When I first started teaching ESL, I remember a content teacher asking me about supports they could use for an EL in their classroom. I scanned through my head thinking of things I learned in grad school, but nothing came to mind. Let them use a bilingual dictionary? Give them a buddy? What else?
And then, another teacher came to my colleague asking the same thing. She hand wrote a list on a notepad to give the teacher. For reason, the teacher left it in my room and I coveted that list so I would know what to tell other teachers who asked. Nelly, if you are reading this, this is for you!
And so I kept this list in my desk drawer, much like the cheatsheet I have now that I can pull up whenever I need a refresher.
Today, I like to share this resource along with teaching about language objectives because scaffolds are indeed a part of a strong L.O. If you missed the last post and video, go back to learn about them if needed!
Scaffolds are the interchangeable part of the L.O. that can be individualized for each student/s depending on their profienciency level. I have them broken down in the cheatsheet as beginning, intermediate, and advanced scaffolds, with advanced also serving as "all".
Advanced Level/All Level Scaffolds
Even though the cheatsheet has advanced and all level scaffolds together, it doesn't mean that they will all look similar in action at the different proficiency levels. For example, a sentence stem or frame for beginners may look different for advanced students. For example, a beginning level stem for describing a theme in Romeo and Juliet may be: Themes of violence happened when _________. An advanced stem may be: In the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the theme of violence is demonstrated when _________.
Also, bilingual dictionaries may not be needed as much as a beginner, a graphic organizer may possibly be less "busy" or complicated, and modeling or think alouds may be changed so that content is easier to understand with beginners. These are just a few. Here is a list of more:
Beginning Level Scaffolds
Beginners are a special group. They are, in fact, my favorite! They usually are so innocent and sweet, and just learning about their surroundings and how American life works. We can also be very protective of them, want to shield them from inequity, and be there to advocate when needed.
However, it's important not to shield them from rigorous instruction and not water content down, because that may be our first instinct or thought. I've heard some teachers say, "But they don't even know colors or numbers! How can we teach them Romeo and Juliet?" But they are not incapable of learning this content! They just need appropriate scaffolds to help them access it. And it's so rewarding to watch them access that grade-level content when they do!
Here's a list of some beginning level scaffolds. It's also important to note here that as our beginners, or any other level EL grows in proficiency level, we should revisit scaffolds and accommodations to ensure we don't over-scaffold and hold them back.
Intermediate Level Scaffolds
Our intermediate level ELs are also a special group because we may have some low intermediate students and some high intermediate, and in my experience, they can be very different as far as their scaffolding needs! So when using those scaffolds, adjust according to that level. They may not need as many gestures, as much translating, or L1 support from peers and resources. It's best to feel out your students as you get to know them and after studying their test and class data to make a decision on which scaffolds are best.
In general, the scaffolds are the same as beginners, but the simplify instructions scaffold should be at a higher linguistic level.
To sum it all up and make it clear, especially for our content teachers- we do not want to water content down, but use these scaffolds to bring them up to grade level to be able to master the standards and succeed in the mainstream classrooms. Leave a comment below with any ideas or examples you may use in your classroom! And if you are an ESL teacher, please share with your content teachers.
To learn more about strategies for incorporating language into your lessons, check out my course, My EL Mentor: Creating a Language-Rich Classroom! And if you are a high school teacher, consider joining my membership, My MLL Mentor, to discuss ideas like this with other high school ESL teachers!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.