What is a scaffold?
Scaffolding is a way to ensure the tasks are suitable for all abilities. Whereas many higher ability students may be able to makes sense of an instruction, and instinctively understand what they need to do, there are also students who may not have this natural aptitude.
I have taken two examples of poorly described tasks, and shown how you can make them more accessible for all students by scaffolding them. This post is mainly about the less able - there will be a future post on stretching the more able.
For some students the moment they read instructions they begin to feel anxious. So you need to make sure all the expectations are clear. I cannot begin to tell you the number of frustrated parents who complain about homework because their child could not remember the detail given in the lesson, and the written instructions were too vague!
The suggested scaffolds below help the students through their visual structure.
Once you have understood the processes outlined below, you should be able to plan your own resources with this support in mind.
For homework I want you to keep a diary of all you eat for two days. Bring your homework to the next lesson and we can discuss whether your choice of food is healthy of not.
What are you expecting from the students? To include main meals only? Snacks? Supper? Do you want this in a list? A paragraph? An extended prose?
With this instruction, you may find that your students all do something different, so when you get the homework in, they may not all have met your success criteria! It is not clear what you actually want.
Here is an example of how you could scaffold this task to ensure they really understand what is expected. The writing frame contains an example, which means that less able students know what it should look like.
So you have three different ways of presenting this task: words only; writing frame without example; writing frame with example.
You have to plan and write a report on ‘healthy living’ and I want you to include sections on diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle.
What information are you expecting them to include? How can they best organise this information before writing it as a report?
A possible scaffold here would be a chart for them to complete to ensure they have all the information they need before starting the report.
The lower ability students would find this chart useful. For the more able students you may give them a bullet point list instead of a structured frame.
Be mindful that on its own the scaffold below would not be enough for the task described: the expectation of completing a report has its own issues - do they know what a good report should look like?
However you can see how the structure becomes much clearer to the students than the original instruction suggested.
The intention of this post is to help your awareness of how you can change tasks to provide more or less support depending on the class you are teaching.
As I mentioned in the earlier post on differentiation, you need to know your students well, so you can adapt your materials to suit.
Evidence for your portfolio
1. You can start by analysing some of the materials / resources you or your mentor have created and try to adapt these for the less or more able student. Include them in your portfolio with a reflective commentary to link them to the relevant standards.
2. If you are in a position to deliver the materials as part of a lesson, then your evidence could include:
Resources (annotated to explain how you have adapted them)
Observation notes from your mentor
Your own reflection and possible improvements
We all learn in different ways, and from different starting points.
You do not need to plan a different lesson for 30 students! But you do need to be aware of what the differences are, so that you can ensure ‘progress for all’ (Ofsted ‘speak’!)
Consider what national research has found:
There are a variety of ways you can differentiate for your students:
2. You may differentiate through task. This means setting slightly different tasks, based on ability. You could do this through
Have a look at the Bloom's Taxonomy diagram below.
3. Target your questioning so you are stretching, challenging and supporting depending on who you ask your questions to. Questioning is one of the most successful ways to ensure all students are stretched. (Later blog posts on questioning).
Consider the different types of learner you may have (even in ‘sets’!):
Additional activities to support the lower ability students may include:
Think also about differentiating your learning outcomes.
This doesn’t mean that the students will be learning different things – but that they will be achieving different levels of expertise.
Take one of your lesson plans, and re-think your learning outcomes with this in mind.
Reflect on this for portfolio evidence!
Next week we will look further at scaffolding task instructions to support all learners.
Dr Sharon Williams