Scaffolding learning: Activities


Scaffolding reading

Part 1

Read the guidelines for scaffolding reading. What principles do you adopt on regular basis? Which ones are part of current language of schooling practices in classrooms in your region or country? What would you like to learn more about?

Part 2

Choose a reading task typically used in your country and expand on it following the guidelines presented above.

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Scaffolding writing

Part 1

Go back to your own school and teaching experiences with writing:

  • How is writing usually supported in the language of schooling classroom in your country? What kinds of pre-activities are typically used? What kind of help is provided during the writing process? When do the students get feedback, from whom and in what ways?
  • How do students feel about writing in school?
  • What writing instruction issues require development in your opinion?

Part 2

In a linguistically and culturally heterogeneous group, it is not enough to provide topics to write about, students need extensive scaffolding and genre modeling. Writing activities should not be separate but should be integrated into curriculum content focused on language use and teaching. The writing process integrates all the language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). It also requires some research and study skills. It is crucial that the scaffolding is provided before students are expected to write by themselves.

Writing skills can be used across different languages. Therefore, it is useful to learn about students’ language and literacy backgrounds and draw upon resources in the mother tongue during the writing process.

Drawing on work in Australia, Pauline Gibbons (2009: 106–129) describes and discusses a  teaching and learning cycle  for scaffolding writing across the curriculum.The approach is based on the belief that all students need to  be taught explicitly how to master the full range of genres or text-types practised in school. The teaching and learning cycle is sequenced into a series of four stages, and Gibbons  suggests a range of activities that teachers can use with students at each stage.

Part 3

Evaluate the Gibbons’ approach to developing writing skills:

  • What are the pros and cons of the approach?
  • Have you tried this approach yourself or experienced something similar as a student?
  • Could the approach be adopted in your context?

Choose a writing task typically used in your country and expand on it following the guidelines presented above.

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Scaffolding literacy skills through literature

Part 1: Science fiction short story

Keeping the three learner profiles in mind, read the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long

  • How will the students find the text?
  • What kind of support might they need for reading the text?
  • What kind of tasks might be useful for them?
  • What kind of activities could be done prior to reading, during reading and after reading the text?
  • What vocabulary could be taught before or during the reading of the text?

Part 2: Language of schooling textbook in your country

Explore some textbooks used in the teaching of the language of schooling.

  • What kind of literature is introduced in them? What types of fiction?
  • How is the reading of literature supported in them?
  • How would the activities cater for the students in our example?
  • Are the tasks engaging or solely focused on information retrieval?
  • Do students need really to understand the text to answer the questions?

Part 3: A language of schooling textbook in focus

Consider the task types of a Finnish language of schooling textbook.
Re-read the short story that is this time presented with tasks that guide students’ reading in a Finnish textbook. Focus now on the questions raised during the process of reading it. Keeping our three student profiles in mind, weigh up the pros and cons of the approach adopted and activities used in the textbook.

  • Which elements support the learning of students with weaker skills in the language of schooling?
  • Are there some problematic elements that require further development?

Supertoys Last All Summer Long (with guiding questions). 

(Source: Mikkola, Luukka & Ahonen 2006: Voima. Äidinkieli ja kirjallisuus 8. WSOY.)


Ideas kit for follow-up activities


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Scaffolding literacy skills through news texts

Part 1: How is news dealt with?

  • Have a look at the textbook(s) used in your language of schooling classroom. How are news or other media texts presented in the book?
  • Are there any instructions for reading (e.g. reading strategies)?
  • What issues are explained in the book and what are students expected to infer or analyse?
  • What are the pros and cons of the approach that the textbook adopts? What aspects should be developed for the benefit of learners with varying language skills?

Part 2: A news article as an example

  • Take a look at a news article about football player Zlatan Ibrahimović in  English, Finnish and German
  • Use the internet to search for this news item in some other language(s) you are familiar with. The same news itemwas published in many countries on  12 June 2013 – try the search words: Zlatan & the Faroe Islands. How does the version in a different language differ from the English version? Identify the facts that are highlighted or those not mentioned at all when compared to the English version.
  • How could this text be used in language of schooling learning and teaching in order to support plurilingualism and students’ first languages?
  • What kind of topics and themes does the text offer for classroom conversation? (students’ opinions, values and attitudes)

Part 3: Developing skills in the language of schooling

Keeping the three learner profiles in mind, develop tasks related to the Zlatan text for each of them. Pay attention in particular to the following points:

  • How to supervise learners’ reading and develop their reading strategies?
  • How to make them learn more about news as a genre?
  • How to make use of their language repertoire?
  • How to improve their  information searching skills?

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Scaffolding web search

Part 1: Strategies for efficient web search

  1. How would you guide the students through the process of searching for information on the web? Create brief guidelines in small groups and then in larger groups. Decide what the five most important pieces of advice are. Share.
  2. Look at an example of practice : tips for using Wikipedia and two tasks that deal with finding important information. These activities are targeted at lower secondary school students. Try these tips out with a Wikipedia article.
  3. What are the benefits of this type of activity? How would you develop it further?
  4. Does this kind of instruction meet the needs of our three learner profiles? Give reasons.

Part 2. Using plurilingual resources in web search

Your students are given the following task:

Use different kinds of resources to find out

  • What is the European Union (EU)?
  • How has the EU affected peoples’ lives in Europe?

How would you collaborate with the teachers of history, social studies and other languages to help your students carry out the task?

How would you help your pupils to:

  • collaborate during the task
  • use resources to find relevant information
  • use the languages they know
  • share knowledge
  • report their findings

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