Helping to Scaffold Instruction for ELL Learners
Jan 24, 2016 English Language Teaching (ELT) 2998 Views
Abstract: How to assist in getting English language learners help by building strategies into your lessons, and using these tools to create vocabulary and increase fluency.
Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners
As in any good building, if you want to begin properly, you need to build a solid foundation that will support it through the construction process. Similarly, if you want a student to build a foundation of knowledge, you need to construct a base of learning that will see that person through to understanding of the material. In both cases, this is where scaffolding comes into the picture. Whether you are using verbal scaffolding to model how to pronounce a new word, to instructional scaffolding to intentionally use graphic organizers to prepare students for the content of a new chapter, or building strategies into a lesson is critical for ELL/ESL students. One solution to a student not being able to pronounce a new word correctly, even after several attempts, might be to use modeling to correctly pronounce the word for them, and then provide "message abundancy" by having the student repeat the word until they have the concept down correctly. In my own classroom, whenever a new word is introduced in key vocabulary, I take the time to slowly pronounce the word correctly and have the students repeat the word to ensure connectivity. This idea has the students use both language and interaction to practice the word and is especially helpful if English is not the student's first language.
In addition to modeling, other scaffolding techniques are also an excellent way to get students from the beginnings of a new idea, to being able to answer higher function questions at the end of the unit. For example, if you want to activate students' prior knowledge about a topic that you will be reading about for that particular lesson, you might provide them with a KWL (what I know, what I want to know, and what I learned) chart. I use this strategy in my own class to get the students thinking about the topic, and supporting it using the graphic organizer for them to construct their ideas on before we begin the reading. This bridges the new concept between the students' previous knowledge and then weaving in the new ideas to existing schemas.
Another scaffolding tool that is efficient in the classroom is the idea that students' ideas about a topic are woven into pre-existing schema, and that the ability to build upon that schema can strengthen the connection between new and existing knowledge. In my own classroom, before we read a new article or text the students are given a SQP2RS (squeepers) organizer. This allows the students to preview the text, paying attention to headings and subheadings, noting any illustrations or pictures included, and creating some questions about what this new piece of information might teach us. Therefore, the student will begin reading the text with some idea of what it will contain, and building upon existing schemas will help with adding new connections.
In conclusion, all students can use scaffolding in the classroom and it is not just the ESL/ELL students that benefit from them. Different types of scaffolding can be used for multiple activities, but all of them have the same goal in mind. That is to take a student who has minimal grasp of a new concept and build them up to one that has a deeper understanding. No matter what strategies you use to promote student achievement, scaffolding creates an environment to challenge any student regardless of level.