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Scaling the Heights with Scaffolding

Alec Helms and Briana Lebron use Fortune Teller foldables to learn new information in English class.

When teachers at UCEC mention the word scaffolding, they are probably not discussing building a skyscraper or painting a house. Rather, they are referencing one of the six North Carolina New Schools’ practices which comprise the Common Instructional Framework. The premise behind scaffolding is not new. Teachers have always known that students will learn and understand new information if they can connect it to prior knowledge and experience. What is innovative, however, is the creative approach Early College teachers take to scaffolding, one that requires students to be actively involved.

At a recent UCEC faculty meeting, the social studies department shared some scaffolding strategies. Mrs. Pharr handed each teacher a Fortune Teller foldable, like the ones children make for fun. However, rather than using these origami items to divine the future, Pharr demonstrated how students can write open-ended questions on the flaps and then work together in collaborative groups to arrive at answers. As a scaffolding activity, the questions the students write can relate to prior knowledge or to making connections to other disciplines or to the real world. This method can also be used for review. Discussing the merits of this approach, Pharr said, “It’s effective because it’s a manipulative, and it’s reminiscent of something students remember from when they were younger, making this activity kind of fun for them—it’s a way to get them involved.”

In the same manner, another creative strategy, shared by Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Bell, and Mr. Gehring requires students to connect prior knowledge with a new unit of study. For this “Talking Drawings” activity, students close their eyes and think about a topic they will be exploring. Next, they draw a picture of what they saw. After learning new material, students are asked to create another drawing that reflects their new understanding. Students write about what knowledge they have gained and then share their drawings in small groups, or the entire class can take a “Gallery Walk,” where they examine and discuss the ideas presented in their peers’ artwork.

By implementing scaffolding techniques that require students to think, write, and talk, teachers at UCEC create student-centered classrooms where instruction is built on the solid foundation of prior learning and experience.
 

Written by: Liz Washburn
Posted: Mar 24, 2014 by Sylvia Roldan

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