Tag Archives: Scaffolding

Supporting Diverse Readers in Virtual Spaces and Remote Learning #EdTechTeam Virtual Summit

#EdTechTeam is hosting three Virtual Summits this spring. The first is Saturday, April 18, 2020. The objective of the Summits is to support teachers and district leaders as schools move to implement remote learning, improve practice, implement new tools, design better online learning experiences, and continue to build relationships with students and families.

The learning begins at 10 AM EST with a key note speaker, then participants can access  presentations throughout the four session times,  and at the conclusion, a demo slam. I will be presenting at 2 PM EST on Supporting Diverse Readers in Virtual Spaces and Remote Learning.” I have shared the slide deck below.

My goal as an English Language Arts teacher is to promote a rich literacy experience for ALL the learners in my classroom. Shifting to remote learning has allowed me to refine the reading units I create with my students and make texts accessible to all my students. All of the assignments provide scaffolds to help students reach higher levels of comprehension.

These scaffolds include

models

graphic organizers

frontload vocabulary

using lots of visuals

dividing texts into manageable chunks

It is important to remember when teaching and planning lessons that every students is unique and valuable. I don’t want students to fall off my radar and it is important that students have a voice and choice throughout their learning. Providing multiple pathways to learning will help all students reach excellence.

 

 

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Argumentative Writing with Scaffolds

The Next Generation Learning Standards for Writing in the 8th grade identify five different types and purposes for writing. The first is argumentative writing.

8W1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

8W1a: Introduce a precise claim, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from a counterclaim, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

8W1b: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using credible sources while demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

8W1c:  Use precise language and content-specific vocabulary to argue a claim.

8Wd: Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

8W1e: Provide a concluding statement or section that explains the significance of the argument presented.

8W1f: Maintain a style and tone appropriate to the writing task.

 

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird I wanted to provide my students with an argumentative essay prompt rather than the traditional literary essay. I modeled the essay from the New York State regents.

First students had five minutes to free write about the topic: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to teach in 2020?

Mockingbird Do Nows

Then, working with a partner, students had to brainstorm reasons for supporting the topic and negating the topic. The challenge was to balance both sides of argument with sound reasons.

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After students shared their reasons with the whole class, students were given an article to read and annotate. Students were provided with an evidence file to catalogue the evidence from the articles provided. The prompt, articles, and scaffolds are provided below:

To help students through the writing process, I wrote alongside of them.

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When it came to writing the counter claim paragraph, students were given a “How-To” to help them draft their third body paragraph. A “How-To” is a scaffolding strategy that provides students with clear directions and step by step instructions to support learning.

How to Write a Counter Claim

My students have lots of opinions about reading To Kill a Mockingbird. During our classroom discussions during writing conferences, students have raised solid points about the heinous language in the book, the narrator’s perspectives and the stories that were not told (i.e. Tom Robinson and Calpurnia). Every book has its strengths and limitations, the key is for our students to be able to articulate their claims clearly and presenting valid reasoning.

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How to improve writing fluency for students of all learning abilities?

The following blog post was written for Texthelp. To link to the original post, click here.

In my 8th grade classroom I have all different learners from students with 504s and IEPs, ENL learners, and a handful of high performing learners. This week my 8th grade students are working on writing an argumentative essay after  finishing  the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I often give my students choice on writing assessments but for this all grade read, students must write a five paragraph argumentative essay that answers: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to read today or is it racist and outdated?

A daunting experience

As teachers, our job is to help improve the writing fluency for ALL students. For many of my students, staring at a blank page or screen can be daunting. If we are going to help our students “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” (Next Generation Learning Standards WI),  providing scaffolding in different forms provides support for students to articulate their thinking. When teachers provide scaffolds in the forms of  graphic organizers, models and mentor texts, and sentence frames, essay writing becomes more attainable for the diverse learners in the classroom.

A graphic organizer  breaks down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Completing a graphic organizer helps students write in smaller bursts by following a template. A high performing learner might not need this type of support or guidance but particularly for my ENL and struggling writers who might not have the words or academic language just yet, providing these graphic organizers and sentence stems can help students develop the writing muscles and vocabulary necessary for academic writing.  Each graphic organizer is specific to the writing task. For example, the argumentative essay graphic organizer below helps students map out their thoughts, organize their evidence, and distinguish claims from counterclaims.

An image of an argumentative essay graphic organizer

I am always developing writing activities and support for the diverse students in my classroom, but you may prefer a digital approach. WriQ is Texthelp’s newest digital tool to focus on writing that my students and I are currently using. High performing learners are more independent and are looking for immediate feedback on word choice, accuracy, grammar and writing mechanics; WriQ provides these in its personalized feedback. Similarly, for students who need guided support to increase writing skills, WriQ and graphic organizers work in tandem. Sitting down for writing conferences is now a student driven process due to the feedback that students learn about the writing process and their writing products with WriQ.

A lifelong skill

Writing is a lifelong skill, and the more students write, the better they develop as writers and communicators. This requires that students write daily and have opportunities to revise their writing. With revision opportunities, students are able to reexamine their writing with a critical eye based on the feedback from both the teacher and WriQ and grow as writers. Revision is an important part of the writing process and can be utilized in ways that empower student writers.

The Next Generation Learning Standards identify lifelong practices of writers “strengthen writing by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach” and this is something that we must make time for in our classrooms. The more students have the opportunity to write, revise and craft their words in ways that articulate complex ideas, critical thinking and problem solving, the better they will become at producing clear and coherent writing.

