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fully as possible. One key, then, is to dis- cover where and when support is needed. In one account of such practice, a teacher

held a challenge of teaching Romeo and Ju- liet to 12- and 13-year-old second language learners in English Language Development (Hammond, 2006). She used drama to weave everyday language, the specialized language of Shakespeare, and reflexive lan- guage to interpret texts. One activity was “alter ego,” where three students on chairs spoke characters’ words, while three others stood behind, using everyday language to reflect on what characters were really think- ing. This and other uses of drama and aca- demic language support kept the challenges of Shakespeare’s language and character studies high, with high support provided.

When challenge and support are out of balance

In contrast to this balance of challenge

and support, high challenge and low support (upper left quadrant of chart) leads learners to shut down or retreat (Daloz, 1999). This pattern is exemplified by the teacher who demands much but provides little support to achieve learning goals. Many of us have witnessed this sort of teacher who charges ahead without monitoring what students have grasped, or who creates a learning cli- mate that discourages students from reveal- ing what they do not understand. I recall how my high school Algebra II

teacher created a climate of humiliation if we mustered the nerve to request clarifica- tion of anything. Most of us were lost and re- treated, went through the motions, but gave up on any real engagement in the learning. The answer, however, is not to lower the

challenge. Below the horizontal axis of the chart are those sites of low challenge. Low challenge, high support (lower right quad- rant) creates a comfortable setting that con- firms what learners know and fails to stretch them, sending false messages of achievement. I observed such a teacher in a summer

Upward Bound program for middle school graduates in need of reading and writing support before high school. The teacher coddled students, telling them repeatedly, “You are all wonderful writers.” Rather than stretch and challenge students beyond their

comfort zones, this teacher led students to believe they were prepared for the academic challenges of high school. In the name of caring and comfort, students received false messages. Worst of all is low challenge, low sup-

port (lower left quadrant). These are situa- tions where tasks appear meaningless and students, unguided, disengage. In a uni- versity-schools partnership, I worked with a 10th-grade English teacher whose students completed little more than worksheets and multiple-choice ques- tions, while he sat at his desk reading magazines. That he failed to provide meaningful instruction for a large percentage of 10th-graders at this underperforming high school was appalling. I crafted a unit for

criticisms of how the term has come to be understood. Building on the notion of a learner’s zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1962), scaffolding typically targets the gap (or zone) between current performance and levels learners may reach without assistance (Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976). Effective scaffolding builds toward intended learning outcomes, providing sup- ports to help learners reach higher goals.


challenged but give up

Learning potential high


students on character development in litera- ture, linked with argu- mentative essays. The unit included activities to identify character traits in texts, to practice making claims about characters (with thesis warm-ups and brainstorms using characters from our own lives), and to structure well-supported paragraphs about short story characters. To my dismay, the teacher left the room

each of five periods on the first day I taught demonstration lessons for him. When I urged him to observe my guest teaching the next day, he was shocked at how his students engaged the content and what they could achieve. Creating and maintaining high challenge and high support in these ways requires a belief in what students can do and achieve and a commitment to learning what supports are needed to help students get there.

The key is instructional scaffolding Common educational discourse in-

cludes scaffolding as a core idea for effec- tive instruction. It is important to revisit original meanings of this idea and to learn

Learning lost; unchallenged, unguided


coddled, false sense of


The construct of scaffolding began in

research on one-to-one tutoring, drawing on earlier research on caregivers’ guided at- tention to children’s learning. The construct navigated into classroom-based research and practice, in which scaffolding generally indicates resources and processes a teacher uses to support the learning of a classroom of students. The movement from tutoring dyads to full-class instruction offers much possibility and many tensions and ques- tions. In English language arts, as in all sub-

jects, many tools can support processing and production of text. These include note- taking, vocabulary games, dialectical jour- nals that promote interpretation of text, sentence starters, and graphic organizers to generate and map ideas for writing. How- ever, aligned with its origins, scaffolding calls on a teacher to target and differentiate support for learners. This is a demanding process, especially for high school teachers

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