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During instruction, teachers assist and guide students so that they can read, learn, and respond to text in ways they may not be able to do without support. Teachers continue to provide this support until students are able to effectively read or write independently. Scaffolding student learning is especially important when students are reading a challenging text or writing a difficult piece. Examples of scaffolded instruction are: helping students to sound out the letters in unfamiliar words; providing a graphic organizer and discussing the major parts of a text before reading; supplying a beginning sentence or idea as a start for writing; and reading aloud with students as they are reading.
Scaffolded Reading Experience (SRE)
The Scaffolded Reading Experience is an instructional approach to assist students in effectively reading and comprehending text. The SRE consists of two components: planning and implementation. In planning, the teacher considers the needs of the students, the difficulty of the text, and the purposes for reading. Implementation incorporates teacher-planned lessons and activities before, during, and after reading. Teachers use both phases flexibly to adapt instruction to specific student needs and learning situations. The SRE framework is especially useful when teaching English Language Learners and/or struggling readers. (Adapted from Graves, and Fitzgerald. Scaffolding Reading Experiences for Multilingual Classrooms, 96-124.)
Students self-monitor when they pay attention to their own work to make sure that it is clear and makes sense. During reading, students attend to meaning and use fix-up strategies such as re-reading or reading ahead to clarify meaning. During writing, students check and reflect on the clarity of the message and on the features of text (words, grammar, and conventions) they need to communicate effectively with an audience. In this workshop, students self-monitor during interactive writing when they discuss and analyze their writing, and during independent writing when they check for meaning and grammar. Students also self-monitor during shared and guided reading when they think aloud to share their understanding of a text with the teacher or with other students. Self-monitoring is an aspect of metacognition. (Adapted from Harris, and Hodges. The Literacy Dictionary, 229)
In shared reading, the teacher leads the class in reading or chanting a text -- a book, poem, or message on a chart -- that is often enlarged for the whole class to see. Shared reading allows students to observe the reading process and to practice reading strategies or concepts in the safety of a group. The same enlarged text is read and reread several times over a few days. Initially the teacher takes the lead, and then gradually pulls back as students progressively master the text. In each reading, children are encouraged to focus on or discover new concepts about print.
Sight vocabulary consists of words that students can identify immediately without decoding. It is an important component of word study instruction since children with a strong sight vocabulary can read more fluently and comprehend text more effectively. Beginning sight vocabulary includes words from the child's own experiences, including names of family and friends. High frequency words -- words that children encounter in texts frequently -- are the focus of sight vocabulary instruction. Children develop sight vocabulary through daily opportunities to read, repeated readings of texts, and activities using word walls.
Based on the levels of knowledge, students need to use reading strategies flexibly. Strategic instruction teaches students to understand: 1) what the strategy is, 2) specific procedures in using the strategy, and 3) when and why the strategy is useful in reading. These three components of information are important when introducing a new strategy to students so that they understand when and why to use it.
Vocabulary encompasses the words we must know to communicate effectively, including oral or reading vocabulary. Oral vocabulary includes words we use when speaking or words we recognize when listening. Reading vocabulary includes words we recognize or use in print. Students learn the meanings of most words indirectly through their experiences and conversations with each other and adults in school and their communities. They also develop vocabulary as they read on their own and listen to adults read aloud. In the video programs, teachers help students develop reading and oral vocabulary during read-alouds or shared and guided reading, and other carefully designed activities. (Adapted from Armbruster, Lehr, and Osborn. Put Reading First, 34-35.)
Writers' Workshop (or Writing Workshop) is an instructional approach that develops students' skills and motivation for writing. Children write on topics of their own choice every day or several times a week. Emphasizing the writing process, Writers' Workshop includes teacher mini-lessons, time for individual writing, peer and teacher conferences, sharing sessions, and publication celebrations.
The writing process describes the steps writers take when they compose both formal and informal pieces. The steps include planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. During the prewriting or planning stage, children select topics, collect related information, discuss ideas with other students or the teacher, take notes, and even draw. Children then begin to write one or more drafts, expanding and clarifying ideas with each draft. Often, children read their writing aloud to another student or the teacher to help in revising the draft. Students then edit their final draft for writing conventions, including spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. Editing can be done independently or with a partner. The final step, publishing, can be in the form of a bound book, an oral reading of the piece, or writing displayed on a bulletin board. Young children often "publish" their books during Author's Chair.
This refers to the strategies or skills readers use to figure out words when reading and spelling. In this workshop, word identification includes phonic analysis, structural analysis, context clues, sight word recognition, use of configuration, and picture clues. Readers use the following strategies to identify words:
- Recognizing or identifying whole words that follow irregular spelling patterns (sometimes called "sight words"), like have, their, or of; recognizing high-frequency words that appear in early texts, like and, for, and this.
- Using configuration clues. Sometimes the distinct shapes of words can help readers figure them out. Elephant is a long word, and unusual in its shape; up is a little word. Because many words have the same shape, readers cannot rely solely on configuration.
- Recognizing the formation of words (also called morphology or structural analysis). Beginning readers need to be taught to identify and understand the meaning of word parts -- roots, prefixes, and suffixes. For example, begin with simple words such as play and play-ing, and then move to more complex words like agree and dis-agree-ment.
- Using context clues. Good readers think about the meaning of what they are reading and use their understanding of the surrounding words, sentences, or even paragraphs to help them read an unfamiliar word
- For English language learners, using cognates, words that are similar in two languages. Sometimes this strategy needs to be explicitly encouraged, as English language learners may not use cognates spontaneously.
A word wall is made up of carefully selected and displayed lists or groups of words used by students to build familiarity with common sight words. It serves as a visual scaffold, provides students with familiar word patterns to assist them in decoding unfamiliar words, and is useful when students write. Word walls do the following:
- build word recognition;
- facilitate word analysis;
- serve as a reference for commonly misspelled words; and
- build vocabulary for a new text or content area.
Students and teachers use word walls to see and monitor what has been taught and learned. They are used for planned instruction and as a resource for unplanned instructional opportunities, or "teachable moments," that arise unexpectedly during the day. (Adapted from Brabham, and Villaume. "Building Walls of Words." Reading Teacher 54.)
Zone of Proximal Development
The ZPD is a social-constructivist theory of learning attributed to the psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1978). Effective learning does not occur in a vacuum but in collaboration with more capable others. The conditions for learning range from tasks that can be completed independently to those that are too challenging under any circumstances. The ZPD refers to the point at which children can achieve more difficult tasks with the support of a more capable teacher or peer. This theory is the foundation of scaffolded instruction to advance student learning. Teachers apply this theory during guided reading instruction, whole-class instruction with grade-level texts, and meaningful practice using a peer dyad grouping format.
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