Tag Archives: Graphic Organizers

Choosing the Right Scaffolds for Individual Students

As an English teacher, I am always thinking strategically to sequence reading and writing assignments. As I plan these assignments I also must consider what scaffolding I will provide for students to build skills, while at the same time, make writing instruction manageable.

My students are reading books with social justice themes and to show their thinking about their reading, I had students to trace the protagonist’s actions and beliefs throughout the book against Gandhi’s principals.  Additionally, students were to show how these principals contribute to overall theme or central idea of the book. 

The on demand, short response writing assignment was: Choose a quote from Gandhi that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and their experiences in the book.  Be sure to include two or more textual details to support your claim. Follow the ACE Strategy (Answer – Cite – Elaborate & Explain):

For some of my students, this is a complex task and I provide scaffolding in the form of a graphic organizer to better help them articulate their thinking. Scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task. Graphic organizers help to break down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Note the graphic organizer created for the Gandhi short response:

Additionally, depending on the needs of your students, revision options or requirements can be a great way to incorporate more writing and support.  The need to implement a scaffold occurs when you realize a student is not progressing or unable to understand a particular concept. Examples are another scaffolding strategy to show models and mentor writing for students struggling to meet the learning targets. I often showcase student models to teach back to the whole class in a mini-lesson and provide an example of writing that meets the learning standard like the student example below. 

Pyramid of Hate

When more scaffolding is necessary, advanced organizers and sentence frames that are partially completed can guide students with the necessary format or academic vocabulary to improve their writing. In the revision document I created below, I provide students sentence stems and specific vocabulary to show the relationship between the protagonist and Gandhi. Hints are also included on the revision document to offer suggested vocabulary and clues to make visible student thinking about the text.

Scaffolding comes in many forms. The idea is to provide the right scaffold at the right time to help students become independent learners. Eventually, students should be able to create their own scaffolding tools to help them meet the learning goals.

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Breaking Down Assignments into Manageable Tasks

I am known among my students and colleagues for assigning multistep projects and class work.

In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I describe a multi genre project blending history and creative writing. For the project students find five primary sources about a specific topic related to World War II and then write five creative writing pieces that bring attention to this aspect of the war. For example, Hitler Youth, Victims of the Holocaust, Technology Advancements of WW2. This project has many pieces to complete. For students who have executive functioning challenges this project is complex and can be overwhelming. This multi genre project requires students to:

  1. Select a topic within WWII
  2.  Research their specific topic
  3. Find 5 different primary sources that enhance their understanding of this topic
  4. Articulate in writing how these primary sources help to understand this time period more deeply and uncover the complexity of WWII
  5. Write five creative writing pieces, each a different genre, to showcase their understanding of their topic and give voice to the people involved in this war
  6. Write an author’s note that outlines each of the primary sources and creative writing pieces communicating to readers the important insights gained throughout this process and project

Providing student with small, frequent, attainable goals makes larger tasks look more manageable. In order to prevents students from becoming discouraged by the quantity of work, I created a graphic organizer to help students work through the project in steps. This helps students focus on the parts of the project and increases student willingness and participation. Breaking down multistep projects also increases engagement, effort, and focus.

Multigenre Organizer & Planning Sheet
For a Copy of this Graphic Organizer click here 

Checklists are another tool to help students organize and complete multistep projects. Just like the list above of the components of the multi genre project I included above, providing students with an itemized list of the pieces of the project can be beneficial. This content accommodation provides a visual organization strategy that can be laid out as a YES/NO Checklist or using simple bullets and boxes.

Multigenre Checklist

For ALL our students to be successful we need to provide them with the appropriate scaffolds that include visual aids and are in alignment with the learning targets. Depending on the student, additional accommodations and scaffolds might include reducing the quantity of the project requirements, providing students with the primary sources and providing student models throughout the project.

Think about the students you teach. Which type of scaffolding, front-end or back-end, is preferable in helping these students meet the learning targets?

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Sentence Frames to Guide Student Writers

Helping students build their writing repertoire and vocabulary acquisition requires teachers to model what good writers do. When my students are working on a short response or extended response, I offer graphic organizers and sentence frames to help my students write and revise their writing to meet learning targets.

Particularly for my ENL students who might not have the words or academic language just yet, providing these scaffolded strategies can help to develop students’ writing muscles and vocabulary necessary for academic writing.

Depending on the writing task, the graphic organizers are adapted to help fit the prompt. For example, wrote a short response to meet CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.9 – 
Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types.

The prompt stated: Choose a quote from Gandhi  that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and his/her journey midway throughout the text.  Be sure to include two (2) or more textual details (direct quotes) to support your claim.

Students were given a bank with ten Gandhi quotes:

 “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

“An ounce of patience is worth more than a ton of preaching.”

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

“Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.”

“Continue to grow and evolve.”

“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”  
Providing students with a graphic organizer can help students tract their thinking, make connections, and outline their understanding. This graphic organizer helps direct students what to write about.

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For my ENL and ELL students who are developing academic language and vocabulary to  articulate their thinking about the text, offering sentence frames provides the necessary format and language needed to meet the learning target.

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What looks like Mad Libs can give students the confidence to show what they know and develop their written communication skills.

For more ideas for sentence frames and scaffolding student writing from other teachers, check out this blog post from Larry Ferlazzo.

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