Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in recent American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

Topic: “Scaffolding”

Title: “Using Scaffolding Techniques to Teach a Social Studies Lesson about Buddha to Sixth-Graders.” James Stephen Vacca. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (May 2008), 852-858. A publication of the International Reading Association.

Comment: For me, “scaffolding” in the classroom is a metaphor for what I used to call “preparation for learning.” The teacher prepares students for reading assignments by building background information on the topic of the assignment, by pre-teaching unfamiliar vocabulary from the assignment and by helping them establish a purpose for reading. In writing, the teacher pre-teaches the skill to be applied in the writing assignment. In a previous “Update,” I noted that the word “scaffolding” was being used to describe preparation for learning, had become the latest buzz-word in education and that nobody was defining it. The author of this article has defined the word and I share with my readers his definition. RayS.

Quote: “When a contractor is constructing a new building, scaffolding is placed on the outside to give the builder access to the emerging structure as it is being created. Once the building is able to support itself, the builder removes the scaffolding. [I think the author is confusing the first and second definitions of “scaffold,”(1) access to heights and (2)supporting structure. RayS.] In the same way that builders provide essential but temporary support, teachers need to provide temporary support that will help students to develop new understandings, new concepts, and new abilities. As students develop control of these abilities, teachers need to withdraw support and provide for further help only for extended or new tasks, understandings and concepts.”

Comment: I still think “preparation for learning” is a clearer way to describe what a teacher does when supporting students’ learning, as in the Directed Reading Assignment. I challenge the author or the editors of professional education journals to ask regular classroom teachers to explain the word “scaffolding” when referring to learning in the classroom. I hate jargon! RayS.

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