However, I have found that OFSTED inspectors think this should be the norm with all children. I work with children with EAL and very differing levels of understanding and use of English. Asking these children clever open questions is asking too much of their language understanding and their poor vocabularies; they need, in your terms, shalteir, pretty full rectangles. The adult needs to model simple language and simple questioning to tap into the child's ZPD.Similarly OFSTED have expected written prompts and questions displayed in nursery, and at our last OFSTED we were criticised for not having enough of this. However, we had many vocabulary and question prompts written up around the environment - for the adults. I felt very resentful that the OFSTED inspector did not see the thought that went into this and seemed to want to tick a box which said, 'questions for children', despite the fact that I pointed out that the children could not read and that we had experimented with written prompts for them without finding much impact from it. Again, a matter of misjudging ZPD. Of course nursery children should encounter writing in the environment, but thought has to be put into what is appropriate. Hey-ho!
  10. Thumbie good luck in what you do. You and your school know what you are about, probably a lot more than the OFSTED inspectors who are looking for compliance to a current sheet of expectations, and might not be actual teachers themselves???.

    Doing the best for a large number of differentiated children is an exraordinary difficult job in reality. Teachers don't get the recognition for how difficult that job really is, IMO. My other comment on OFSTED was to do with ZPD for each child, reality is for a heavy reliance on activities which are within a child's independent abilities to enable the teacher to focus on another group. But this can come close to "busy time" for the independent groups.
  11. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Some superb posts and info there Shalteir? Do you use a non-paragraph friendly browser- hence the multiple posts?
    Really points to the 'inadequacy' of the idea of 'making visible progress in every lesson'! Whereas most teachers understand sometimes knowledge is cumululative and one day the 'penny drops' and children experience their 'Eureka' moment, but they have been involved in the learning process throughout.
  12. Lara mfl, yes I do use a paragraph non-friendly browser most of the time now, but I have learnt how to do the hmtl code to get paragraphs, occasionally forget to do it, but that is not my excuse, more thinking of more points after the original posts, and ideas coming back to me later. Sometimes I'm commenting on things that have been a while since I did them, last week 40 years since I had done a degree which I drew on to comment (IQ changes).

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