Episode 2 is talking all about scaffolding learning through various subjects. Brittany, Ellie, and their guest, Leah Cleary, discuss scaffolding learning, giving background on what it is, how it can be used, how it differs from subject to subject, and more.
The 3 hosts for this week will cover scaffolding learning in various subjects, such as history, math, ELA, and more. Listen in and think about how you can use scaffolding in your classroom. Then, drop us a comment, and share how you’re using or plan to use scaffolding learning in your classroom.
Leah Cleary is a 23 year veteran of the public school system and has taught both ELA and social studies. She has taught at both the middle and high school levels and is now a high school social studies teacher and department chair.
- scaffolding learning
- building skills
- strong foundations
- social studies
Transcript for Scaffolding Learning
Scaffolding Learning in Various Subjects
Narrator: [00:00:00] You’re listening to The Teaching Toolbox with Brittany and Ellie. Join them as they talk all things middle school.
Brittany: Hello. Welcome
back to the Teaching Toolbox podcast with Brittany and Ellie. We are here and we’ve got a guest speaker with us, Leah Cleary. Let’s hear all about who Leah is. Leah, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Leah Cleary: Sure. I am a teacher. I’ve been in the classroom for 23 years. I teach secondary. I’ve taught middle school and high school. I’ve spent most of my career teaching high school. I actually have taught English and history. I think I might’ve already said that, but that’s okay.
Brittany: Do you wanna tell us a little about your store?
Leah Cleary: Oh sure. [00:01:00] So my store on Teachers Pay Teachers is Leah Cleary. So you can find me at Leah Cleary. You can find me on the web at leahcleary.com. And. My store on Teachers Pay Teachers is social studies majority. I design complete curriculums. I’ve got one for World History for Economics. I’ve got one for sociology, psychology’s in the works, the first units out. Uh, and I’ve got a bunch of individual resources for ELA and social studies.
Ellie: She’s got it
Brittany: That’s awesome. Yep.
So today we’re gonna talk about scaffolding in the classroom. Leah is a pro at scaffolding for her students and making sure that they have a good foundation. So let’s talk about what scaffolding is, first of all. Scaffolding is when you create a foundation for your students [00:02:00] and you help them build up their skills so that they are able to do things on their own.
So you slowly give them piece by piece and you help model what they’re doing, what you are doing, so that they can then do it by themselves and you add one piece after another after another until they can do it all themselves. And so, we’re gonna talk about different ways you can use scaffolding in the classroom in different subjects.
Who’s got an example of scaffolding that they’ve done?
Leah Cleary: I can jump in here. I’m right now at the beginning of the school year and currently I’m teaching world history, AP World History in Theory of Knowledge for the International Baccalaureate Program and. I like to envision scaffolding, like you said, as building and we’re building a tower, and at the top of the tower are all of the skills that we want for our students to have. And so we start at the bottom, [00:03:00] at the beginning of the school year, especially post pandemic, and anyone who has been in the classroom before and after the pandemic knows there’s a huge, huge difference. So we start at the bottom, and as Brittany was saying, you know, we’re, putting the, the support in that the students need, and as they’re getting it, we’re removing that support, so that we’re building a very sturdy tower going up to the ultimate goal.
And so the first place where I start scaffolding with my world history students is note taking. Note taking is such a basic skill and is something that as teachers, especially teachers of high school students, and especially when they are in an advanced placement or IB class or gifted, honors, anything like that, we tend to think that they know how to do it and that couldn’t be further from the truth. So I’m gonna start with note taking as an example, since [00:04:00] that’s the first thing I do with my world history students. So I teach them Cornell Notes and what we do at first is I will start with a presentation, and the presentation will have the learning target, our focus for the day, and I’ll say, okay. This is the topic for your Cornell Notes. It says, I can explain the legacies of classical empires. And so the title they would put would be Legacies of Classical Empires, and I would model this for them, and then I’d say, okay, these are the empires that we’re gonna talk about. We’re gonna talk about Persia, we’re gonna talk about Hellenistic Empires.
We are gonna talk about Rome, and we’re gonna talk about China. And so they then make four pages of Cornell Notes, all of them with the same title. Exactly. Like I’m doing on the board. I’m modeling it. The title, legacies of Classical [00:05:00] Empires, and then one is Persia, one’s Hellenistic, one’s Rome, and one is China. And then the question is, well, how are we going to organize these notes? Because students, our students tend to be really lost on that. They have no idea how to organize their notes. And I think the best way to do that for social studies is, is by considering themes. And when we consider themes in my class, and you know, you can use any of these acronyms for themes. You know, there’s SPEC, there’s PERSIA, there’s, there’s all kinds of acronyms. I use PIECES, and so I usually say, we’re gonna put the PIE on the front. You know, the first three, political, innovation, environmental. And we’re gonna put the C E S on the back. All right, so the PIE on the front, the CES on the back.
