I was giving feedback on an observation today when an idea occurred to me. When we plan a series of activities, particularly for low-level learners, it can be difficult to work out how much support they need at each stage. Thinking of the support we offer (scaffolding) as a kind of continuum might help.
Here’s a basic version:
The activity I was watching which inspired the idea was asking a group of nine 8- and 9-year-old beginners to perform a comic book story they’d just read in their course book. The story had about 10 lines of dialogue and was about a postman delivering letters to two children and being scared by the neighbour’s dog. This was lesson 14 or 15 for the students, so quite early in their learning. This is what happened in the lesson:
- Students were given roles.
- They were put into groups to practise for a couple of minutes.
- They were asked to perform in front of the group, but struggled with pronunciation and knowing who should speak next. Other students weren’t really listening.
- They were given new roles in their small groups and practised again.
- They performed in front of the class with similar problems.
Here’s how I might use the continuum to think about planning the sequence differently:
- Teacher reads the whole story aloud with students repeating each line after the teacher.
- Students are grouped by role, but stay in whole-class mode. Teacher reads the whole story aloud with each group repeating their lines after the teacher. Do this two or three times if necessary, drilling any problem words and focussing on intonation and stress patterns as needed.
- Students break into groups with each role represented. They practise the dialogue while reading from their books. The teacher monitors and helps when needed.
- Students put their books away and continue to practise in their small groups. Give them a time limit to keep the pace up.
- Ask students to choose two things to change in their version, for example the name of one of the characters or the adjective used to describe the dog.
- Give them time to practise with their changes.
- Students perform in front of the class, with the other students noticing the changes.
Hopefully that should give the students the support they need to be able to act out the story confidently, by gradually removing teacher support until they’re perform their own version of what they’d read.
P.S. I made the continuum by changing PowerPoint slides to ‘banner’ using page setup, something I discovered you could do yesterday (thanks Milada!)