Language Strategy: Scaffolding

So there’s this language phenomenon that is up-and-coming in the early education world that is ready to rock your mundo. This strategy was drilled into me during my master’s degree studies and has continued to be a foundational source of learning in my classroom and now in mi casa (Spanglish toddler, anyone?).

There’s only one slight problema: I think this phenomenon has been around since the beginning of time. I would dare say this has even been around since mothering began.

And you’re probably already subconsciously supporting your little ones in this way without even knowing you’re doing it. (What great news!)

“Scaffolding” is the latest technical teacher word for this language estrategía. When I think of scaffolds, I automatically think of painting a several-story building. Let’s say three floors. I start at the first piso, with what I can reach by myself. Then maybe I use a ladder. Once the escalera is no longer useful, I will need those sturdy structures with metal frames and wooden platforms to help me reach all levels of this three story building.

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Language scaffolding is a lot like this. Un niño starts with what he can say and anyone around him expands on what he said, giving him access to the next level of language without requiring him to perform at that nivel.

Let’s say mom and child are walking through the grocery store and the child points and says his version of “banana” (meaningful gibberish, because *usualmente* the mom understands). The mom responds with something like, “Oh yes, that’s a banana.”

She just scaffolded without even thinking about it. She took one word uttered by her toddler and turned it into a complete sentence. Without knowing she is engaging her child with helpful, whole lenguaje, and she has supported him in reaching the next level. Those motherly instincts are wonderful!

Now more on the teacher side of this scaffolding idea, let’s say the teacher’s objectivo is that a student would use more adjectives when writing and speaking. When a student says, “I saw a dog,” the teacher responde with questions. “Really? What did the dog look like?” The student might add, “It was furry, brown, and wagging its tail.” The teacher uses questions to scaffold the student’s description.

In the mom mundo, I’m thinking more about learning colors and numbers at this point than I am using descriptive adjectivos (Technically colores y números are adjectives! Different purpose but really the same goal!). So when Guapa says, “Apple!” (a new favorite word around here), I would respond, Ay si, Guapa, es una manzana roja!” (Yes, Guapa, it’s a red apple!) I use those color words to help expand her language access.

Someday along this language journey she’ll start uttering phrases… and then sentences… and eventually paragraphs! Until then, I’m just taking where she’s at and expanding on it.

No matter what language journey you’re on, you are probably already doing this, Mama! ¡Muy bien hecho! And if you’re not, it’s pretty simple to begin. Just take what your child says and add to it. That’s it!

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