Scaffolding for Student Success

It’s been awhile since my last blog! In that time, I have been researching, reading, thinking, learning, talking, presenting and coaching on topics such as building a guaranteed and viable curriculum, standards-based planning, formative assessment and scaffolding. As I began preparing my thoughts for what my next blog might be about, one word popped into my head. And that word is: EQUITY. For me, the concept of equity is the common thread running through the heart of all of these topics.

In her book, Instruction for All Students, Paula Rutherford provides us with some “non-negotiables” to consider as we plan for the diverse students and various levels of ability in our classrooms. One of those non-negotiables asserts that we “not differentiate who will learn what but rather, how we will teach so that all students have access to, and support and guidance in, mastering the district and/or state curriculum.” (pg. 199)

Maintaining the rigor of learning targets for all students and building curriculum that commits us to the achievement of high standards by all students creates an equitable learning environment. But this is no easy task and has probably led those of us with a growth mindset to ask these two questions:

  • How can I teach them?
  • How will they learn best?

One powerful action that we can take toward helping all students achieve at high levels, regardless of the learning target, is to design learning experiences based on a task analysis of the standards we are teaching.

Consider the following standard:

  • 3.1- Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea

If we unpack this standard by highlighting the verbs and underlining the nouns, we can identify what we would like students to know and be able to do by the end of third grade.

  • 3.1- Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
  • I can determine the main idea of a text.
  • I can recount the key details of a text.
  • I can explain how the key details in a text support the main idea.

But many of our students may enter into their learning experiences with this standard in a place far from end-of-year mastery levels. Breaking this standard down even further can help us find entry points for a much larger range of students and abilities. Consider the following task analysis of the same standard:

  • 3.1- Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
    • I can preview a text (title, headings, illustrations) and identify the topic of the text.
    • I can predict what point I think the author will try to make (the main idea) about the topic throughout the text.
    • I can read a paragraph and highlight the details the author uses.
    • I can state the main idea of a paragraph in my own words.
    • I can sort details from a paragraph into the categories Very Important, Somewhat Important, Not Important and explain my thinking.
    • When given the main idea of a text, I can identify the details that support the main idea.
    • When give the key details from a text, I can identify the main idea.

How does this series of learning targets inherently scaffold for students? How does this series of learning targets provide students with a clear idea of how to approach the overall standard in a step-by-step nature? How might this task analysis, with each specific learning outcome targeting a piece of the skill needed to reach mastery of the whole standard, support struggling learners?

Whenever I’m thinking about providing scaffolds to help all students achieve at high levels, I think about the following quote:

“Part of the art of choosing difficulties is to select those that are indeed just manageable. If the difficulties chosen are too easy life is boring; if they’re too hard, life is self-defeating.” ~ Nicholas Hobbs.

Try your own task analysis of a standard and take a crack at it with your students. Do they find the tasks more manageable? Good luck in all of your scaffolding endeavors!

Reeve_Catie_WEBCatie Reeve
Network Team
CReeve@ocmboces.org

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