Exploring a chapter using scaffolding

August 7, 2015


As explained in my post regarding scaffolding, this key term of CLIL is important to structure the thinking process of your students in order to help them to learn.

Yet, although theoretical knowledge is important, I prefer real life examples to understand new concepts better. In this post I want to show you three different ways of exploring a chapter with students using scaffolding.

To help you identify which approach works best for you, I structured the three different approaches as different ages groups.

Scaffolding learning

In these three examples I will focus on scaffolding learning, not the language. I make a distinction between the two because focusing on learning is actually something that can be applied in a ‘regular’ lesson as well, making this post worth wile for every teacher.

On another note, this post is quite a bit longer than other ones. You should still be able to read it in less than 5 minutes though and I am sure it’s worth the read!

Year 1 (12/13 year olds)

Structure: A lot, Thinking Skills: None, Examples: None

In The Netherlands, year 1 students will be in the age range of 12-13. Also, as it is their first year in bilingual education, they will encounter challenges in both the language as well as the structuring of their learning.

To help students to explore a new chapter, scaffolding can be used to help students to structure their learning. Imagine this “chapter exploration” as a fill out exercise like a gapped text.

Because of copyright issues, I cannot publish a page of the book I use right now, but I can provide some example questions I would ask in my first grade when I start with the chapter 1 in September:

In the first paragraph you see a picture of a square. The point where two lines meet is called…. (a vertex). This point is always marked with a … (capital). A square also has four … (sides) which are always equally long. The four…. (sides) of this square are called … (AB), … (BC), …. (CD) and … (AD).

This is only the first paragraph of explanation and would require quite some work to create for every lesson. That’s why I suggest doing this only once, at the beginning of a chapter. To lessen the workload you should focus only on the important parts, so bits of theory you want your students to remember. You don’t have to include examples, but you can if you want to.

Year 2 (13/14 year olds)

Structure: A little, Thinking Skills: A few, Examples: A few

As year 2 students are more used to reading English and finding information in the book, they need less scaffolding. Instead of copying or paraphrasing parts of the chapter, you can limit the exploring of the chapter to key terms only. You can also include some questions that are not to be found in the book but need some thinking by the students themselves, both to train higher order thinking skills as well as activate prior knowledge. To allow for a complete summary of the chapter, you might include some example activities students have to complete.

Again, I hope the example below is clear without the original text.

  1. What do you think the chapter is about if you read the title? Use at least 5 and no more than 15 words to describe your thoughts.
  2. In previous chapters we discussed some formulas for 2-dimensional shapes. Write down them down below:

Area of a rectangle:

Area of a circle:

Area of a triangle:

Volume of a cuboid:

  1. Find the formulas for the shapes below in the chapter and write the down.

Volume of a prism:

Volume of pyramid:

Volume of a cylinder:

  1. Look at the picture of the cylinder on the right.

What is the radius?

Calculate the area of the circle

What is the height??

Calculate the volume of this cylinder.

Notice how I do emphasize the important formulas in this chapter, but ask the students to find them themselves. Also, in the last question I help students to calculate something they have not calculated before. Bu structuring an assignment like this before you actually discussed it you help students who have trouble with following steps.

If you differentiate in your lesson (like most teachers do) this exploration will also help students who can work on their own to work on their own later on, as this structure might be all they need.

Year 3 (14/15 year olds)

Structure: None, Thinking Skills: A lot, Examples: A few (with no help)

As students in year 3 have already had 2 years of experience when it comes to structuring their learning, they need even less scaffolding. This allows for quite some room for thinking skills.

When exploring the chapter in a third year, the questions might be like this:

  1. Look at the title of the chapter. What topics have you discussed before that relate to this chapter?
  2. In this chapter 3 different methods of solving quadratic equations are introduced. Find them and write them down.
  3. The three different methods are used in different situations. Look at the examples provided and figure out when each method is used. Use the general formula y=ax2+bx+c to make the distinctions.
  4. Look at the examples below. Sort them according to your answer at question 3.

Later on in the chapter I will ask them to also complete the step by step procedures of soling quadratic equations and will ask them to create examples on their own.


I hope these three different ways of exploring a chapter have helped to clarify how to use scaffolding in your lesson. I realize this takes quite some time to develop, so I would suggest starting out with one year at a time and build upon that.

Let me know your thoughts and questions using the comments below!

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