So cultural, economic, social. [00:06:00] So we talk about what all of those things are. We discuss what those different themes are, and then we just look at a slide. And the slide just has information about Persia on it, right? And the slide might be talking about the founding of Persia the Persian Empire, you know, the Achaemenids, all of this stuff.
And I’m like, now I, I don’t know that word. What does that mean? What, what does Achaemenid mean? What does Satrap mean? Where would we put that? So we put that over in the key concepts, because that’s how Cornell Notes are. There are three sections. You have key concepts and questions. You have notes, and then you have the summary,
so just model through it and just completely talk through. Okay. Here we’re talking about Cyrus, the great founding the uh, Persian Empire. We’re talking about how he expanded. What’s that gonna go under? Political.
Here we’re talking about the Persian Roads. Innovation. You know, so [00:07:00] we’re, we’re filling it out.
We’re talking about they had standardized currency. Economics, and so they’re putting it there, and then at the end we summarize the notes. Right? And it would be different for whoever’s doing it, but I’m modeling it for them. So we’ll go back through the notes and this is our summary. And so there, we’ve modeled it. So the next day it’s Rome, right? And so at this point, they’re gonna do it with a partner. And so you put up on the screen. Here’s the learning target. Same learning target. We’re talking about Rome today. Um, so we’re on the Rome section of the notes and let’s set the timer for 10 minutes. Look at this slide, discuss it with your partner. Figure out where the pieces go, where the themes go, where you would put the information in the themes, do you see a term you don’t understand? Sounds like a key concept to me. Right? And so then afterwards we would discuss it and then they [00:08:00] would work together on a summary.
And then we would discuss it and we would go through, you know, the next day I’d take out another piece of the scaffolding depending on how quickly they’re getting it. And so, you know, I’ve already removed myself, I. And so I’ve laid the foundation, and so now they have their partner. And so let’s say they’re ready to try it on their own. So again, set the timer, let them practice with Hellenistic, and let them do it for 10 minutes on their own and then have them discuss it with their table. I, I have tables. I know not everybody has tables, but have ’em, you know, if you have ’em in group. So four, have ’em discuss it with their group of four, and then, uh, you know, discuss a little bit with the class. Summarize, remove the second piece. Eventually, by the end of it, they are doing it on their own while notes are up there or while they’re doing a reading. You know, if they’re doing a reading in their textbook, Hey, read these two pages and take some notes over China.
Well, how, [00:09:00] how am I gonna organize it?
PIECES, you know this already, do that. And so now when we’re ready for the historical thinking skill of comparison, they’re naturally ready. ’cause you know, we’re gonna compare, we’re gonna write, they’re naturally ready to compare apples to apples as opposed to apples to oranges. ’cause if they’re comparing Persia and Rome, they’re going, they’re compare politics to politics,
Economy to economy. And so, you know, it’s just, it’s very deliberate.
It’s very, very deliberate. And you’re removing the pieces very deliberately too. You’re not just throwing all of it at them at once. So that, you know, by the time they get it, they get it, they have a new skill. This is something that they can carry with them beyond my classroom. This is something that they can use when they’re just reading a text to take notes and, and they’re good with that. And that’s how I introduce any of the big [00:10:00] skills that I want for my students to understand just by putting the scaffolding in, pulling it out. Putting it in for the next step.
Pulling it out.
Ellie: So it sounds like, if I’m hearing you correctly, and I love, I love this, this is fantastic. So you model first
Leah Cleary: Mm-hmm.
Ellie: they do it with a partner.
Leah Cleary: Mm-hmm.
Ellie: They do it on their own.
Leah Cleary: yes.
Ellie: So generally, very generally. But if we’re just kind of looking at those just to summarize those steps, that’s fantastic. I love how you ta talked about like, then they’re gonna compare apples to apples ’cause they have their things set up
Leah Cleary: exactly They’re ready
Ellie: the same way.
Leah Cleary: Yeah. And, and I actually have a lesson on ancient Egypt on my website, if you go to world History Resources, And if you sign up, you get that resource and shows you exactly how to do it with ancient Egypt. So you could actually use that in your classroom when you talk about ancient Egypt.
Ellie: Oh, that’s fantastic.
