SCAFFOLDED INSTRUCTION IN LIGHT OF THE CCSS
Mitzi Brammer, Ph.D.
The Common Core State Standards, or the Missouri Core Academic Standards, as they are referred to in the state of Missouri, will not only move students in their thinking about the texts they read, but they will also move teachers in the way they teach reading and writing. Released in June, 2010, these standards include rigorous content and require application of knowledge through high-order skills in order to prepare students effectively for a career or post-secondary education (MO DESE, 2012). Larkin (2012) states that inherent in these skills are students’ ability to (a) know how to learn, (b) access changing information, (c) apply what is learned, and (d) address complex real-world problems in order to be successful. Ultimately, educators want students to become independent learners. However, this independence may need to be facilitated with scaffolding. Blackburn (2012) adds that the rigorous educational environment involves each student being supported so he or she can learn at high levels. It is simply a myth that providing support means lessening rigor.
Dickson, Chard, and Simmons (1993) define scaffolding as the systematic sequencing of prompted content, materials, tasks, and teacher and peer support to optimize learning. Scaffolding, though, is not just about teachers helping their students to complete tasks. According to Beed, Hawkins, & Roller (1991),“when adults provide a scaffold…the child may internalize the essence of the thinking” (p. 649). Scaffolding can take many forms which may include but are not limited to:
• Breaking the task into smaller more, manageable parts
• Using “think alouds”
• Cooperative learning
• Cue cards
• Activating background knowledge
• Giving tips, strategies, cues and procedures
• Sequencing skills so that they build on each other
• Selecting examples and problems that progress in
• Using graphic organizers
• Providing completed models of problems
• Providing checklists to help students remember the
steps and processes used to solve
problems and complete tasks (Archer & Hughes, 2011)
While scaffolded instruction is beneficial to struggling readers and writers, it can also be quite demanding on the teacher. Knowing when to fade support is critical. Often teachers will continue to scaffold when it really is no longer needed. Pressley, Hogan, Wharton-McDonald, Mistretta, and Ettenberger (1996) offer the following cautions to educators when deciding how and when to use scaffolding:
• Use scaffolding when appropriate. Not all students may need scaffolding for all tasks and materials. Provide scaffolding to those students who need it only when they need it.
• Be knowledgeable of the curriculum, particularly if it is re-aligned to the Missouri Core Academic Standards. This will allow you to determine the difficulty level of particular materials and tasks as well as the time and supports necessary to benefit your students.
• Practice generating possible prompts to help students. The first prompt you give to a student may fail, so you may have to give another prompt or think of a different wording to help the student give an appropriate response. Also, allow your students to provide prompts when applicable.
• Be positive, patient, and caring. You may become discouraged if students do not respond or are not successful as a result of your initial scaffolding efforts. Continue to convey a positive tone of voice in a caring manner along with continued scaffolding efforts and student success soon may be evident.
There is no such thing as an “average” classroom. With diverse needs, teachers need to be empowered now more than ever to begin planning for and implementing effective scaffolds to allow all students to be successful with the rigorous literacy expectations of the Common Core State Standards.
Archer, A., & Hughes, C. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Beed, P. L., Hawkins, E. M., Roller, C. M. (1991). Moving learners toward independence: The power of scaffolded instruction. The Reading Teacher, 44(9), 648-655.
Blackburn, B. (2012). Rigor made easy: Getting started. Larchmont. NY: Eye on Education.
Dickson, S. V., Chard, D. J., & Simmons, D. C. (1993). An integrated reading/writing curriculum: A focus on scaffolding. LD Forum, 18(4), 12-16.
Larkin, M. (2012). Using scaffolding instruction to optimize learning. (ERIC Digest No.12). Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED474301)
Pressley, M., Hogan, K., Wharton-McDonald, R., Mistretta, J., & Ettenberger, S. (1996). The challenges of instructional scaffolding: The challenges of instruction that supports student thinking. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 11(3), 138- 146.