02: Scaffolding Academic Literacy





Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 6.43.33 AM


  • Designed Scaffolding & Interactional Scaffolding: Designed and interactional scaffolding are both important to learning literacy.  Designed scaffolding is pre-planned and interactional scaffolding is unplanned and emerges in teacher-student interactions.  Well designed scaffolding creates opportunities for high quality interactional scaffolding.
  • Designed Scaffolding: Key components include:
    • explicitly sharing learning targets and reasons why they are relevant
    • sequence problem solving activities to build from simpler to complex concepts and language
    • build on prior knowledge
    • use multiple student groupings: individual, pairs, small group, whole group
    • use student need to select grouping mode
  • Talk Occurs around a Written Text: Key components:
    • Talk about language (meta language) to show differences between informal and academic definitions of terms
    • Listen to intended meanings in student responses
    • Build on prior knowledge
    • Recast student responses in academic language (as needed)
    • Use extra wait time
    • Ask questions to extend academic conversations
  • 5 Steps for Planning an Integrated Program:
    1. Pre-assess students’ language skills
    2. Identify the literacy load (specific vocabulary and thinking patterns) that are critical to what one is about teach
    3. Select key language to focus on
    4. Select activities that combine learning of content and key language
    5. Evaluate implementation
      • Did it build on prior knowledge?
      • Is there evidence that students learned new concepts?
      • What standards did students demonstrate?
      • Did students extend ideas by themselves?
      • Was there enough scaffolding to ensure active participation of all students?
Message abundancy, not lowering expectations, can support student achievement.  This idea has implications for the amounts and types of content and language scaffolding that is prepared to support learning in projects.  Projects already naturally lend themselves to multiple learning modes.  This tendency needs to be leveraged to gives students many opportunities to learn key concepts and key language.


Designing good scaffolding can create opportunities for strong academic conversations to spontaneously emerge when scaffolding is implemented.  This is a reminder to prepare good lesson sequences and good academic questions that can lead to memorable, relevant, and extended academic conversations with students.



Preparation Steps
  • Identify key vocabulary and concepts in upcoming unit or project
  • Research graphic organizers, videos, and activities that go with key vocabulary and concepts
  • Prepare demos and related questions that will stimulate extended conversations about key concepts
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use multiple types of scaffolding to amplify key content and key vocabulary
  • Design sequences of activities that build from simple to complex concepts
  • Build sequences within lessons that start with observations of hands on activities in informal language and then use teacher-facilitated conversations to build bridges to appropriate academic vocabulary
  • Use extended wait time while engaging in conversations
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Facilitate extended academic conversations with and among students
  • Establish routines that make academic conversations frequent among students
  • Use vocabulary lists to guide students in reflections on their note – taking and their apprehension of their note – taking with partners and with teacher
  • Populate project folder (or briefcase) with multiple resource types for each key concept and create opportunities for students to use these to get extra support (as needed)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *