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kinds and degrees of scaffolding, but learn- ers’ own knowledge and experiences are key scaffolding resources. As teachers develop scaffolds, many re-


alize how their students need guidance in actually using supports meaningfully. A challenge is bridging the scaffold to the aca- demic goal. One preservice teacher I worked with bemoaned the quality of her students’ essays. When I pressed her to pinpoint chal- lenges students had, she said, half laughing, “It’s like they need scaffolding to get from the scaffolding to the actual writing.” In her spontaneous response, she identified a key issue: Scaffolds do not magically make learning happen, and we need to envision linkages. One new teacher noted that the most


puzzling thing for her was how students filled out graphic organizers but did not use the information later. Students told her repeatedly in interviews and other forms of feedback that organizers helped them, but she noted no real use of information stu- dents generated and mapped on these or- ganizers in the essay writing the organizers were meant to support. She recalled: “I needed to teach my stu-


dents to take the ideas that they put down on the graphic organizer and then transfer them to their writing. This is not something that the students will know how to innately do.” This explicit instruction in use of scaf- folds is vital.


Maintaining a focus on goals Standardized testing has at times limited


pedagogical decision-making and practice. Teachers increasingly devote class time to skill work and test preparation, to the detri- ment at times of larger literacy activity and language production. Scaffolding discrete tasks without attention to larger purposes signals a lack of intentionality (Langer & Applebee, 1986). There is a danger in instruction with di-


verse youth and particularly ELs of focusing on just discrete tasks and basics, including (in ELA) vocabulary, mechanics and lan- guage errors, minimizing attention to con- tent knowledge development. Such work can yield intellectually impoverished cur- ricula. One criticism offered is that teach-


September/October 2012 21


ers and students rely on scaffolds that create cookie-cutter products, stripped of individ- ual thinking and voice. Here is where teach- ers need to monitor ways in which scaffolds do and do not serve larger purposes. Revi- sions and rethinking of scaffolds can be necessary. An issue teachers report is gauging how much scaffolding is needed and for


how long. Teachers in a research project on which I have worked reported that they were handholding, that students were so reliant on scaffolds that there was little evi- dence students could achieve tasks without them. This theme speaks to other essential elements of effective scaffolding: fading, or gradual withdrawal of scaffolding, and transfer of responsibility, so a student takes


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