Using Scaffolding to Help Struggling Students
Teachers ask how to help struggling students meet rigorous reading standards when they lack the foundational skills in reading.
Trying to learn when you have gaps that prevent you from doing what other students can do is frustrating for many students.
You can reduce frustration and help your students learn the skills you need them to have by using scaffolds and learning supports during your instruction.
What are scaffolds?
Scaffolds are supportive practices that you use to help students close the gap between where they currently perform and where you need them to perform.
You might provide a tool or strategy to help students organize their learning. For example, one tool that could be used is a graphic organizer to outline the steps or process to be used during learning.
A strategy that might be helpful is to break learning into more manageable chunks for the student.
By organizing learning into smaller bites, the student is able to see success and stair-step his or her way to accomplish the task. This helps reduce the overwhelm that some students feel when faced with a complex or multi-part assignment.
Using Scaffolding Ideas to Bridge Learning Gaps
When the going gets tough for your students, here are a examples of scaffolds that you might use to help your students meet the standard that you are working on:
- Create and provide a flow chart to help the student identify next steps in a process such as multiplying fractions or editing something they have written. Use models or exemplars and show students what the finished product should look like.
- Provide a concrete manipulative that students can use to see relationships or connections. For example, have them create a strong paragraph by putting each sentence on a strip of paper and then moving them around and using transition words to build meaning.
- Graphic organizers of all types help struggling students plan and think through a problem. Graphic organizers can identify foundational thought processes such as making connections or seeing cause and effect relationships. This helps students understand the concept you want them to learn more easily.
- Proving pictures and charts can also help scaffold learning for students.
- Providing time for students to talk and share their thoughts and ideas is also a powerful scaffold. Blend some structured talking time into your lessons. Use techniques like: turn and talk, think-pair-share to discuss topics or concepts being presented. Use partner sharing time to help focus student thoughts and understandings.
Scaffolds are a good way to help struggling students improve their likelihood of reaching the grade level target.
Think about what your students struggle with in the classroom. Then put into place scaffolds to might support your students in reaching the goals you want them to accomplish.
Helping Struggling Students With Alternative Assignments
Another way to help students improve their mastery of state standards is by providing learning choices or alternative assignment choices to students.
Often there are several ways that students might be able to demonstrate mastery of a concept. This might include creating an info-graphic, making a detailed drawing, created a narrated PowerPoint or writing a report.
Giving students some choice in how they demonstrate their learning is motivational and fun.
Choice Adds Interest and Increases Motivation
For example, you have an ELA standard requiring students to demonstrate narrative technique such as using dialogue and a solid plot line.
You find that some students have trouble meeting this standard.
Instead of developing a written story as some students might do, allow students to have a choice of the product they will work on to show their mastery.
For example, some choices might be to develop a cartoon or a short, written radio script to show their mastery of these standards.
Another option might be to create a short, graphic novel using internet tools that are free and easily available showing characters using dialog in an appropriate manner.
As the student develops proficiency with the required skills, their ability to demonstrate the required standard will continue to improve.
When children are more motivated to do the work and strive to learn, their levels of competency also increases and moves them toward being able to demonstrate the skills they need to be successful with your grade level standards.
Learn more about helping struggling students learn to read in my ASCD book, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.