Leah Cleary: yeah, so it’s really, it’s really cool. Um, all of the resources in [00:11:00] my store, I have cloze notes with fill in the blank. I think that’s important because
we are required to do those as modifications for some students,
but. Those are modifications and that for students in general, we, we need to teach them the skill.
Ellie: Absolutely. I think it’s easy to assume when they come to you that somebody else taught them,
or somebody else already gave them that skill or helped them with that skill and that they’re gonna know. But that’s not the case obviously, from, you know, your experiences at the high school level.
Leah Cleary: No, not even with, not even with ap
Leah Cleary: and again, especially post pandemic, they’re, they’re not ready. But we are doing it. I’m, I’m department chair for social studies and, and we’re, you know, doing this right now with our general world history too.
Leah Cleary: so
Brittany: Sorry? What do you do with a kid who maybe put the Persian money say they put it under, uh, [00:12:00] innovation instead of economics. What do you do then?
Leah Cleary: Well, for the Persians, that was an innovation. So, you know, because it was an innovation, a lot of the things that the Persians did like across all the categories, you
know, the Persians were, they were first for a lot of these things. So I would ask them, why did you put it there? And then if they told me that, I’d say fantastic. You know, the Romans, they They didn’t innovate this, they did this. It wasn’t an innovation for the Romans, but it was for the Persians. You might also wanna put that under economics so that if we’re comparing the Persians to the Romans, maybe you have standard currency to compare.
Brittany: So you’re asking them to like validate what they did and why they did, why they put it there, but also reinforcing them in their decisions,
Leah Cleary: Yes.
Brittany: Great. Awesome.
Ellie, how do you use scaffolding in math?[00:13:00]
Ellie: Well, some things that I was thinking about as we were talking, um, is of course having notes in a different way. Sometimes we have specific examples that we want students to work through, and so maybe we would have, um, parts of. Equations filled in for students before we do the entire thing on our own, or solving a simpler problem. You know, if we want to do a complicated equation, we might have to go solve a simpler problem first so that they understand the concept of how equations work before we move on to something more challenging. And then pre-teaching vocabulary, I think is, is one way that, you know, we’ve really set the foundation, like what, what do these terms actually mean before we start jumping into some certain procedures or processes and, and using those vocabulary terms, assuming that they know what they are, but taking time to pre-teach the vocabulary. Look at specific examples of the vocabulary. [00:14:00] Maybe bring in one or two examples, um, of the procedure to see where the vocabulary fits into that. Um, just some small things like that. Do you have any other
ideas about math?
Brittany: I think we scaffold a lot in math when we set up the problem and we’ll do an example for them and then we’ll ask them, okay, here I’ve done three of the four steps. What’s the fourth step?
Brittany: And then, then we’ll do it again and we’ll say, okay, do steps three and four.
Now do steps two, three, and four.
And we slowly have them do more and more of the problem by themselves,
Brittany: um, until they’ve got it.
Brittany: and yeah.
Ellie: As Leah was talking about the Cornell Notes, I, I haven’t used Cornell notes. I know that some math teachers do use them, but it made me think about the Math Wheels that I have where we do have the key terms and we talk about the key terms in one section, and then we, we take specific notes about the [00:15:00] different procedures or the processes, and then there’s usually a practice section at the end where they start to go through the problems by themselves. But some, some math skills lend themselves very well to breaking it down step by step by step in each different section. And then, you add on a step as you go. So not the same, but it just made me think about, about using them in that way.
Leah Cleary: Yeah, I love those math wheels. If I taught math, I would definitely use those. They’re really cool looking. I’ve seen them in your store.
Ellie: Oh, thanks, What about E L A?
Brittany: I think
Ellie: I’m sorry, go
Brittany: was just about to say that. Yeah, I was just about to go in that direction, so thanks.
Brittany: I think we use scaffolding a lot in ELA. Starting at the basic sentence structure, a sentence, you know, has have . the five parts, um, of a sentence and then working up to how a paragraph should be structured.
and [00:16:00] using scaffolding for that and helping them, you know, get, like we used Step Up to Writing when I was teaching, and so we had a green sentence as a . As an introduction sentence for the paragraph and a green sentence to conclude the paragraph. And then in between we’d have a yellow sentence that explained the information and then a red sentence that went into more depth, and then another yellow.
That explained it more and then red, that made it more in depth and so on. So they kind of equated it to like a hamburger.
Ellie: Oh yeah.
Brittany: had all the different colors.
Brittany: Um, and so I. Eventually we’d, we would do like the green and then they’d have to do the yellow and the red, or we’d do the green and the yellow and they’d have to do the red, you know?