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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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Teaching Up & The Staircase of Learning

We teach among a cacophony of learners. Students with diverse learning styles and abilities. Long gone are the one size fits all mentality of teaching. Teachers are called upon to meet the learning needs of ALL students and to differentiate to help all students succeed. Just as a growth mindset is a term that teachers have been reading, writing, and promoting among students, teachers also need to have a growth mindset when thinking about their students and learning. With the right tools, strategies, and scaffolds our students can all reach excellence.

Differentiation guru, Carol Ann Tomlinson calls it “Teaching Up — educational experiences that stimulate and stretch students” (ACSD, 2012).  Tomlinson identifies seven principles of teaching up in a 2012 article for ACSD I have copied and posted below.

1. Accept that human differences are not only normal but also desirable. Each person has something of value to contribute to the group, and the group is diminished without that contribution. Teachers who teach up create a community of learners in which everyone works together to benefit both individuals and the group.

2. Develop a growth mind-set. Providing equity of access to excellence through teaching up has its roots in a teacher’s mind-set about the capacity of each learner to succeed (Dweck, 2007).

3. Work to understand students’ cultures, interests, needs, and perspectives. People are shaped by their backgrounds, and respecting students means respecting their backgrounds—including their race and culture. Teaching any student well means striving to understand how that student approaches learning and creating an environment that is respectful of and responsive to what each student brings to the classroom.

4. Create a base of rigorous learning opportunities. Teachers who teach up help students form a conceptual understanding of the disciplines, connect what they learn to their own lives, address significant problems using essential knowledge and skills, collaborate with peers, examine varied perspectives, and create authentic products for meaningful audiences. These teachers develop classrooms that are literacy-rich and that incorporate a wide range of resources that attend to student interests and support student learning.

5. Understand that students come to the classroom with varied points of entry into a curriculum and move through it at different rates.

6. Create flexible classroom routines and procedures that attend to learner needs. Teachers who teach up realize that only classrooms that operate flexibly enough to make room for a range of student needs can effectively address the differences that are inevitable in any group of learners.

7. Be an analytical practitioner. Teachers who teach up consistently reflect on classroom procedures, practices, and pedagogies for evidence that they are working for each student—and modify them when they’re not. They are the students of their students.

For the complete article, click this link (Tomlinson, 2012)

What does “Teaching Up” look like and sound like in the classroom? What are the ways that teachers can scaffold and support the diverse learners in their classrooms?

My students are currently working on a new Dystopian Literature Quest. Students are reading different dystopian literature in reading and writing workshop and then have a “choose your own adventure” menu board of activities for students to show their understanding and thinking about their text. There are some required missions that all students are going to complete among the choices. You can check out the Dystopian Quest Here.

Thinking about my EL students and students with learning challenges, I have also made a modified quest board in which I have reduced the amount of work required and added additional scaffolds to help these students succeed in the quest. These modifications include links to graphic organizers, “I do, We do, You do” mini lesson opportunities and modeling, creating opportunities for students to collaborate, and making a variety of resources available to all students.

If we expect student success, we must define excellence for EVERY students to attain and support ALL our students to meet those objectives.

 

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Revision as a Scaffold Tool for Learning & Understanding

So, you taught a lesson, students completed many activities to apply this new knowledge – discussions, interactive notebooks, graphic organizers, collaborative assignments – and now they are ready for a quiz or assessment to show their level of understanding.

Then, more than a dozen fail the quiz.

What happened? Where was the disconnect? These students clearly need additional information, support, and possibly reteaching before moving on.

In education, scaffolding refers to a variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process. (edglossary.org)

Scaffolding does just happen during a lesson. It also need to happen after an assessment, especially for those who have yet to grasp the concept or standard being assessed. It is important to NOT just move on to the next unit of study when it is clear that some students need more practice and attention.

Revision is key for my students who fail a quiz or short answer assessment. But I do not just allow students to go home, revise their work and then resubmit it for a better grade. Rather, I require these students stay after school with me working on the revision by completing a graphic organizer and questionnaire to help revise their work.

For example, students were asked the following two short answer questions in regards to our reading of Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals and I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai:

I. How does Malala/Melba appeal to ethos and pathos in the text? Use two or more examples from the text to support your claim. CCLS RL.8.1

II. Where in the text do you see evidence that Melba/Malala is consciously crafting her memoir to present a particular point of view? Use two or more examples from the text to support your claim. CCLS RL.8.4

The revision documents were the following:

Allowing for this revision work along with conferences with the teacher helps students to gain a better understanding of the topic. With the graphic organizer I chunk the concepts of craft, ethos, and pathos. The graphic organizer includes definitions and examples so that students add text connections and details. Next, students show me their graphic organizers before moving to rewriting. This allows for  an opportunity for both the teacher and the student to ask/answer questions to check for understanding.

Scaffolding doesn’t just have to happen during a lesson. Our goal as teachers is to enhance learning and aid in the mastery of tasks.

Additional scaffolding techniques include:

Visuals like Anchor Charts, Interactive Foldables, and Graphic Organizers allow students to visualize and organize their thinking.

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Models and Mentors can help students see what “Exceeds Standards” or “A” work looks like. I am always collecting student exemplars to read and discuss with my students what the writer did well and why it exceeds/meets the standards.

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Words that Introduce Quotes Sentence Stems

Sentence Stems or Paragraph Frames can help students who need a task broken down into small parts. I always offer outlines for writing and graphic organizers to help my students break down the larger or longer projects and writing assignments.

Checklists and simplify task directions help students self-monitor their progress

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