In this blog, I am going to highlight how teachers of ELs can meet the language needs of their students through scaffolding. Teachers need to take into account the language demands that ELs face in content classrooms and use scaffolding to meet these demands. When teachers scaffolds lessons, they break down the language into manageable pieces or chunks. This way, students can be given the necessary support to understand the information provided in the lesson. Here are four ways of scaffolding lessons when ELs need support during a content area lesson.
1. Connect new information to prior experiences and learning.
Introduce new concepts by linking them to what ELs already know. The goal for teachers should be to provide comprehensible input to students. Teachers need to consider what schema ELs bring to the classroom and to link instruction to the students’ personal, cultural, and world experiences. Teachers should also strive to make the information relevant to ELs and to understand how culture impacts learning in their classroom.
2. Preteach academic vocabulary.
Previewing and preteaching new vocabulary words is a scaffold necessary to help ELs understand academic content. We can’t do this by giving ELs a list of vocabulary words from a unit and having them look up the words in a dictionary. ELs will not know which definition applies to the context of the word, and they won’t understand the definition. They require direct instruction of new vocabulary. Teachers should also provide practice in pronouncing new words and multiple exposures to new terms, words, idioms, and phrases. Word walls should be used at all grade levels.
3. Use graphic organizers to make lessons more visual.
I can’t say enough about the importance of employing all kinds of visual supports when teaching ELs. The most important scaffold for teaching content-area material is the use of graphic organizers. Teachers need to use organizers such as webs, Venn diagrams, and charts to help them better comprehend academic texts and organize information. Graphic organizers can also help students develop higher level thinking skills and promote creativity.
4. Support EL writing by using sentence frames.
Sentence frames allow ELs to use key content area vocabulary when writing. Frames provide structure so that ELs can produce sentences on their own. When scaffolding writing, teachers need to provide a sentence frame. The blanks can be located in the beginning, middle, or end of sentences. ELs can be required to fill in one word or more to finish the sentence. Here is an excellent lesson on Teacher Tube that illustrates using sentence frames to jumpstart EL writing.
Do you have a scaffold that you’d like to share? Post a comment in the box below to communicate your strategies to colleagues.