And so it, it was the same kind of process about giving them [00:17:00] some of the information and then having them build out more and more on their own until they could do it by themselves.
Ellie: And that
Leah Cleary: I,
Ellie: grade? Was that sixth grade or
Brittany: Yes. That was
Sorry if you said that.
Leah Cleary: for ELA, you know, to talk about that. ’cause like at the paragraph level, I really like that idea so that you’re giving them a frame. Like, and you already have the content of the frame and then they’re filling it in. I like that a lot. I’m also really fascinated with the sentence level, especially if you look at it for students who aren’t readers, because so many of our students aren’t readers, and if you’re not a reader, then it’s very difficult to be a writer.
Leah Cleary: because we do learn through examples. You know, we learn by having things modeled for us. That’s how we learn to speak. That’s how we learn to walk. That’s how we learn to do everything that we do. And so I’m fascinated by the whole idea of sentence [00:18:00] imitation. And so you take a sentence from a piece of literature, and it could be any sentence, and you know, it may be a really complex sentence and. you imitate that for the students? No. The content’s gonna be different, but the structure’s the same. then you have them init imitate it for you or try to imitate it for you so that they’re playing with different sentence structures.
Leah Cleary: And that’s the writing program that I have in my store writing blocks.
It’s based on that, um, just at the very basic sentence level, And I tell you, a couple years ago, a book writing revolution came out and there are just some really wonderful ideas about scaffolding writing in there for any discipline. and and they start with the sentence level, and then they move to the paragraph level, they move to, you know, you’re writing an essay.[00:19:00]
Ellie: Do you know who the author is? The of that book
Leah Cleary: Not
Ellie: case anybody is um, interested in
Leah Cleary: I was, I was interested because my writing blocks program, I came, came out with that in 2016 and then, a couple years later, I started hearing about Writing Revolution and I thought, that sounds really cool. And then I thought, well that sounds a lot like what my writing blocks was. And so I was like, did, did I steal from them?
Did they steal from me? And then I like got the book I was like, no, we literally came out with this like a year apart. And I
and looked at this stuff and in their prologue they’re talking about deliberate practice. And like I talk about deliberate practice and writing blocks. And so there’s a lot of similarities.
They’re not the same,
but it’s really kind of cool. Um, what I like about writing blocks, mine writing blocks, it’s just for ELA, right?
Leah Cleary: But writing revolution that can be used in any subject.[00:20:00]
Leah Cleary: Yeah. And so it’s all about embedding literacy in any subject. And so that’s a big initiative at my school right now. we’re really working on that. And in my department we’re, you know, uh, world history is spearheading
it. And so I want for everyone in my department to read that book, I’m trying to make that happen.
Ellie: and that would be for math too. Just because, you know, we have the non-readers in math,
Leah Cleary: Mm-hmm.
Ellie: tackling the word problems is, is a challenge. Um, you know, so it would be great to incorporate something like that, or read that book and see how that can be used in the math class as well.
Leah Cleary: Exactly. And, with our literacy initiative, it’s, it’s across all disciplines, you know, looking at what literacy looks like in the different disciplines. you know, you said you start with vocabulary and that’s key for math, esp,
I mean, don’t always think about that, [00:21:00] but it’s key. And they have to have a basic understanding of what everything means that they’re trying to do before they can do it.
Ellie: Right. Exactly. Yeah.
Brittany: I think vocabulary is key for all subjects. You gotta start with the vocabulary first and then move on from there.
Leah Cleary: Yeah.
Leah Cleary: I agree. How, um, as far as scaffolding for vocab goes, uh, how do you, because I’m interested in how you would do that. Like how do you scaffold the vocab for math?
Ellie: In some cases you can even, you can look at, you know, pre prefixes, suffixes and things like that. Um, and thinking about some of your basic operation words. For starters, you know, there are a lot of kids who don’t even remember what sum, or a quotient or a product those kinds of things mean. So basic operation words. And then it really depends on what particular topic you’re thinking about. You know, if you’re thinking about fractions, [00:22:00] Starting with, you know, numerator, denominator, and working on, on that basic stuff before you can get into something more complex.
Brittany: I like to give the kids, uh, flashcards. I, and then I have them do a lot of like vocabulary word work where they’re using their flashcards. They’re filling out, you know, different word puzzles and so that they’re using their words. As much as possible playing games with the words, that kind of thing, so that they’re just using them over and over and over again, and so they’re becoming more second nature to them.
Leah Cleary: Yeah, and I think that repetition’s probably key. Well, it’s definitely key in, in any subject when we’re trying to lay a foundation, build that tower.
