Scaffolding Learning Targets

To be successful at scaffolding, students need to be able to understand and take the capacity verbs of the learning targets and successfully master them to climb up in their learning. This is all about, building one step at a time; hence why it is called scaffolding. For example, to compare and contrast something complex like a news story, the student needs to know the background as a prerequisite to compare two things, such as two different news reports from different perspectives. Before engaging the skill, students need the background information. Then, the teacher creates a scaffold of learning targets to teach the content so the students can grasp the concepts needed to know the skill of comparing two different views.

Students need to know the content in order to develop the skill.

Many students are unable to make connections between conflicting or contrasting items or content them to an application. The scaffold processes builds on the prerequisites, so each step begets the next step allowing students to get it. If not, students become frustrated or get bored and thus give up. If they can complete the task, they may not understand what they did.

Climbing the steps of the cognitive levels (Bloom) is our key.

The higher the student goes up the proficiency levels and mental cognition processes the higher the skills get. When we learn we need to recall, then understand, then we process it all before we apply it. Which gives better confidence and feedback. Then, be able to take it apart and put it together, which is the process that is assessed. This is why a good teacher creates the lessons not from the top of the Bloom pyramid where we may be; rather, from the bottom up where the students are and guide them where they need to be. It is essential that we start where the students are from their perspective.

Let’s look at a sample lesson for an example:

Lesson standard, “…compare two interviews….” Students need to acquire the understanding to compare and apply this skill. As follows, the teacher needs to create a scaffold using capacity verbs to breakdown the complex skills:

  1. Recall what the two different reports are about.
  2. Restate or summarize the major points and or parts.
  3. Explain the significance of the varying points, the tow points of view.
  4. Sketch a diagram that associates the points to one another.
  5. Compare the two stories or interviews that are presented.

We want the students to be able to think critically, therefore we need to teach them how, step by step.

The key verbs are Recall and restate. What do the students need to know first? Then… and then… Until they achieve the complex skill of Compare. From basic knowledge to higher thinking cognitive levels. The students can explain and sketch. Which prepares them to comprehend and then be able to apply the knowledge. Thus, teachers create the learning targets on this scaffold for higher student achievement.

Scaffold Lesson Planning

Scaffolding is the process the teacher breaks the lesson down:

Read the Standard,

then reword standard to be usable,

then pull out the big ideas and skills the students need,

then create the lesson goals,

then, create the lesson objectives,

then find the capacity verbs,

then create the scaffolding,

now you have a lesson plan.  

Scaffolding also adds support and extra needed steps for students to grasp a new skill to enhance their learning and mastery of the tasks. This is done by methodically building on the students’ prior knowledge and experiences and walk them through it into the new skills. The main thing we can do for a class is adjust the pacing for extra practice and explain it is different ways with illustrations and media. Sometimes it is just a few students, then you can add more for them. 

Scaffold Student Learning 

For example, if a student is not at the level of math required to understand a theorem being taught, the teacher should break down the steps to incrementally improve their ability to grasp the new concept. This may include, demonstrating how it is done, describe the concept in different ways, use visual aids or a video (I Love “Mathantics” and “Math is Fun”), have students share how they grasped it, and make sure they practice the new skill, uses groups too. Then, when they are ready, they should be able to independently and without assistance solve the problem.

Everything has to be aligned, or it will not work well.

Keep in mind that our goals, objectives and capacity verbs have to be aligned to the lesson targets that are distilled from the standard. If not, we will just have a big mess and frustrated students. Look at the capability verbs that can best be used (this helps our process of the lesson too) that they are right for the learning targets. Then decide what Level are your students are at on this skill to Bloom’s Taxonomy; then where you can lead them to. Then, the scaffolding will break down can the steps that will be highlighted in our lesson planning. Then, you can create the feedback and assessments and what tools and resources you will need to have and use. Then, we are to assess our class time to what the students will be doing, what and when, making sure that the students have ample time and opportunities to discover and practice those skills.

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.

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