Brittany: So how, how else do you use scaffolding In history?
Leah Cleary: So I [00:23:00] definitely, you know, notes is how I, is, how I, I start.
And, uh, we, I use it for annotation as well. Um, I have them annotate the standards. So if it’s, if it’s a regular world history class, then I would take the state standards and give them the one. Okay. These are, this is the standard and these are at Substandards. This is what we’re working on right now. And we would break it down. Um, if it’s AP, we use the CED, the course and exam description. And so, you know, sometimes you have to, well you do have to get really basic with this at first, because I find that it’s a really foreign concept to the students. You know, it’s something that maybe we think of as really, really basic, but They don’t, you know, go forth and annotate. They look at you blankly. And so we have colors and I’ll say, okay, we’re gonna highlight the verb green. This says that we’re supposed to explain. Let’s think about what explain means. Well, it means that you [00:24:00] identify a specific example in the case of history, and then you take it a step further and you explain why or how it’s significant. as far as the standard are the course and exam description goes right. Um, so you start with the verb and then highlight things that you don’t know in red. All right? Things that you’re gonna need to define and highlight things that you’re going to need to find a specific example for, because you know, a lot of times for history, the standards can be pretty broad. I mean, this really isn’t the case for US history, but this is definitely the case for world history. The standards can be pretty broad and so students would need to find specific examples of, and I keep going back to it ’cause it’s what we’re talking about right now, but classical empires, you know, if you say classical empires, that’s broad.
Gimme some specific examples, right? And so that’s one way that they can use their textbook. [00:25:00] and I know that textbooks had, if, if you have a textbook, textbooks had fall, have fallen out of favor for so many different reasons. But I think that it is invaluable to get the kids reading different types of texts. So, you know, source analysis, yes. Primary, secondary documents for world history, for any history, but also. Don’t say, read 50 pages and answer the questions, but no, say go to page 55. Look at the section from, uh, the ancient Persians to the section on Rome. Right? Take a look at that one section on page 55. Uh, read it and take the standard, right, and find examples. What’s the verb telling you to do? Is it telling you to identify? Then you just need an example. Is it telling you to explain? [00:26:00] Then you need an example and you need to explain the why or how. And of course I would start that by showing them as well.
Brittany: That’s very interesting. I think, at sixth grade I use it in a much more like general way scaffolding in a much more general way. I don’t use the standards so deliberately as you do. But that’s very interesting how you, how you make them use the standards and, and really focus on those. on those terms.
I like that. That’s really cool.
Leah Cleary: Well, I just, you know, one thing that if, if you send them into reading without a purpose, um,
then they’re, they’re lost,
Leah Cleary: So if you send them into reading without a purpose, they’re lost. But likewise, um, if you always have a really structured guide for them, then they never learn how to do it on their own.[00:27:00]
Leah Cleary: My argument there is that they need to learn how to be learners, and that’s more important now than it ever was simply because, you know, old industrial economy’s gone. They’re not training to be factory workers,
Leah Cleary: Right? Even if they do keep the same job for 30 years, it’s gonna change. Think about how rapidly technology is changing everything. They’re gonna have to learn how to learn.
Leah Cleary: they’re gonna constantly have to relearn how to do things because of the rate at which technology is expanding and is growing and is innovating. So,
Brittany: Very good point.
Ellie: Very good point. Yeah.
Brittany: All right. Leah, can you remind us where we can find you?
Leah Cleary: You can find firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also find me on Teachers Pay
Teachers. My store is Leah Cleary. I am a secondary English and social studies teacher.[00:28:00]
Brittany: Thank you so much. It was so great to have you.
Leah Cleary: Thank you. I really enjoyed it. This was a lot of fun for me.
Ellie: Awesome. Thank you, Leah. You were amazing.
Leah Cleary: So are you both?
Narrator: You just listened to The Teaching Toolbox. Follow them on your favorite platform for more episodes and share it with a friend.
- Ancient Egypt Lesson leading you through Leah’s note-taking
- Writing Blocks Writing Program 1st Week Sample
- The Writing Revolution by Hochman and Wexler
- Ellie’s Math Doodle Wheels
Connect With Guest: Leah Cleary
- Leah Cleary is a 23 year veteran of the public school system and has taught both ELA and social studies. She has taught at both the middle and high school levels and is now a high school social studies teacher and department chair.
- Website – https://leahcleary.com/
- TPT Store – https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Leah-Cleary
- Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/leah_cleary/
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/whatsnewwithleah
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